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Megan Smith wonders why travelling off island is still a gamble

Student Life

By Megan Smith

The famous local tune “The Islander” states, “I’m a Newfoundlander, born and bred, and I’ll be one ’till I die.”

I’ve called this small, rocky island in the North Atlantic my home for my entire life, and likely always will.

That doesn’t mean every aspect of life here is perfect, however. It’s far from it.

One particular gripe that’s fresh in my mind and that should resonate with everyone, whether you be a townie, bayman or come-from-away, is travel.

Why so difficult?

We live in the 21st century. Travel from here to elsewhere should not be nearly as difficult as it is.

Leaving the island in any way is an arduous process, and I know this personally.

Allow me to set the scene. Winter break was ending and many people, me included, were returning to Newfoundland from wherever they may have gone.

My studies were relatively light, so I opted to spend some time on a lovely family vacation to the Sunshine State of Florida.

It was to be a smooth, simple and relatively short trip back: five hours, straight from there to here.

“This exact scenario — direct flight, impromptu overnight stay and all — had happened before.”

However, once the plane was diverted half an hour away from home and forced to land in Halifax, those five hours quickly snowballed into a multiple-day ordeal filled with confusion, the discomfort of waiting, and eventually, an overnight stay in the neighbouring province, causing me to miss some of my scheduled courses.

My flight home wasn’t the only one impacted: travellers waiting to board the diverted plane had a delayed start to their own vacations.

Now, I’m not saying that my travel story is the worst-case scenario. I made it out fairly quickly and well-off. The worst thing that happened was spending an extra night away.

My experiences merely highlight some glaring issues in how we travel.

Ineffective communication

For one, I still don’t fully know why the plane could not land as scheduled.

When it happened, we were told something vague about “too much snow,” but this is Newfoundland and Labrador.

Something as ubiquitous as wintry weather should have been accounted for.

But maybe it was; the reason later shifted to the only runway large enough to accommodate our plane being too icy.

Later, the problem was eventually declared to us in official correspondence from the airline as being under the nebulous heading of “operational decisions for everyone’s safety,” with further elaboration to allegedly be provided at a later date.

“It almost felt like we and our fellow passengers . . . were a family of sorts, all along for the ride together.”

It wasn’t even the first time this exact scenario — direct flight, impromptu overnight stay and all — had happened before.

In a major sense of deja vu, the same thing happened to me a decade ago!

The prior incident was before the major renovations of the St. John’s International Airport, which in my eyes is a clear demonstration that despite the clear progress made, a true solution has not yet been implemented.

I fully understand that sometimes unavoidable things happen, and I take no issue with the wonderful, committed flight crew that operated both my initial flight and the final, next-day leg of the journey.

Who will step up?

By the time we had landed safely on island soil, it almost felt like we and our fellow passengers, many of whom had also been on the plane ride up, seeing as our particular route only ran once a week, were a family of sorts, all along for the ride together.

Having said that, our only options for leaving our home that is surrounded by water are either by air, with destinations constantly being altered or dropped entirely with very little warning, or by a multiple-day boat voyage that falls victim to seasonal and other issues.

So it’s safe to say that someone, whether that be the local airport, the airlines or even the government, needs to step up.

No one is an island, and no island deserves to be treated like this.

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