As Covid-19 infections continue to rise, students all across the world are experiencing travel problems due to cancelled and delayed flights.
Travellers had a weekend of upheaval as flights were cancelled or delayed over the Christmas holiday, and this trend does not look to be abating anytime soon. According to flight tracking company FlightAware, Chinese and US destinations are the hardest hit.
CNN reported on December 28 that another 2,800 flights had been halted and another 8,000 had been delayed as a result of personnel testing positive or isolating, in the United States.
Several of the delays and cancellations happened on Delta, United, SkyWest, American, and JetBlue flights. All planes operated by South Korea’s Korean Air are barred from entering Hong Kong until January 8, 2021, after several passengers tested positive for Covid-19.
Flights were even turned back mid-air in several cases. The Delta Air Lines trip from Seattle to Shanghai, which was cancelled due to “new pandemic-related cleaning requirements.”
According to CNBC, it is unclear what sparked the move, but it comes after China tightened restrictions in response to a rising outbreak in the city of Xi’an.
Hundreds of Chinese travellers were stranded as a result of the decision, including Chinese students whose flights home had already been cancelled three times. The Chinese Embassy in the United States has issued a warning to passengers wanting to fly to China to exercise caution when selecting an airline carrier and to keep track of changes to their itineraries.
Domestic flights were cancelled in Australia and around the world in the run-up to Christmas, with many of them operated by JetStar, Qantas, and Virgin Australia. As a result, several travellers were spotted stranded at airports in Sydney and Melbourne.
The country’s requirement for pre-departure testing for interstate travel has also been eliminated due to testing facility overcrowding. Most had long lines, and several were forced to close or send people away.
The Australian government now advises people to have a quick antigen test before travelling. These cancelled flights have impacted thousands of students. Many people are disappointed by their inability to contact airlines for refunds since phone lines are jammed all across the world.
An international student in the UK, tweeted, “I am literally trying to call @British_Airways for the refund of the flight that THEY cancelled from their end!” He added, “And, no answer! I want my refund, not the coupon, but the money. I’m a student and I don’t earn… so I can’t let it go!”
However, student travel booking site StudentUniverse has come under criticism from disgruntled students who were unable to reach them due to their flight cancellations. The company has apologized on Twitter, citing “severe storms” and “regular trip changes” as the cause of their busy phone lines, but students have been complaining about difficulty getting in touch for weeks before this.
Another student tweeted, “Not only have I been calling and trying to get help for a flight that’s tomorrow, when I tried calling, but the automatic voice messages also didn’t work and then I got hung upon. Why did I ever use this service, I can’t even cancel my flight now.”
In response, StudentUniverse has advised impacted consumers to contact them via Twitter direct messaging, however, this has also been fruitless. In the past, the website has received bad feedback for providing poor and unhelpful customer assistance.
If you are planning to travel in the next couple of days then do not forget to sign up for your booked airline’s SMS or email alerts to stay up to date on your flight status. If your flight has been cancelled or delayed, the basic rule of thumb is to contact your airline carrier to reschedule your travel. You can dial your carrier’s international call line, which may be less busy than local ones.