‘I’ve cancelled my Stephen’s Day flights home.’ How Omicron is changing Christmas

Readers share tales of changed plans and disappointment in the face of the new variant

Christmas greetings: arrivals at Dublin Airport in 2019. Photograph: Alan Betson

Christmas greetings: arrivals at Dublin Airport in 2019. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Neil Power: I have cancelled my Stephen’s Day flights home
New South Wales, Australia
I have cancelled my Stephen’s Day flights home, as things have heated up both at home and down here. Even before Omicron it was beginning to look a bit hairy in Ireland. My folks, who are both in their 80s, don’t need me running into their arms after getting off a plane with 300 passengers from all over the world. They’ve worked too hard over the past two years to have to deal with that. I’m now aiming for May. It’s all good. We’re playing the long game.

Daniela Sordi: My priority is to spend this Christmas with my parents. I hope
Dublin
You call it “Christmas plan”, I call it “family”. That’s the story of an ordinary Italian woman who is living in Ireland almost eight years. My last Christmas in Italy was two years ago, when all members of my family were still alive. Covid has caused the deaths of my granny and my grandad, and my family is not the same as it was. My parents are alone in Italy and I’m here, with a flight booked for Saturday, December 18th. Covid has divided the world and changed all priorities. My priority is to spend this Christmas with my parents. I hope.

John Kelly with his wife, Connie, and their sons, Jack and Vince
John Kelly with his wife, Connie, and their sons, Vince and Jack, in Dingle during a trip home

John Kelly: We’re praying Covid tests don’t throw any surprises
Zurich, Switzerland
We – my wife, Connie, and I, plus our two boys, Jack and Vince – live in Switzerland. We are hoping to make the trip home – I’m originally from Cork – on Wednesday, December 22nd, to celebrate with my mum and five siblings and their families in Dublin and Cork. (We’re praying Covid tests don’t throw any surprises.) It’s almost two years since we were home, and we can’t wait for a lively reunion and lots of cousin fun.

Travel in December

Darragh Nolan: Looks like I will be spending Christmas in Brooklyn
New York
I had booked flights for my husband and me to see my parents and brother in Dublin for Christmas. He hasn’t seen them since our wedding, in April 2018, and I hadn’t seen them since then either – but luckily I was able to get home for two weeks in August. Looks like I will be spending Christmas in Brooklyn for the third year in a row with my husband and our dog.

Zoe Yohn: Both having Covid has made trying to get home to the States a logistics nightmare
Ireland
I’m originally from the States and haven’t been home since August 2020. After a long lockdown, my husband and I decided to spend Christmas with my family back home this year – his first Christmas away from Ireland. We’ll be spending it with my family in the Rocky Mountains, a real fairy-tale Christmas, with a warm cabin and drinks by the fire. We not only saved for flights but also banked quite a bit of holiday time this year so we could really make the most of our time over there. We were scheduled to leave on Friday, December 10th, but I had a positive Covid diagnosis that Thursday. My husband was still negative, but we pushed out our flights.

Despite travel insurance and assurances that there would be no fee to change, we ended up paying nearly double the price of our original flights to cover the fare difference. A few days after my positive test my husband tested positive as well, which has meant yet another flight change. Covid-recovery travel certs have been difficult to obtain – we can only get one 11 days after a confirmed PCR test. We’re lucky in that we’ve been able push out our return flights, so if all goes according to plan we won’t miss out on much time with family. Still, it’s been a huge disappointment and a logistics nightmare. It will all be worth it when we’re home for Christmas, but the stress of replanning, testing and isolating has definitely compounded the normal holiday pressure.

Karl McGrath has been living in the province of Girona for almost 10 years
Karl McGrath has been living in the province of Girona for almost 10 years

Karl McGrath: Last Christmas was the first time I failed to make it home. This year could well be the second
Catalonia, Spain
I had a flight booked to return home for Christmas yesterday, on December 16th, but I have changed it to Wednesday, December 22nd. Now I’m not sure about travelling at all. I’ve been living in the province of Girona for almost 10 years, and last Christmas was the first time I failed to make it home. This year could well be the second. I’ve missed others, years ago, when living much farther away, but it’s frustrating being this close and not knowing whether to travel back. My main concern would be picking up coronavirus and bringing it home to my folks, who are, let’s say, not exactly young.

Although I had a negative DIY antigen-test result yesterday, and have a professional one booked in the local hospital for the day before my flight, the highest probability of my becoming infected will be on the journey itself – after the antigen test. I’ve always wondered about the usefulness of testing before travelling, to be honest. My trip would entail 2½ hours on a bus to Barcelona Airport, 1½ hours in the airport, 2 hours on the flight and another hour on another bus on the other side. There’s lots of potential for infection there.

In any case, I’ll wait and see how things look on Monday or Tuesday before deciding whether to make the trip. And I’m not even sure what I’m hoping for.

Milton Marcelo: We have asked everyone around us to mask up and self-test with antigen kits
Dublin
In July we bought our tickets to Brazil to spend some time with our family this Christmas and NYE. We haven’t seen them since May 2019 – Covid meant we had to cancel all our plans to travel last year. Even with this new variant, we decided to go ahead and travel to Brazil. We are trying to protect ourselves from catching Covid, as we need to produce a negative PCR test before boarding. For example, we haven’t met friends or gone to the gym, and we have asked everyone around us to mask up and, when possible, self-test with antigen kits. If we had to cancel our plans now it would be a huge disappointment, as we lost several relatives in Brazil, and we need to be with our family at least for a couple of days to reconnect and recharge.