I wanted to write more about what happened next as I dealt with this nightmare coming true – as it may be useful to others in the same circumstances.
Time. Firstly, I have a fantastic boss who is caring and generous. He urged me to look for an earlier flight and to get home as soon as possible. Additionally, he offered me unpaid leave to stay back to care for my sick grandmother. So I no longer had to feel distracted while at work and could focus on what was important to me.
I don’t know if the Family Medical Leave Act in the US would have kicked in if I were in NY, nor how much of it is pair or unpaid and whether or not a grandparent counts as “immediate” family, but I felt so much better once I knew that my job in HK was not at jeopardy for me turning to this family crisis halfway around the world.
My Flat. I was worried not knowing when I would be back (and I still don’t know when that will be yet), and how I would deal with everything at home. I would have ideally been able to sublet my flat, but that was not happening on short notice (though I almost had a friend who could have used it).
I am considering airbnb-ing it. The night before I left HK, I tried to put away as much of my personal belongings as possible and tidy the place up. But before I could post the place, I’d still need to get the maid in to clean it up nicely and have photographs done. So far I’ve only done up my description, had the maid to clean, and have yet to arrange a photographer — yes, airbnb arranges complimentary photography – which builds credibility.
Interestingly enough, airbnb also offers up to US$1million in insurance for theft and vandalism for those who host. But let’s see if I even get down that route.
Costs Already Expended. I’d already spent $1100 on airfare that would be impossible to use again (HK-NY, SEA-HK), another flight on 60,000 Delta miles, and a non-refundable hotel in Washington.
My sister, who had cut short a trip in Ghana was able to get her flight changed for free to come see Granny. She was unable to organize that, but our other sister was able to successfully call Delta about it from the US.
As for me – I was still not sure what to do. I had booked my flight on vayama, so Asiana, the airline I was flying, would not make the change. I tried to request a change, but earlier flights were all impossibly expensive that way.
After some time speaking to customer service, and told that it was unclear what would happen, I received an email allowing the cancellation for a fee of US$100 + HKD500. That was a relief!
Delta, where I purchase my NY-SEA flight on miles, allows a refund of the miles for US$150. And then I luckily found someone to take over my non-refundable hotel room!
So that was that with those costs.
The New Flight. When my sister was urging me to hurry back, and because I was unable to change the flight for a reasonable cost, I began looking at buying a brand new ticket. I started searching on a Friday morning and by 1pm that day bought a one-way ticket to NY for the following afternoon at just US$841 with tax on Korean Air! I was surprised that it was actually affordable and just took it.
There were actually cheaper flights, but the layover brought me back a bit later, and I thought it was not worth it. So within 24 hours I bought a ticket (fyi – I could not buy it directly on Korean Air, which prohibited buying tickets on their website within 72 hours, but was able to buy it on Orbitz) for NY and was on a plane at super short notice. I had never done that before – and it felt a bit crazy, but there I was.
I’d even had time to buy plenty of Chinese medicinal soups the morning before my flight to bring back for Granny, who had not been eating or drinking for almost 3 weeks.
And so that was how it was resolved. It was a massive relief to know that work is under control, my costs are under control, and I can focus all my energy on helping my grandmother get back to shape.