Hannah Vanderhooft—Staff Writer

Contributed photo

This winter, heavy storms in the northern United States and a global surge in COVID-19 cases brought about last-minute cancellations for American travelers, including students at Dordt University. At Dordt, 51 percent of students travel to their campus from out of state, and many of these individuals embarked on long road trips, flights, or a combination of the two as they left and returned from their Christmas break. 

Cody Minderhoud, a senior, lives in British Columbia and faced a number of issues when attempting to return home at the end of last semester.

“As soon as I walked into the airport, I looked at my phone, and my flight was canceled,” Minderhoud said. 

According to The New York Times, over 10,000 flights around Christmastime were canceled by major airlines, due to a combination of COVID-19 and winter storms.

For Minderhoud, tornado-like weather in and around Northwest Iowa prompted the cancellation of his flight. He planned to return home on Tuesday, Dec. 14, but ended up catching a different flight four days later because of limited booking availability. Similar to many other Dordt students who rely on friends to drive them to the Sioux Falls Regional Airport (FSD), Minderhoud had been dropped off at FSD by a friend and remained stuck at the airport until he figured out where to go for the next few days, 

“Thankfully a friend was able to pick me up, but it was raining—a crazy thunderstorm. It was horrible fog, the worst I have ever seen,” Minderhoud said. “I’m very grateful she came to pick me up, but the weather was just awful.”

But Minderhoud’s traveling saga was not over yet. He also needed to plan around the logistics of receiving another COVID-19 test before flying back home. In the United States, most airlines require a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of boarding a flight. Because of limited testing availability, Minderhoud had to delay his flight until Saturday. 

Minderhoud flew out of Sioux City on Saturday, Dec. 18. Upon arriving in Denver, Colo. however, his flight was delayed in hour, causing him to miss another connecting flight in San Francisco. While airline provided Minderhoud with a direct flight to BC, his layover grew from two hours to seven. 

In addition to complicating international travel, COVID-19 has impacted domestic flights too. According to The New York Times, over 3,000 flights have been cancelled in the past few weeks due to increased amounts of airline staff testing positive for COVID-19. 

James Kamstra, a sophomore from Bellflower, Calif., had trouble with flight cancellations when returning to campus. Kamstra planned to fly out of the John Wayne Airport at noon on Monday, Jan. 10. An hour before his departure, he received an email from Allegiant Airlines which notified him of his flight’s cancellation. According to Kamstra, the airline provided no reasoning for the cancellation, but did provide gift certificates in the email to refund the flight. 

Kamstra, along with two other Dordt students, spent that afternoon searching for alternative, reasonably priced flights to return to campus. 

“All the flights to Sioux Falls and Omaha were at least $300 for the next couple days,” Kamstra said. “We finally found a cheaper flight leaving out of LAX at 6:30 the next morning and landed in Minneapolis that afternoon.” 

A friend picked up Kamstra and the other two students up from the airport on Tuesday. 

“I’ve never had this happen when flying to or from Dordt,” Kamstra said. “I really hope it doesn’t happen again because it was such a hassle.” 

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