Americans abroad scramble to get home amid coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 18, 2020

Americans traveling abroad are racing to try and get home, up against canceled or fully booked flights.

"This was our first international trip together, and we were going to spend St. Patrick's Day in Dublin," said Bree Steffen, who lives in San Diego.

But for Bree Steffen and Sean Harris, the dream began to unravel while waiting for their connecting flight.

"We were in Zürich when we found out about the travel restriction and when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. So, we were like, 'Oh my God. What do we do?'" said Steffen.

The couple tried to book tickets home, but they would've cost upwards of $6,000, so Steffen and Harris stuck to the original plan.

"We still had a really good time, but it was a lot different than we had pictured," said Steffen.

They felt especially safe in the countryside, outnumbered by four-legged friends. But the mood changed in Dublin, where nearly all museums, restaurants, and pubs were closed.

"It was tough, it was tough going into a restaurant and knowing that the busiest day for the year for them is now the slowest day of the year," said Harris.

"We were supposed to come back on Friday, but everything kept changing hourly, and we were so scared we'd get stuck there, and we can't get stuck there, we had to get back," said Steffen.

For days the couple couldn't find a flight; they were either booked or canceled.

This week, they ultimately found one through United.

At a layover in Newark, New Jersey, passengers were taken off the plane in groups of ten for medical screenings.

"And then they gave us this card, which has more information on COVID-19 and how to self-quarantine at home," said Steffen.

But now at home, they're faced with another hurdle.

"Terrifying. I got a realization last night that it's going to be very difficult to sustain a small business while having to be closed," said Harris.

While in Ireland, Harris decided to close his business, Serpentine Cider, to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Harris was also planning to open a tasting room next month--a decision that will likely be put on hold.

"We're potentially going to go out of business, and we've been doing really well. Going out of business on something that is not your fault it, it's sad," said Harris.

But they're trying to stay hopeful and look forward to the day when they can once again visit Ireland.