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Tech Sgt. Dennis Escobar and his wife, Beatrice, are hoping they and their son, Noah, can get back to their family in the States in time for Christmas. The Escobars have been trying to fly out of Heathrow Airport since Sunday.
Tech Sgt. Dennis Escobar and his wife, Beatrice, are hoping they and their son, Noah, can get back to their family in the States in time for Christmas. The Escobars have been trying to fly out of Heathrow Airport since Sunday. (David Hodge/Stars and Stripes)

RAF MILDENHALL, England — After five days, two flight cancellations, out-of-pocket hotel expenses and some generous help from friends, the Escobar family may finally get their Christmas wish — to board an airplane bound for New York.

U.S. families stationed across England have been dealing with canceled flights and long delays all week due to unusually cold and snowy weather in the United Kingdom.

Tech. Sgt. Dennis Escobar, from RAF Lakenheath’s 48th Maintenance Operations Squadron, his wife, Beatrice, and their 15-month-old son, Noah, spent the first two days in limbo between London’s Heathrow Airport and a nearby hotel, only to eventually be told their flight was rescheduled for Thursday.

“Everything went wrong,” Beatrice Escobar said.

Finally — after their flight was canceled Monday — Beatrice’s close friend made the trip to their west London hotel to take them home. She also drove the family back to the airport on Thursday.

“She’s my Santa Claus this year,” Beatrice said.

According to the latest information on the Heathrow Airport website, the airport has reopened. But the statement leaves the airport with some wiggle room, saying “most flights will operate today.”

Tammy Rollings is a 21-year veteran of the travel industry and the lead travel agent at the Information, Tickets and Travel office at RAF Mildenhall, and she has been fielding queries from stranded U.S. families all week.

Her advice: If your flight gets canceled, be assertive when you’re dealing with the airlines.

Travelers often don’t try hard enough to get reparations for canceled flights and miscues at the airport, Rollings said. Request a voucher, and make sure it’s good for a year.

“Sometimes the airlines try to only make the vouchers usable for a week,” she said.

Also, if you become stranded at the airport due to delayed or canceled flights, elderly people and parents with small children should demand to be put up at the airline’s expense, especially in times of harsh weather.

“It’s not guaranteed to work, but it’s best to try,” she said.

The Escobars are still trying to fulfill their plans, too.

This Christmas is important, especially to Dennis Escobar because he hasn’t seen his family in six years. And young Noah has never met the stateside family members.

“Whatever happens today, we will make the best of Christmas,” Dennis Escobar said Thursday.

But Beatrice had a more stern view.

“We don’t want to even consider not making this flight,” she said.

hodged@estripes.osd.mil

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