Feb 22nd

A fairly normal day in the flat, until around 1pm. James had gone to leave the community and whilst he was out I checked my emails. I discovered that Lufthansa had announced that they will not be flying passengers to or from China until March 30th at the earliest. This information came to me after receiving a reply to an email sent earlier in the week regarding the process of re-booking onto a new flight. The 30th of March. Over a whole month away with the “at the earliest” that had begun to accompany every date we saw. Even if I could stick it out for another month, the likelihood of being able to leave at the end of March was questionable, after all, I’d be able to leave at the end of February.

James returned from the shop empty handed. I firstly assumed they had sold out of food, but it turns out that he was refused entry to the shop due to an absence of a health form, something that we had no knowledge of. The form could be filled out online, but of course it was in Chinese which isn’t a huge issue, however the compulsory need for a Chinese ID Number is. After a few attempts and some help from some Chinese friends, the form was complete, certainly a relief especially if the online delivery services we had been relying on were to cease. However, it was useless to us right now as James couldn’t leave the community again for another two days. An online order it was.

Once this was sorted, I shared the news I had received about the flights. I rang the Lufthansa customer support centre in Beijing to try and understand what my options were, I was definitely expecting to get nowhere, but it was worth trying to at least get some sort of clarity. After trying a few calls, the first few unsuccessful, I got through and explained the situation.

I was firstly advised that the airline had agreed with Air China to fly passengers wishing to return to European destinations with existing bookings on the 9th March from Beijing. Coincidentally, I had read just before the call that Beijing have updated their travel restrictions too; anyone entering the city will be quarantined upon arrival for 14 days. Flying from Beijing was now not an option as the chances I’d get stuck there, even if I flew there from Hefei, are high. After some back and forth with the operator, and explaining the issue with Beijing, they looked for other options to fly back and I was put on hold for 25 minutes. At this point, it really seemed as if there would be no positive outcome and I’d just have to wait it out.

I was wrong. When the call re-connected, the operator told me that he had found a flight leaving Shanghai to Frankfurt on the 25th of February, in three days time. Whilst the operator discussed this further with Air China and arranged a connecting flight to London, James and I tried to find a way for me to get to Shanghai.

Internal flights from Hefei’s airport have begun to depart again over the last week, a great relief as the trains are still largely cancelled. Conveniently, there was a flight at 07:20 from Hefei to Shanghai on the 25th which arrived two hours before my flight to Frankfurt. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, which was suspicious. None the less, when the call re-connected for a second time, I had been booked onto the flight from Shanghai to London via Frankfurt. We quickly booked the other flight from Hefei to Shanghai and that was it, job done.

After a long two hour wait for the confirmation email to come through, I had my flight information and it was confirmed. From a phone call that seemed so hopeless after the many attempts I’d had before, I had a route back to the UK from Hefei. I am coming home.

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