Scores of Bahamasair passengers were left stranded in airports in Florida over the weekend as the airline battled what it said were multiple challenges.
According to Bahamasair, the delays were caused by a combination of a massive weather disturbance on Thursday and complications from a power failure that impacted the navigational system at Lynden Pindling International Airport and air traffic control.
The airline also said some of its aircraft were not in service. It said yesterday its services were restored to a degree of normalcy.
Videos circulated on social media showing the chaos that had erupted at the airports, with many passengers spending hours waiting on delayed or canceled flights.
One video showed seemingly frustrated passengers standing in a backed-up line with their luggage at the Bahamasair check-in counter in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday morning, waiting to be served.
The line stretched outside the airport’s doors.
Brandon Huyler, 23, a Bahamian traveling home for the holidays, arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport around 6 a.m. for a 9:10 a.m flight, only to face a wait that was much longer than anticipated.
Huyler said after joining the long line, he asked a woman whether she was also waiting on Bahamasair and she told him she was among many who had been waiting since Friday to get on a flight.
“It was bad because you had so many people there who were there for maybe like a day or two, and everybody was upset, everybody was trying to figure out what’s happening,” Huyler said.
“They had maybe two people behind the counter who were dealing with flights and they were moving slowly. They were making announcements and you couldn’t hear anything… It was a messy scene.”
He said when he finally arrived in Nassau hours later, the scene was just as chaotic with uncertainty over luggage collection.
Many other irate Bahamasair passengers took to social media to vent their frustrations.
Timothy Schlum tweeted on Saturday, “Bahamasair is the worst airline in the history of the world.
“They lost my [wife’s] and [my] bag for three days on our honeymoon, delayed both of our flights for several hours each way, and the staff has been unhelpful; disappointing. Cross that one off the list.”
Schlum said he and his wife were scheduled to depart Nassau at 11 a.m, but didn’t leave until 10 that night.
In a post on her Facebook page, Moira Rojas Homann, a resident of Tallahassee, Florida, wrote, “Warning, do not fly Bahamasair ever. [I] should have done some research. All [of] the Bahamasair reviews are true. Eight hours after our scheduled departure time from Orlando to Nassau, [we are] still waiting for any real news on when we will be leaving.”
Deidre Wells Walker wrote on the airline’s page, “Horrible customer service. Delayed flight and change of gates and not informing customers. [The] staff act as if they are irritated when asked a question. [I] will never fly Bahamasair again and will not recommend others, especially foreigners, to fly either.”
The airline also received several complaints on its page about misplaced luggage.
Managing Director of Bahamasair Tracy Cooper explained yesterday that each day brought a new challenge for the airline.
“Due to the movement of a massive weather disturbance this past Thursday, Bahamasair was forced to cancel a number of domestic and international flights,” said Cooper in a statement.
“The Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale International airports were forced to close as well. As a result, we were unable to complete several rotations into the South Florida area.
“By the time the weather system had moved on, we were experiencing complications from a power failure that impacted the navigational system at Lynden Pindling International which further impacted the airport traffic and backlog which ultimately forced further delays.
“As we undertook recovery flights on Friday, we were faced with the absence of one of our jets.”
Cooper said the jet was being serviced for a technical issue since Wednesday and was not available until early Saturday morning.
He said the airline’s third jet was also undergoing heavy maintenance in Costa Rica and not scheduled to return for several more days and the airline’s new Boeing 737-700 NG is not expected to arrive until mid-January.
“Again, as we sought to conduct recovery flights on Saturday, we were confronted with air traffic control challenges at the Lynden Pindling Airport that caused massive delays to all carriers up to several hours,” Cooper continued.
“This ultimately impacted the arrival and departure of our baggage freighters, as priority was given to passenger aircraft. However, we have worked tirelessly to get the schedule back on track.”
Cooper advised that all passengers out of Florida arrived in The Bahamas and all luggage that was brought to Bahamasair by midday Saturday had also arrived.
The airline has not yet determined how many people were impacted as a result of the delays or the financial loss experienced.
The incident came four months after the airline experienced similar “extreme flight delays” over the August 18 weekend after one of its jets had technical difficulties and passengers were forced to sleep in airports in Florida.
After the August incident, Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar labeled it a customer service nightmare and vowed never to let it occur again.