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AAA Travel Helps Stranded Student Return Home

aaa employee reunion

During these challenging times, when countless travelers have had to postpone or cancel upcoming vacations, the AAA Travel team has been working hard to help members reschedule travel plans, navigate new industry regulations and tackle other travel-related challenges.

Donna Goncalves knows this firsthand, and will forever be grateful to Elizabeth Jurlina, an air desk coordinator at AAA Northeast.

Elizabeth Jurlina helped bring Evan home safely.

Her son, Evan, a sophomore at the University of Rhode Island, was on a semester abroad in Seville, Spain, when COVID-19 began to spread across the globe. He left his home in Rhode Island for his dream trip on Jan. 28. For almost two months, he spent his time teaching children English, going to professional soccer games and exploring.

“It was hard to have him so far away. What kept me in check was I knew he was having an experience of a lifetime,” said Goncalves, a human resources business line manager at AAA Northeast. “I’m so incredibly proud of him; he’s gone through a lot and has been so resilient through it all.”

In March, Evan called home to say his program was ending early, and he had to come home. Knowing that several travel bans were in place, Goncalves reached out to Jurlina for help.

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Getting Evan home in the middle of a travel ban was difficult but not impossible. To begin with, there aren’t many flights in and out of Seville, then add a travel ban and airport restrictions. After multiple cancellations and long hold times to speak with airline representatives, Jurlina was able to get Evan on his way home.

Donna Goncalves and her sons Evan, right, and Ethan, after finally being reunited.

Goncalves wanted to hug Evan the minute he arrived on March 17, but she had to wait 14 days to be sure that he wasn’t showing any symptoms of COVID-19. On April 1, she was finally able to give her a son big hug and enjoy a day together with her family.

“Coming from a background working with two major international airlines, I knew the difficulties they were going through,” Jurlina said. “I just had to be patient and stay on the line. I knew what I was able to do to get him home to his family. All the craziness was worth it in the end.”

Evan was not the only student abroad Jurlina was able to reunite with families. She also helped get a member’s son home from Malaysia.

When the time is right, let a AAA Travel agent help you with your next trip. 


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