Last-minute flight cancellations due to Hurricane Irma at Miami International Airport are causing baggage mayhem, with thousands of passengers now separated from their luggage — until after the storm passes.
The culprit? Crew shortages.
Lack of American Airlines staff has led the airline to cancel several flights last-minute — after passengers had already checked their baggage. And personnel shortages at the airport — plus the thousands of bags now left without owners — have made it nearly impossible for the airline to reunite passengers with their luggage until after Irma has passed, the airline says.
There is such mayhem at that airport and there are thousands of bags to sift through, there are just not enough people to sift through all the bags for the stranded passengers.
Alexis Aran Coello, American Airlines spokeswoman
“There is such mayhem at that airport and there are thousands of bags to sift through, there are just not enough people to sift through all the bags for the stranded passengers,” said American spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello. “Obviously we want to get them to the bags, that’s a priority, but our priority is also getting passengers out of Miami. So it’s a tough situation.”
The airline has added 23 flights out of Miami since Tuesday, a total of about 4,000 seats. On Friday American added four flights to Dallas/Fort Worth and one to Charlotte Friday. The last flight on American will leave MIA at 6 p.m. Friday to Dallas. The airline canceled 600 flights out of Florida on Friday.
“Our focus has been on getting as many people out as possible,’’ said American Airlines spokeswoman Katie Cody. “We’ve flown in additional crews from Dallas, New York and Philadelphia so our Miami crews can focus on their families.”
On Thursday afternoon, Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola was among those caught in the baggage fiasco. He was sending girlfriend Tracy Fatow and 9-month-old son Noah on a flight to New York when they were notified 15 minutes prior to departure that the flight would likely not go out because of the lack of crew. Fatow’s baggage was already checked in.
The flight was ultimately canceled and American Airlines personnel at the airport told Arriola that the family would likely not get their bags until after the storm passed and the airport was back in full operation, he said.
The situation was one of many challenges at MIA ahead of Irma. The airport has been inundated with passengers trying to flee South Florida, and on Thursday night, it was the scene of a police-involved shooting.
Arriola, who sounded off on Facebook about the incident, said it was irresponsible of American to leave passengers without their baggage and cancel flights last minute. While he and his family had additional provisions at home, tourists who were trying to leave the state were left both stranded and without their bags, Arriola said.
“To me it is unconscionable and there should be some congressional investigations and executives who are fired and severe civil penalties imposed on these airlines,” Arriola said. “It’s a complete failure of an essential part of their logistics chain and safety measures and it has failed 72 hours before a major hurricane.”
Aran Coello said that additional crew from American’s headquarters in Dallas has come to assist in Miami, but there was a shortage of Miami-based staff who were “trying to take care of their family members.”
Arriola said he would be demanding a “full investigation” into the matter from his congressional leaders.
“I want to see executives lose jobs over this,” he said.