High winds and dangerous gusts at Iceland's airport in Reykjavik (KEF) cancelled dozens of flights both Friday and Saturday, leaving thousands of travelers stuck in Iceland with little information about when they can get on another flight.
Nearly every flight in and out of KEF on Saturday had been canceled – including all but one flight on Icelandair, the island's largest airline. It was the second consecutive day with heavy cancellations as winds whipped through the region at 40 mph or more – with gusts measured above 70mph.
Icelandair did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Their Twitter page is filled with sympathetic responses to travelers on canceled flights.
The mass cancellations have swamped Icelandair, leaving their customer helpline inoperative and giving passengers like Tyler Biwan precious little information about their flights.
Biwan and his wife were scheduled to fly home to Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) on Friday after a trip to Manchester and a one-day stopover in Iceland. But after a series of weather delays, the airline eventually canceled their flight. Biwan said Icelandair shuttled more than 100 passengers to a hotel that was overbooked before settling in at a second property at 2 a.m.
Saturday's flight home was canceled, too. And despite the airline's promise that they would reach out with new booking information, Biwan said he and 100 others at their hotel are still waiting. Icelandair's phone line is down, and Biwan's Twitter messages to the airline have gone unanswered.
“They seem completely overwhelmed and not equipped,” Biwan said. “Now the worry is they run (flights to) MSP once a day and we now have two flights worth canceled.”
Keflavik airport is no stranger to wind. It's built on a peninsula on Iceland's southwestern coast, and regularly experiences disruptions due to weather.
But the winds were so bad at the airport Friday that airlines couldn't use jet bridges for passengers to board and deplane. Matty Paul and his fiance spent more than six hours sitting in the plane at the gate on Friday before eventually being taxied to another side of the airport to deplane.
We are so very sorry for this experience, unfortunately due to the strong gusts of wins we were unable to safely operate the jet bridges and stairs. If you need any further assistance then please send us a DM.
— Icelandair (@Icelandair) April 13, 2019
After a mess to collect bags and hotel vouchers in the overpacked terminal, Paul said he and his fiance finally made it to a hotel after nearly 14 hours in transit.
“We just didn't get anything other than a cereal bar to eat,” Paul said of Friday's long ordeal, which started in Paris. “Scary situation for a diabetic to be in, which was the main concern for me and my fiance.”
Paul said he and his fiance were rebooked on a flight home to Denver (DEN) on Sunday, hoping that flight could take off. For Biwan and other travelers, it was less certain when they might be able to fly home.
He and his wife were trying to make the most of what was supposed to be a short visit to Iceland.
“Iceland is beautiful but we’re getting our full dose of it just on this trip!” Biwan said.
What to Do When Things Go Wrong
Bad weather can wreak havoc on travel plans. And unfortunately, mass cancellations and delays caused by weather often leave passengers with few options.
Stay in touch with the airline either by phone, email, or Twitter. Monitor the airport flight status page to check on your flight. If you're not getting much help from your airline, take a page out of Biwan's book and monitor what they're telling other travelers via Twitter.
If you booked your flight on a credit card with a strong trip delay or cancellation policy like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you could be eligible to get reimbursed for some of your additional expenses.
My girlfriend was stuck in this airport yesterday and explained to me in detail how the scenes were all over the airport, huge lines of people trying to buy food and there were no seats for people to rest. It was a total chaos. Flights should be operating the latest by tomorrow.
I spent a year at Keflavik when it was a military base I worked outside in all types of weather and I have seen and worked in some horrible weather At Keflavik just look on the other side from the passenger terminal and that’s where we wear
I was at this airport on Saturday also. I have a different take. Yes, there were long lines. But, everyone was given the choice of waiting in line to get vouchers for a free night at a hotel, plus food vouchers….or….get out of line, take a shuttle back to the hotel of your choice, save all receipts for shuttle, food, and hotel and then submit them to be reimbursed. I chose to stay in line because I wanted a physical boarding pass. People in line were very calm considering the situation. At least 8 employees were there to rebook passengers. I was happy with the way this was handled. If someone had a medical condition regarding food, I am sure if this were explained, they would have been glad to help.
Bad experience, nobody was in control and after standing in line for over 2 hours to get our luggage and another 2.5 hours just to get told to board a bus with out any questions answered about where we were going until and hour down the road. Once we showed up to the first hotel they were completely booked. They didnt think to check before driving all the way to selfoss?? Then takes us to another hotel that could take half of the bus. Then the bus driver says good luck and leaves families stranded with nothing. No rooms, no numbers, its 1100pm, kids are crying, it’s a bad way to handle things. Iceland was great to visit but this one experience will ensure never to visit again or advise anyone else to. In the end I dont speak for everyone, but we will take this to court if necessary. They need to have a better and safer plan for situations like this