While ushering in the new spring semester, some PCC students are counting themselves lucky they arrived back home from winter break.

This joy sparks from how, while the regular holiday travel mania persisted, another level of chaos was added by a historic 2,000 mile-wide winter storm that wracked the continental United States from Dec. 21 to 26.

One of these lucky students is freshman psychology major Erik Alarcon, who is grateful that he made it back home on an international flight after participating in this past fall’s PCC Study Abroad Program in Italy.

“I think we got lucky—thankfully,” Alarcon affirms. “I mean even though it may have been cool to get stuck on that side of the border.”

Despite Alarcon’s luck, other travelers were caught up in the storm while students, like freshman business major Julie Thong, were bystander to the ongoing disaster. 

While dog sitting for her sister as she traveled, Thong kept up with the travel meltdown through news and social media.

“Over winter break, I heard that a lot of flights got cancelled, that there was a lot of hassle, and that people’s luggage was lost,” Thong conveys. “I’ve seen so many Tik Toks on my For You Page being like ‘Hey, if you’re ever flying take a picture of your luggage and put an airtag in so that you can track it’.”

Despite ringing in the new year and flight scheduling for major airlines returning to normal, the issues that Thong describes have continuing effects, namely for Southwest.

The company’s outdated point-to-point flight routes and staff scheduling programs that have built them a reputation as the world’s largest low-cost carrier were majorly disrupted by the storm, forcing them to have reset their existing system on Dec. 26.

These factors resulted a peak flight cancellation rate of 70% on Dec. 26 and more than 15,000 of their flights being cancelled from Dec. 21 to 31, statistics far greater than any of their competitors.

In the aftermath, Southwest has made a series of announcements in January as a way to get back into the public’s good graces, including making long-awaited agreements with union groups and offering rates as low as $49 on one-way routes within the contiguous 48 states.

As one of the frequent travelers that Southwest is attempting to court with these PR moves, freshman psychology major Italee Montana describes her hesitation towards the airline in the aftermath of the winter disaster. 

“I’ve flown on American Airlines, Hawaii Airlines, JetBlue, and Frontier but I’ve heard a lot of negative things about Southwest so I normally never fly on there,” Montana discloses. “Wholeheartedly, I probably would because, as a college student, money is a big factor but it’s kind of shady.”

Montana’s mindset represents a dilemma that will continue to plague PCC students and other passengers alike as they make plans in the new year amidst continued predicted winter storms.

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