Castle students stranded in Detroit hotels

by Beacon Staff • January 28, 2009

United States, 65 Kasteel Well students

were looking forward to getting home for

the holidays. Instead, they were forced

to spend the night at a hotel or find

their own way home after they landed

at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and dis-

covered that their flight to Boston had

been canceled due to a snowstorm.,After three months away from the United States, 65 Kasteel Well students were looking forward to getting home for the holidays. Instead, they were forced to spend the night at a hotel or find their own way home after they landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and discovered that their flight to Boston had been canceled due to a snowstorm.

"A lot of people were considerably stressed," said Nikki Milch, a sophomore visual and media arts major who spent the fall semester at Kasteel Well. "All they wanted to do was get home."

The students learned that Northwest Airlines had canceled their connecting flight to Boston after leaving London and landing in Detroit at 1 p.m. on Dec. 19 without teachers or chaperones. After going through customs, the group joined a large line of people trying to book flights and was told that the next flight to Boston wouldn't be available until the following evening.

"A lot of people were freaking out and getting really emotional," said Will Van Beckum, a sophomore television major.

Some students tried to find flights to different cities in the hopes of leaving Detroit sooner, but the prices for tickets were as high as $1000. Kyle Miller, a sophomore audio and post-production major, was one of the students who wouldn't take no for an answer.

"We told them, 'That's unacceptable,'" he said when he heard the time of the next flight to Boston. He eventually bought a ticket for a flight leaving for Providence at 9:30 p.m.

Other students weren't so lucky. Some were forced to stay overnight at the Westin Hotel at the airport or at other hotels in the area where their parents had made reservations for them after hearing of the weather problem.

Chloe Medghalchi, a sophomore studio television major, was one of the students who stayed in the Courtyard Marriott, located outside the airport. She estimates there were up to 20 students staying at the Westin nearby.

"It wasn't so much staying at the hotel," said Medghalchi. "The biggest disappointment was Northwest Airlines. They were incredibly rude and not helpful."

Joel Buff, a sophomore radio major, also stayed in the Marriott and agreed that the hotel stay itself wasn't a hardship.

"We were upgraded to a couple of suites," he said.

Buff said everyone found either a flight or a hotel to stay in. No one was forced to stay overnight at the airport.

Students and their parents were officially notified about a snowstorm stretching from New England to the midwest on Dec. 18. Castle staff that traveled with the students informed them about the problem, and sent e-mails to parents.

The 20 students taking the flight on British Airways arrived safely in Boston on Friday and missed the snowstorm. The students in Detroit who had waited for the flight to Boston finally left on Saturday night.

Students said their travel problems were a sour note to end what was otherwise a good semester at Kasteel Well.

"My semester was awesome," said Medghalchi. "A lot of people say it's the time of your life, and it really was."

In the history of the Kasteel Well program, this was the first time flights for Castle students had encountered weather delays, said David Griffin, director of international study and external programs.

"For the foreseeable future we will be booking only non-stop flights between Boston and Amsterdam," he said. "Non-stop flights are usually less expensive."

The decision to book only nonstop flights in future years was made before the students were stranded in Detroit.

However, Griffin acknowledged there is no way to completely prepare for weather delays. "All we can do is monitor the weather and deal with situations as they arise," he said.