OPINION & COMMENT
Cruise Passengers Face Long Wait!
Ft. Lauderdale Airport Terminal had two hour check-in requirement. This lead to hours sitting on the floor due to lack of seating capacity. Lack of comfort facilities brings disbelief and frustration among passengers.
We've all seen the pictures of stranded passengers, left waiting for hours for flight delays due to weather. But this past Saturday, March 3, 2007 if you were at Ft. Lauderdale Airport Terminal 2 you would of thought you were in Denver waiting out a snow storm.
Hundreds of passengers, mostly cruisers going home after a seven day cruise to the Caribbean, sprawled all across the floor with their luggage waiting hours before being able to check-in at the counter. The situation, which has gone largely unpublicized until now, comes to light at a time when the cruise lines and airlines are struggling these days and need all the good will they can get.
We happened to be at the airport meeting and greeting family when we observed the chaos and confusion caused by the airport's inability to handle the surge of cruise passengers arriving as early as 8:30AM for flights departing in early to late afternoon.
You see, the airport or the airline, imposed a two-hour maximum check in window for guests to go to the ticket counter, check their baggage and get their boarding pass. So, if you had a 2:00PM flight, you could not check-in before noon. And, if your cruise line transfer bus dropped you off at say around 9:00AM, as most do, you got to sit on the floor for 3 hours. Several shops and store were vacant and all there was for food service; a donut and sandwich Cart.
There are some things going on in the travel industry that require immediate attention. Two weeks ago, airline passengers were stuck on planes for more than 8 hours. Now, Cruise Traveler Magazine has uncovered a compelling story that is likely to repeat itself.
Imagine, you just got off a cruise ship after a fun and exciting week in the Caribbean, only to have your vacation ruined due to poor planning on part of the cruise lines and airlines. As we observed, many passengers waited in disbelief, some were furious, and some passengers took it all in stride. For the cruise lines, all that good will they build up during the passengers past 7 days just seem to disappear in a cloud of frustration and disappointment. Unlike being stranded due to weather, or stuck on the tarmac, no airline nor cruise line, has publicly apologized for the lack of suitable waiting facilities. To our knowledge, no airline or cruise line has reimburse anyone for their inconvenience.
What the cruise lines need to do for passengers is organize a caravan of buses to take the people to a "holding lounge" with enough seats, restroom facilities, food services and play areas for children. Then, in an organized fashion transport people to the airport based on their flight departure times. Thus, not overcrowd the airport and presenting a potentially dangerous situation.
This incident probably has taken place more than once. It's not a one-off problem. This is inexcusable. Just one more travel fiasco this winter. The cruise industry may be so disconnected from its passengers it seems that they don't care about them. They just dumped them off at the airport and forgot about them. What they fail to realize is, the whole travel experience is what people gauge their feelings on. A bad experience, even at the airport can spoil their cruise vacation memories and that translates into bad news not just for the airlines but the cruise lines as well.