cancelled flights
Thousands of students were affected by cancelled flights around the world over the last week / Source: JOE RAEDLE / AFP

Students all over the world are facing travel disruptions due to cancelled flights as COVID-19 cases continue to spike

Travellers saw a weekend of chaos as flights were cancelled or delayed over the Christmas period, and this doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Flight tracking company FlightAware reports that Chinese and US destinations are the worst hit. 

In the US, CNN reported on Tuesday that another 2,800 flights have been cancelled and more than 8,000 delayed due to crews testing positive or isolating. Many of these occurred on Delta, United, SkyWest, American and JetBlue airlines. In Hong Kong, all flights conducted by South Korea’s Korean Air are being banned from entry until Jan. 8, 2021 after some passengers tested positive for COVID-19. 

There were some instances where flights were even turned back mid-air. This was the case for a Delta Air Lines flight from Seattle to Shanghai, of which “new pandemic-related cleaning requirements” were cited as the reason. CNBC reports that it isn’t clear what prompted the change, but that it comes after tightening restrictions in China due to a growing outbreak in the city of Xi’an. 

The move left hundreds of Chinese passengers stranded, including Chinese students whose flights home have been cancelled three times now. The Chinese Embassy in the US has warned that passengers planning to fly to China must take caution in choosing an airline company and track changes to their flights. 

Across the globe, Australians were affected by domestic flights being cancelled in the lead-up to Christmas, many of which were JetStar, Qantas and Virgin Australia. Many passengers were seen stranded at airports in Sydney and Melbourne as a result of this. 

The country’s requirement for pre-departure testing for interstate travel has also been scrapped after testing facilities were overwhelmed. Many had significant wait times and some were forced to close or turn people away. The Australian government has now directed people to take a rapid antigen test before travel. 

Thousands of students have been impacted by these cancelled flights. Many are frustrated by an inability to contact airlines for refunds as call lines are being held up all over the world. 

“I am literally trying to call @British_Airways for the refund of the flight that THEY cancelled from their end!” a student in the UK was seen tweeting. “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!”

Many flights were cancelled last-minute, leaving travellers stranded at airports / Source: JOE RAEDLE / AFP

Another student in the US has expressed similar irritation. “I’ve been on hold with @SpiritAirlines after they cancelled my flight … for two hours,” they tweeted. “I just want my money back plus compensation, I’m a broke college student.”

Booking website under fire for cancelled flights chaos

Meanwhile, student travel booking site StudentUniverse has been facing ire from angry students who had trouble contacting them over their cancelled flights. The website has apologised over Twitter, bringing up “intense storms” and “frequent travel changes” as the reason behind their busy phone lines, but students have mentioned difficulties in getting in touch for weeks before this.

“Not only have I been calling and trying to get help for a flight that’s tomorrow, when I tried calling, the automatic voice messages didn’t work and then I got hung up on!” a student tweeted. “Why did I ever use this service, I can’t even cancel my flight now.”

In response, StudentUniverse has directed affected customers to get in touch via direct message on Twitter, but this has been similarly ineffective. 

“This place is ridiculous,” another student replied. “Call lines don’t work, they don’t follow through on Twitter, why would they expect anyone to believe that DMs are gonna work.”

The website has been negatively rated for its poor and unhelpful customer service in the past. 

If you are planning to travel in the next few days, you should sign up for your airline’s text or email alerts to ensure that you are kept up-to-date with your flight status. If you have been affected by a cancelled flight or delay, the general rule of thumb is that you should contact your airline carrier to reschedule your flight. You can call an international call line for your carrier, which may not be as busy as domestic numbers.