Over 4,550 flights were delayed or cancelled the weekend before the start of the semester because of bad weather and omicron-related staffing issues, according to the flight-tracker FlightAware.
“When airlines have issues regarding staffing and other delays or cancellations because of weather, how it impacts the department of airports is that there are more people staying in the airport overnight, bigger crowds and having to help many passengers reschedule their flights,” said Nancy Volmer, the communication and marketing director at the Salt Lake City Airport.
As flight situations got worse, BYU students were affected in a variety of ways.
BYU communications major Addysen Kerr had flight plans to return to Salt Lake on Jan. 4.
“What was supposed to be a six-hour travel day ended up turning into 15 hours of travel,” Kerr said. “I missed my one class, I missed work and I had a missing bag, so it was an adventure.”
Information systems major Rachel Morey described a similar experience as she and her husband decided to travel on Jan. 4 as well.
“We got to the airport Tuesday morning and didn’t sleep all night,” Morey said. “We had to leave at 3 a.m. to get to the airport to make sure that we got there on time. As we were pulling up to the airport, we were getting text messages like ‘Oh, it’s been delayed,’ and ‘Never mind, it’s not delayed anymore.’”
After about 10 text messages saying the flight had been delayed and then taking it back, Morey said shereceived a message saying the flight had been canceled entirely. The next 16 hours consisted of long lines, speaking to airline officials to change flights, a passenger refusing to wear a mask on a flight resulting in further delays and two stressful connections until she finally arrived in Salt Lake City.
Sarah Palmer, a nutrition science major, left her hometown of Fairfax, Virginia, the Sunday evening before classes. Her connecting flight to Chicago was delayed, resulting in a five-minute layover to Salt Lake, which would make it impossible for her bags to be put onto the next flight. Thanks to 16 other BYU students on her flight, her connection to Salt Lake was able to wait for all those connecting and get their bags on the plane before taking off.
Although she was relieved she and her bags made it to Salt Lake, after six hours of delays, Palmer was exhausted — especially thinking about school the next day.
“We landed at 4 a.m. and I was like, perfect, I have class this morning,” Palmer said.
Despite delays and cancellations, Volmer said the Salt Lake City Airport staff does its best to accommodate travelers when airlines experience disruptions.
“We definitely focus on our passengers and make sure that we can do anything possible to make sure that their experience from the curb to the gate goes smoothly,” Volmer said.