After a lot of uncertainty, and nearly $3,500, Connor Crickmore is back home from Nepal.
The 29-year-old NOTL resident and world-traveller had been stuck in Kathmandu as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions, after hiking through the mountains in Nepal. He arrived home Sunday after the Canadian government co-ordinated a plane to evacuate him and about 200 other Canadians.
While Crickmore said the important thing is that he’s home, getting here wasn’t a smooth and easy process. There was a lot of confusion over which flight they’d be getting, and a third-party booking agent, he said.
“I found out we were getting a flight out on Sunday, April 5, but nothing was confirmed and booked until Friday, April 10, the day before our flight,” he said. “We were supposed to have the flight on April 8 but never heard anything back from the government.
It wasn’t until last Thursday that he received an email asking those interested to send photos of their passports and credit cards to a third-party booking agent.
“This made a lot of us nervous because Canada used the same process in India and it led to credit card fraud as many people received duplicate emails from scammers,” Crickmore said. “The process of using a third-party booking agent instead of directly with the government or airline is still baffling to many of us.”
He said after he sent photos of his credit card and passport, the next day he had to book on Qatar Airlines website anyway. Further complicating things, the airline website crashed for “a large portion of the day as well,” Crickmore said.
“The whole process was nerve-racking and there’s still so many aspects that could have been handled differently and better, quite frankly.”
He said the plane was mostly full of Canadians, along with some Australians who switched planes in Qatar.
The whole trip took more than 35 hours.
“After flying from Kathmandu for six hours to Doha, where we laid over for 16 hours, we flew another 13 hours to Montreal. There, I cleared immigration and then waited for a flight to Toronto.”
When he arrived in Toronto, his mom Shari Hartwick and his stepfather had driven two cars so he could drive back.
“They threw me the keys for one and I drove back to Niagara-on-the-Lake where I am now in 14-day quarantine in a friend’s vacation rental house near the golf course,” Crickmore said.
The $3,500 trip cost caused “a lot of Canadians to refuse the flight out of Nepal due to the financial impossibility of that amount, especially if they had to fly a whole family home,” Crickmore said.
He said the Canadian government offered a loan to help offset the cost, but nothing was subsidized. “However, this is definitely a situation of ‘beggars can’t be choosers,’ and ultimately the Canadian government didn’t owe us a subsidized flight cost.”
He said he’s happy to be back home.
“(I) can’t thank enough those that have contributed in some way to that being made possible. Special thanks to my mom, who has been working tirelessly to get in touch with government officials, and members of the media to help bring me home.”