MIAMI – Cruise ship passengers left stranded are just some of the many displaced travelers trying to leave South Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma.
Local 10 News reporter Erica Rakow spoke to several stranded travelers at Miami International Airport early Friday.
Kristen Castro was on a cruise that had to dock early because of Irma. She was supposed to fly back to Chicago with her daughter Saturday, but the flight was canceled. She got to the airport early Friday trying to catch an earlier flight home.
"The earliest flight we could get was tomorrow morning, so now we're here waiting at the airport since we can't check in until 4," she said.
Castro is just one of the many cruise ship passengers who were caught in limbo and trying to reschedule their return trips before the airport closes.
There were people sleeping in chairs or on the floor waiting to get out of Miami. Some took advantage of cots that had been set up in an auditorium to make their wait more comfortable.
A California man said he missed his connecting flight to Bolivia despite being assured in Los Angeles that the Miami leg of his trip would be fine.
"So I ask in L.A. before I got on the plane, I said, 'Hey, don't let me get stuck in Miami because I don't want to do that. I won't go otherwise,'" he told Rakow. "They said, 'Nope, flight's good. Everything's great,' and I got a text message on a flight from L.A. to Miami that said, Your flight's canceled from Miami to Bolivia.'"
He got to Miami about 10 p.m. Thursday, rebooked on a different airline and was hopeful that he could get on a 6 a.m. flight to Bolivia. That is, if he could get his bag.
It wasn't among the thousands of suitcases scattered throughout the baggage claim area.
He was told second-hand that many airline employees missed their shifts while tending to personal issues related to Irma. He said there weren't enough flight attendants or pilots required to fly.
"So it's not a weather issue that canceled the flight," he said. "It was simply because the people are simply worried about their houses, which I would too."
Many passengers said they missed their earlier flights despite being at the airport two hours early because the security lines were so long.
Complicating matters was a police-involved shooting on the tarmac that caused further delays.
"We sat on the tarmac for about three hours," one woman told Rakow.
She and another woman from South Florida were traveling to Texas with two children when their flight was held up.
"Once we got off the plane, they said, 'Oh, by the way, your flight's canceled,'" another woman said. "And everybody's standing there like, 'What? You know, you told us you were going to refuel and we were going to get going again.'"
The frustrated passengers said they felt there is a lot of misinformation between the airlines and the passengers.
"Unfortunately, the passengers were kind of misled to believe that we were just going to temporarily get off of our flight and then get back on the plane, and that's not the case at all because here we are at baggage claim looking for our bags now," she said.
She said the experience hasn't been pleasant.
"This has not been fun at all," she said. "We've been at the airport since 6 o'clock yesterday and we haven't gone anywhere."
Local 10 News assignment editor Mel Alonso's husband was on a sold-out flight Friday morning to New York, but he said there were a lot of empty seats.
A flight attendant on the American Airlines plane said the empty seats were for people who had other flights that were cancelled and could not make it on the flight because there were no inbound flights to Miami.
Alonso said the flight was delayed as crews worked to fill the plane with stranded passengers no matter their final destination.
One of the passengers who boarded the flight was a mother of two whose original flight was canceled and who was trying to get her and her children back to Pennsylvania.
Others were trying to get to other places, including Costa Rica and Washington D.C.