Any airport can lose passenger luggage, but officials at MIA probably wish it hadn’t happened to these passengers.
Wednesday night, at 7:09, a charter plane ferrying Miami-Dade politicians landed at Miami International. The 100 or so VIP passengers were returning from a group lobbying trip to Tallahassee — an annual excursion known as Dade Days.
For more than an hour, their luggage was nowhere to be found, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson complained. Edmonson, who was on the plane, said the group at one point was told to walk to a different gate.
“So we walk all the way to Gate 13, and we stand there, and we wait and we wait and we wait, and there’s no bags,” Edmonson said during a Thursday meeting of the commission’s Trade and Tourism committee.
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Edmonson said the passengers eventually learned their luggage had surfaced at the original gate, Gate 2, so they trudged back to where they started.
“By this time, everybody’s agitated, they’re frustrated,” Edmonson said. “And, you know, the talk about how bad the airport is has started.”
County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who chairs the tourism committee, called the luggage mix-up “embarrassing.” Commissioner Dennis Moss said the incident is now probably the “talk of the town” with leaders of various Miami-Dade cities, some of whom “like to see us fumble and stumble and bumble.”
Ken Pyatt, the airport’s deputy director, apologized to commissioners at Thursday’s meeting, and said the luggage mistake was caused by a gate change when the charter flight arrived. When the arrival gate changed, the luggage location didn’t update as it should have in the airport’s computer system, Pyatt said.
“It was a glitch in the system, and that was our fault,” Pyatt told commissioners, while promising “we’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
We’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Ken Pyatt, airport deputy director
MIA has spent considerable time — and money — trying to shed its old reputation as a confusing, unwelcoming airport for travelers. In recent years, improvements to the airport include the $3 billion North Terminal, better retail stores, and self-service passport kiosks to reduce lines. Metrorail service now runs to MIA, and a mile-long Skytrain ferries passengers between airport gates.
But there have still been the occasional hiccups. A year ago, a massive baggage problem caused by “various mechanical issues” led to roughly 2,500 passengers landing in destinations around the world without their luggage — which had been left behind in Miami. At the time, MIA officials blamed American Airlines, which maintains that particular baggage system.
In December — during peak travel season — MIA’s Skytrain went out of service after a derailment during overnight maintenance. It was out of service for four days.
Earlier this month, the county’s push to add “iconic” retail stores to MIA ending up causing ethnic friction, after a black commissioner complained about no-bid retail contracts given to Perry Ellis and Gloria Estefan. The commissioner, Barbara Jordan, wanted black- and Haitian-owned business to also get handpicked for retail contracts.
The commission approved Jordan’s legislation, which instructed MIA to sign leases with Chef Creole and Jackson Soul Food.