From canceled flights to long waits at the airport, many students who traveled out of state over winter break faced various obstacles as they attempted to fly back to Ann Arbor for the start of the term.
Since the start of 2022, thousands of flights have been delayed or canceled due to winter storms, staff shortages and increased COVID-19 cases — especially with the surge of the highly transmissible Omicron variant — leaving passengers stuck at airports for long periods of time. Both United Airlines and JetBlue Airways recently reduced their flight schedules to maintain their on-time percentage in the face of operational challenges.
Delta Air Lines, Detroit’s largest carrier, canceled 1 of every 8 flights on Jan. 3 and canceled an additional 200 flights daily on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5. Delta did not respond to comment in time for publication.
Carla Voigt, Central Student Government vice president and Engineering senior, was trying to fly back to Detroit after visiting her parents in Hawaii when her flight was canceled on Jan. 4, just one day before the first day of classes.
“When I found out that my flight was canceled, I had to call and get the airline to change it to arrive on Wednesday at noon,” Voigt said. “Luckily, I was able to stay with my parents for the extra time, but I did end up missing my first class.”
Voigt said while her professors were understanding about her absence, she was initially worried about academic repercussions, given the University’s emphasis on in-person attendance this semester.
“I did have to email my professor to make sure that everything was going to be recorded. They did record it for me, so I was able to catch up that way,” Voigt said. “I know that a lot of classes aren’t as accommodating with making up classes. That would have been another stressor that I would have had to deal with on top of (the) flight cancellation.”
Besides her personal experience, Voigt also spoke about CSG’s plans to help mitigate difficulties — including those caused by travel delays — in future semesters. She said travel-related challenges disproportionately affect the 46% of the U-M undergraduate population that live outside Michigan, and CSG wants to learn how to support all students going forward.
“Our plan is to document all the different types of issues that students are facing this semester through a Google Form,” Voigt said. “One of them would obviously be travel and teacher accommodations. Others are wanting to be online for the first two weeks, dorm issues and quarantine and isolation housing capacity issues. We’re hoping to synthesize all that information into a single document that we can give to administrators.”
Engineering sophomore Macy Hannan traveled to Cancún, Mexico over winter break. Although she said none of her four connecting flights were canceled or delayed, Hannan emphasized the stress she experienced while traveling.
“My experience was definitely stressful,” Hannan said. “Even though I was in a lucky position where my flights didn’t get delayed, as we’re waiting for each of our flights there was always a question of ‘if we don’t make this, what are we going to do?’”
LSA junior Noor Khan lives in Hallsville, Texas and said every flight back and forth from Texas to Michigan has been delayed since Thanksgiving break.
Khan said one of her flights during Thanksgiving break was delayed by 30 hours, and her flight back to Detroit after winter break was delayed by 8 hours. However, after dealing with so many delays during the holiday season, Khan said she made plans to fly back a day before classes started and was able to make it to her first class on time.
“Because of my bad luck with flights recently, I booked a date earlier than I normally would have,” Khan said. “It’s frustrating not ever knowing when I’ll get anywhere.”
Daily Staff Reporters Jingqi Zhu and Carly Brechner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.