MADISON (WKOW) -- Flight problems at Chicago O'Hare forced more than thirty UW-Madison students to scrap their participation in a long-planned medical mission to Honduras.
"After working on this since September, and building this up, and saying 'Yes, I'm going to Honduras on winter break, this is going to be great, I'm going to volunteer, and help those that need it,' and then to have it canceled in a matter of hours, is just devastating," freshman student Nicole Rasmussen tells 27 News.
Student organizer sophomore Ali Howen tells 27 News the scheduled Tuesday morning flight was delayed for hours, meaning the group would miss its connecting flight to Houston. Howen says United Airlines offered to place the students on a flight to Honduras Sunday. Howen says accepting that flight would have cut down their scheduled six-day medical mission trip, to one day.
"Due to near-record lows in the Chicago area and unprecedented storms in the Midwest, we needed to significantly reduce our operations at O'Hare and focus on the safety of our customers and co-workers," United Airlines spokesman Charles Hobart tells 27 News in a statement. Hobart reiterates the group of UW-Madison students was offered an alternate flight. Howen says keeping the students and their baggage filled with vitamins, ibuprofen, and medical supplies together also created a challenge in finding seats to Honduras on a flight earlier than Sunday.
Howen says the group of students briefly boarded its Chicago flight, but disembarked after an announcement the flight's pilot had yet to arrive.
Howen was the only student who had previously participated in a medical mission to Honduras. She says people walked for miles to receive basic medical and dental care during the previous mission. Howe says she regrets a rural community of about four hundred will have to wait longer for a future mission, with the students unable to travel there.
"They have to spread the word, so all their efforts go to waste, too, just because we weren't able to get down there," Howen tells 27 News.
While the planned mission trip included exclusively UW-Madison students, Howen says the university was not a sponsor. The planned trip was through the auspices of Seattle-based Global Medical Brigades.
Howe says she and other students may pool flight refund money from United to pay for the shipping of the medical supplies to Honduras.
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