María Sol Zapata, her husband Luis Patricelli and their daughter had to get on the plane that would bring them back to the country this Wednesday, June 30. At 11:33 (12:33 Argentine time) the plane took off, but they stayed at the Orlando airport, United States, waiting behind a Copa Airlines counter.
Their presence at the airport, despite knowing that they would not travel due to the restrictions on flights imposed by the national government for health reasons, had a double intention.
On the one hand, stop communicating with an airline bot, which to each query answered “wrote a lot of words, be brief”. And on the other, get three seats on the only flight that Copa Airlines has so far authorized, that of July 6.
On the night of Sunday, June 27, the family’s return flight (which was going to first make the Orlando-Panama route on CM239, on June 30, and then combine with Buenos Aires) was among the canceled by the National Civil Aviation Administration (ANAC), within a schedule to frame the entry into the country of 600 daily passengers.
María Sol Zapata learned of the suspension after her husband woke her up almost shouting and showed her the screen of his cell phone with the news. That same night, but early in the morning, a company operator would notify her and her husband that his flight had been rescheduled for September.
“They cannot tell me that I am going to leave the United States in two or three months. How do we live for two or three months here? We have no way “, he will say later, about the response of the airline, María Sol Zapata, when leaving the airport this Wednesday.
But earlier, when the original flight on which they would return to Argentina had already taken off and while around her passengers went and returned with their carry-ons and luggage, she and her husband displayed on the airline counter as many documents as possible. could present: passports, PCR negatives and medical certificates stating Luis Patricelli’s heart failure.
For the family, staying in the United States is not only a financial problem – “we are not rich, we save for this trip” – but also a health problem: Luis has medication for just three days and your treatment for heart failure cannot be stopped.
A Copa Airlines employee carefully reviewed the family’s documents, looked at the company’s computer screen and told them that she saw some seats still available for the next authorized flight. But he also told them that rescheduling could not be done from the airport, but through the airline’s call center.
The family showed up at the Copa counter at the Orlando airport to seek a solution. Stock Photo
“We left hopeful. It seemed like a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Maria Sol, on her way back from the airport, sitting in the car, whose rental they had to renew. But the illusion lasted as long as successive attempts to reach the company’s phone line lasted. “We could not, the line is collapsed -account-. We called the tourism agency that sold us the ticket to communicate from Argentina. They replied that the flight was full and that there were no privileges for anyone, even if it was some health“.
María Sol Zapata and Luis Patricelli cannot specify when they bought the tickets. They say they did it for two reasons. A priority: receive the vaccine against Covid-19 infection; and another secondary one, that his daughter knew Disney. For all three this is the first time in the United States.
They also say that When they got the tickets, the possibility of them getting vaccinated in Argentina – he is 47 years old and she, 45 – was remote. And on him, in addition, a medical indication weighed.
“My cardiologist and my infectologist They recommended that I get vaccinated as soon as possible“, says Luis. Years ago, a bacterium lodged in his heart, causing him a chronic and severe condition. Since the pandemic began, integrates the risk group, a category that reminds him – and anyone who is part of it – of perpetual danger: any day, at any time, by any act, already weak health can break even worse.
“I lived a long time in fear -adds Luis- And when I saw that there was the possibility of getting vaccinated abroad, I thought about it and bought the tickets. It was a sacrifice to have a health solution“.
Between May and June, the application of vaccines accelerated in most of the country. In the Santa Fe city of Totoras, where the family lives, too.
On June 2, Luis, who had signed up for the vaccination plan, was summoned. “I did not know what to do. I called my infectologist to ask him and he said ‘Give it. The sooner the better’. So I did not wait until the trip and received it,” he reconstructs. The same would happen with his wife, although in her case the summons would be at the edge of the trip, two days before.
“At that moment we asked ourselves again what to do. We had bought the tickets to give ourselves the vaccine, without thinking that we would be able to do it in the country. We thought about it and after such a difficult year we said, ‘Well, since we have it, come on. And we fulfilled the baby’s dream of knowing Disney. ‘
The family visited the Disney park in Orlando. File Photo / Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel via AP
On June 22, they flew to the United States. On the plane signed an affidavit in which they accepted that there could be a reduction in flights and they took charge, economically and healthily, of all the consequences. But they never thought that a measure was about to arrive that did not give them time to do anything.
“They did not even give the airlines time to organize themselves, least of all us,” says Luis, by phone now from the hotel room that he will have to leave in the next few hours. And then he compensates: “We we know what we are signing and we don’t want to take responsibility off of ourselves. We made the decision to travel because the number of flights abroad had become more flexible. And we were clear about the quarantine that we had to comply with when we returned. “
María Sol affirms: “I I am aware of the pandemic. I even understand what the Government wants to do (for the attempt to contain the advance of the Delta variant of Covid-19, through the Ezeiza blockade). But my quarrel is with the airline, which does not respond. It should take care of its passengers and that, if there are vacant seats on an authorized flight, they should relocate us because there is a priority health issue. “
For both María Sol and Luis, in no case, returning to the country in September can be a valid answer. “My biggest fear -Luis will say before cutting- it’s my health. Something happen to me. That they have to intern me for my heart. And if that happens, what does my wife do with my daughter, without resources and without knowing how to speak English? There are nights when I don’t sleep thinking about that. “