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Watertown students delayed 48 hours in Paris and Texas because of canceled flights across the world

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Posted at 4:42 PM, Jun 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-27 19:21:06-04

MILWAUKEE — Summer travel season is here and with it is a giant headache for people trying to take to the skies.

A group of Watertown students know first hand how bad the flight problem has been this past weekend after they were delayed more than 48 hours. They were suppose to arrive in Milwaukee on Saturday, but finally made it back Monday afternoon. Their parents were anxiously waiting for them at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.

“When I gave her a hug she said, ‘I’m so tired,’” said Stacie Heier.

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Stacie Heier hugs her daughter Rae Heier, junior at Watertown High School after she gets off her flight at Milwaukee's airport. Rae was delayed 48 hours on her school trip.

Her daughter, Rae Heier, along with more than 20 of her classmates got to the airport in Paris on Friday and found out they weren’t going anywhere.

“Their flight got canceled and they kept trying to rebook and rebook and rebook and just had trouble finding a flight through Milwaukee,” said Sarah Sullivan, a Watertown mom.

A stack of boarding passes for planes the students never got on while they were stuck at the Paris and Dallas airport.

The students have a stack of boarding passes from flights they never got on.

“We got a text at 3:45 this morning saying, ’No we are not going to Chicago, we are going to Milwaukee,’ so a lot of that,” said Heier.

The students ended up delayed nearly 36 hours in Paris. Then made it to Dallas in Texas, but then were delayed there almost another 24 hours.

Watertown students delayed 48 hours in Paris and Dallas

This weekend, there were over 1,400 cancelations and more than 10,000 delays. A big reason is a shortage of pilots.

"What happened is this recovery is the demand for flying came back much faster than anyone could have anticipated. Many people were offered early retirement, several thousand pilots, I was one of them, and they took it. Now the airlines are having a hard time putting pilots on the flight decks,” said Mike Hatten, a former commercial pilot.

Rae Heier (left) and her Watertown classmates, Addie Schuch (middle) and Maura Prochaska (right) after they arrived in Milwaukee's airport after more than 48 hours of flight delays.

The number of people flying are only ramping up. As we head into the holiday, it is predicted that 11 million people are going to be flying in US airports. That Fourth of July rush likely will mean even more problems, according to travel experts. Along with the pilot shortage, there is also not enough flight attendants and ground crew members. If there is any weather thrown in, expect a delay.

"There is only a certain number of hours flight crews can be on duty during the day. In years past, airlines just took a reserve pilot or crew and put them on that flight. Now they just don't have that many people available,” said Hatten.

Here are some tips from travel experts to help you get to your destination on time, but it could mean your ticket will cost you more.

  • Book nonstop flights to avoid any delayed or canceled connections
  • Book directly though the airline and not at third party because it can be harder to rebook or change a flight
  • Book in the morning because the affects of delays build up through the day and it can end with your flight canceled.

The students and their parents say they are happy they do not have to head to any airports anytime soon.

“It is exciting that she is actually back home,” said Heier.

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