Adverse weather conditions caused delays and cancellations for some students participating in international spring break programs.
Of the 22 international spring break trips, 12 trips experienced travel complications causing delays or cancellations. Six of those trips experienced delays of a day or more, and two trips were cancelled.
Pamela Frigot, Director of the Office for Global Engagement, said the weather in Pittsburgh and at international gateway airports was the major problem causing travel complications for students traveling abroad over spring break. A winter storm hit the east coast March 5, causing 4,895 flight cancellations and another 4,000 delays across the US according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.
“Any sort of travel isn’t without its potential complications,” Frigot said. “You have to deal with them on a case-by-case basis. It may be one airline or multiple airlines, one city or multiple cities.”
Nola Nolen, an Associate Professor in the dance department, was booked to take a group of 30 students to Paris, France. Their group was scheduled to fly out of Pittsburgh Thursday, March 5, but faced a variety of delays from weather to mechanical issues.
The Office for Global Engagement looked to a variety of solutions for the travel complications.
“It depends on the size of the group, it depends on their destination. There’s no hard and fast rule. You just have to problem solve and handle the unfortunate events as they present themselves,” Frigot said.
After looking for a solution, the group learned there would be no flights leaving for Paris with 30 available seats until Monday.
“We would’ve only had three out of the seven days we had originally planned, missing two of our master classes, and some of our tours,” Nolen explained.
After a discussion with Frigot, it was ultimately decided that the trip would be cancelled.
“Half of our group broke down in tears,” Nolen said. “I might as well have told them somebody had died, that’s how upset they were.”
Finding a solution for the travel complications provided an opportunity for personal growth, according to Frigot, as students were able to take part in the decision-making process.
“Many of them had a lesson in problem resolution and coming to a collaborative decision in terms of what would be a suitable alternative,” Frigot said.
Nolen said she is currently working with the Office for Global Engagement to organize a trip to Paris in May or August to make up for the cancelled trip.
“These students want their trip to Paris and it truly is a once in a lifetime educational experience,” Nolen said.
Nolen said she hopes that taking students to Paris during the summer will lessen the chances of travel complications, but she knows that things don’t always go as planned.
“That’s just the way travel is. You can have everything organized and have the best plans in place, but when something like this happens it doesn’t matter what we’ve planned, ”Nolen said. “That’s the thing you learn when you travel. There are times when you just can’t go because of reasons beyond your control. You just have to wait for the next opportunity.”