A group of 27 Puerto Ricans who were due to return to Puerto Rico yesterday, Tuesday, after an excursion of almost three weeks through Europe, has remained stranded at the Madrid airport, after losing the connection that would bring them back to the island, and without certainty some of when they will be able to take a return flight.
Gissel Ramirezone of the members of the group, reported that the odyssey occurred after the travelers missed the original stopover flight from Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, in a situation that she attributed to the irresponsibility of the airline Iberia.
According to Ramírez, for the flight scheduled for 7:20 am on Tuesday, Iberia, which in recent weeks has faced strikes by its workers, chose to take the luggage of the 27 Puerto Ricans off the plane instead of reopening its doors for allow them to board the plane, after “kilometre-long” lines and lack of staff prevented them from reaching the departure terminal on time, despite the fact that they had arrived at the Dutch airport before 4:00 a.m.
“There, (at the airport) there was no one, we had to wait about an hour for staff, because there is no Iberia representation at the Amsterdam airport, they outsource that service (of baggage handling). There, they began to do it at 4:40 am We began to throw suitcases, and from that point to the ‘checkpoint’, it was almost two hours walking. There is a situation at the airport, to the extent that they have some tents on the outside and even have some ‘toilets’ for people to use because of the large number of people. At that level. I swore I was in line to buy tickets for the Bad Bunny concert,” lamented Ramírez, who explained that the tourist excursion began on July 15.
After going through security, Ramírez said it took another 15 minutes to get to the terminal from which they would board the flight to the Adolfo Suárez airport in the Spanish capital.
“The first (of the group) arrived at the ‘gate’ at 7:23 (am) and found that the boarding gates were closed for us. They didn’t want to open the door for us. Check out time was 7:20 (am). No matter what time we arrived, if we had arrived at the airport at 2:00 am, if there was no one there at the gate to assist us, we would not be able to do anything with our bags. On the other hand, the airport has a situation, I understand that they are on strike… and then there was no way to board. Worse yet, it took over 30 minutes to get all of our bags out because we were there watching all of our bags get out, which could have given us a few extra minutes (to board). They didn’t give us any time,” criticized the Puerto Rican.
Having missed the flight, it was not until about 12 hours later that they were able to board another plane to Madrid, where they arrived around midnight. By that time, however, they had already lost the connection to Puerto Rico, which was due to leave around 4:15 pm on Tuesday.
The woman specified that, as part of the tourist group, there are young people from 15 years old to adults over 69 years old. Among the elderly, she said, there are those who depend on medications to treat health conditions and, due to the situation, do not know when they will be able to access them.
Ramírez added that the Puerto Rico State Department has been in communication with the travelers through official Lelys Flores, but that until now, it has been impossible to coordinate a flight that would allow them to return to the country in the short term.
“What the agency (Madrid Travel) tells us is that basically the most they have achieved is a few spaces (on a flight) on August 6, taking us to the Dominican Republic without being able to probably cover the ‘ticket’ from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, which is super expensive. I told them to try to get us through Miami or New York, other points, and they say they are all super full. They have given us a date until August 13,” said Ramírez, specifying that none of the options examined would allow the 27 passengers to return to the island as a group.
According to Ramírez, the travelers themselves are covering the cost of accommodation that they are currently incurring in Madrid, since Madrid Travel told them that they should cover it and, later, claim it from the insurance.
Iberia was not immediately available for comment.
Marilu Santiagospokesman for the State Department, pointed out that the version provided by Iberia’s management in Puerto Rico alludes to the part that the passengers “arrived late” for the original flight in Amsterdam.
“Right now they are doing all the steps to bring them to Puerto Rico free of (additional) cost. That is what Iberia informed us. What Iberia told us is that they had even made the security point. Iberia cannot responsibly say if they went to walk around the airport or have a coffee. The thing is that they did not arrive on time to take the flight. They tell us they don’t know why they were late.”said the press officer.
Ramírez, for his part, censured that the airline, at the moment, “has not even” allowed them to file a complaint in the face of the situation.
“They are denying, and obviously, it is because of the issue of who is responsible,” Ramírez said.