Flying home, stuck at school

Students share plans and experiences about flying home

Caleb Cissna, Staff Writer

As airlines continue to struggle, students hope to get home for the holidays without any setbacks. (Hailey Echan)

Winter break is fast approaching. For students who live far away, arrangements are being made in anticipation of traveling home for the university’s six-week break. Over the last several months, multiple airlines have canceled hundreds of flights without warning, leaving some students and families worried about air travel.

Students at Seattle Pacific University come from all over the country. Some grew up as close as Bellevue, WA or Vancouver, WA and others are from the East Coast. Those who are planning on flying home for the duration of the break have various plans for how they are traveling this year.

First-year psychology student Sophie Warren is flying home for the six weeks off of classes.

“I live in Ventura, California, which is like an hour, two hours north of LA depending on traffic, so I’ll be going back there,” Warren said. “My mom was upset that it had to be the 23rd or the 24th because they were cheaper earlier…but I had finals and then the dorm kicks us out.”

Last year, SPU made the decision to begin the fall quarter two weeks earlier, ending just before Thanksgiving. This schedule has followed through to this year, but with many more students living on campus than during the last school year, out-of-state students are facing the holiday travel rush.

Matthew Spicklemier, third-year electrical engineering and music production major, is also heading home this winter. Spicklemier’s travel plans were dependent on the university’s finals schedule.

“[My flight is] three and a half hours by plane, to Twin Cities, Minnesota,” Spicklemier said. “There were several flights that were options on Tuesday depending on whether or not I had finals, and when my finals were.”

While some students are staying locally during the six-week period, many students are going home. Warren shared that staying locally was not much of a consideration.

“It would have been nice to stay on campus for a portion of break, but it also would have been expensive,” Warren said.

This year, the university is providing an option for students who would like to stay on campus. SPU is charging $750 for the six-week break and is requiring a move from one of the dormitories to an open space in a campus apartment. Food is not included with the cost, and Gwinn Commons is closed throughout the break.

Over the last several months, there have been three separate mass cancelations of flights by airline companies, leaving many people stranded or with interruptions to their travel plans.

In early August, Florida-based Spirit Airlines canceled hundreds of flights. Spirit Airlines released a statement saying “recent cancellations stem from a month’s worth of tough operating conditions in July. What started with weather and its associated delays led to more and more crew members getting dislocated and being unable to fly their assigned trips.”

Additionally, in mid-October, Southwest Airlines had similar issues, canceling over 1,000 flights over the course of a weekend. Southwest airlines cited weather and unexpected crew shortages as the cause of the cancelations.

In late October and early November over Halloween weekend, American Airlines canceled over 1,500 flights. In an internal letter from American Airlines CEO David Seymour, weather and staffing issues were once again cited as an explanation.

Spicklemier was not overly concerned with canceled or delayed flights causing disruptions to travel plans, because he has had previous experiences with delays.

“When we were in the airport they were like ‘our plane is broken’ and we had to wait for two hours,” Spicklemier said. “We’d figure it out. I have friends in town I could stay with if push came to shove.”

For some students, these flights home are the first time flying solo, including navigating through the airport and security. However, this doesn’t seem to be worrisome for some first-time flyers.

“[I have not flown] on my own alone, but I have flown without adults,” said Warren.

As winter break comes closer, travel plans are becoming solidified. Students traveling home via air travel should closely monitor their flight status and the weather.

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