The story of a seemingly promising winter break that ended in disappointment
I scanned my room for the fifth time, making sure I didn’t miss anything. Then I turned out the lights—my heart pounding with excitement as I seized my suitcase and headed downstairs. After five never-ending months being stuck at home, I was finally going on vacation. As my family and I stepped outside into the bitter, stinging air, I fantasized about being up in the clouds in just a few hours. Just as we were about to freeze to death, the Uber driver pulled up in front of our house and we began packing our suitcases into the trunk. The minute I sat down in the backseat of the car, my dad got a call—the call that completely crushed all my hopes of having a good winter break.
After building up the energy to unpack my suitcase and accepting that I wasn’t going to have the exotic vacation I had fantasized about, I learned that I wasn’t alone in this misery. In fact, according to The Washington Post, the number of flight cancellations since Christmas Eve have reached an alarming 20,000. “The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” said an United Airlines spokesperson after 150 flight cancellations in a single day due to staffing issues. “As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport.”
In addition to flight cancellations, flight delays were also a major factor in spurring chaos within airports. The Washington Post reveals that “About one-third of flights nationwide that have taken off in the past two weeks [since January 8, 2022] have been late, with the average delay topping 50 minutes on some days, according to FlightAware.”
Flight delays have not only been a troublesome disruption in travellers’ vacation plans, but have also resulted in a major inconvenience for those catching connecting flights. Vedant Hariharan (11), who had been returning home with his family from a trip to India, faced multiple flight delays and rebookings and was forced to stay the night at a hotel due to a missed flight. Hariharan and his family made it back home only to find that their luggage, which had been left at their previous destination, wouldn’t arrive for another few days.
Despite having an altogether enjoyable trip, Hariharan does wish it could have ended off on a smoother note. “I didn’t have time to settle in at home before school,” he expresses. “[A calmer travelling experience] would have resulted in normal goodbyes with the family instead of the stress-induced scramble it was.”
Aside from flight cancellations, the Omicron variant also hindered the normality of holiday travel by instilling fear in many families of testing positive. The Associated Press reveals that as of January 17, the United States has reached approximately 1,700 new deaths from the Omicron variant, and there is a possibility of the total number of U.S deaths from Covid-19 reaching over a million by early spring.
As cases continued to rise, many families chose to be on the safe side and stay home over Winter Break. Kristine Dang (11), for example, reveals that her family was forced to break their tradition of travelling during the winter holidays due to apprehension about getting sick.
Mehek Bhatnagar (11), whose family cancelled their plans to Los Angeles after the surge of Covid-19 cases, conveys her initial disappointment, but ultimate relief at how things worked out. “I was disappointed that I was not going to be able to do all the things I had planned, like exploring the downtown stores,” she recounts. “But traveling to Los Angeles would [have been] unsafe given the amount of Covid-19 cases in the area.”
Ultimately, Bhatnagar did find light at the end of the tunnel as she enjoyed her break spending time with her family, which she “had not been able to do for a while because of [her] school and [her] sister’s college.” Although her holidays didn’t go as planned, she was still able to spend them surrounded by the people she loved.
Other families, however, weren’t so lucky. With chaos encompassing the holiday season, numerous families ended up being split up. Mr. Savoie, who teaches Journalism, for example, was forced to cancel his flight to Florida at the very last minute. “I got a text message from my wife that I didn’t even see until the end of the day. Her sister got Covid-19 and she was staying with my wife’s parents,” says Mr. Savoie after revealing that his wife had left for her parents’ house a day earlier. “It was like a red alert. I had to quickly look up the refund policy for the flight to see what I was going to do.”
Although the decision was difficult, Mr. Savoie decided that the best option for him was to stay at home. “Different people have different feelings about Covid-19 and how seriously they’re treating it. I knew for me, working in a school, I didn’t want to get it, so I knew that I was going to have to figure out how to say I’m not going to go.” With his wife already there, he had to face his first Christmas without his family.
For a time intended to be the most wonderful time of the year, 2021’s winter season ended up being a pretty big disappointment. “A triple whammy of robust demand for holiday travel, staffing shortages triggered by a surge in coronavirus cases and bouts of wintry weather at airline hubs has ushered in one of the worst periods for air travelers in years,” The Washington Post remarks. With the last minute cancellations, the rush of Covid-19 cases, and chaos disrupting travelling plans, the universe—it seems—really didn’t want this holiday season to run smoothly.
Regardless, there is nothing like the holiday spirit that comes with the winter season, and people have made the best of what they have. Tanvi Vidyala (11), for example,—despite facing certain weather complications—greatly enjoyed her trip to Cancun, Mexico.
“It was the first time we traveled since the pandemic began,” she reports. “Winter break honestly felt more normal than it did last year. My family and I were able to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with our friends, which we couldn’t really do last year. Though I wish we hadn’t gone during a week where it was raining, I had a lot of fun.”
The Washington Post
The Associated Press