Sad news out of Fort Lauderdale, where a full ground stop has been ordered in the aftermath of a shooting in the baggage claim area.
— The FAA (@FAANews) January 6, 2017
Five people were killed, and an additional eight injured, according to officials. The sole suspect is in custody. The Washington Post reports:
The man in custody was identified by officials as Esteban Santiago. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) publicly identified the shooter as Santiago after being told the name by the head of the Transportation Security Administration, according to Ryan Brown, a spokesman for the senator. A federal law enforcement official also confirmed the name to The Washington Post.
Santiago, 26, was carrying an Army ID, according to three federal law enforcement officials.
He was a passenger on a flight traveling with a checked gun in his baggage, according to federal law enforcement officials, who asked to speak on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation. The officials said that Santiago had picked up his bag and took the gun into the bathroom to load it before returning to the baggage claim area to begin firing at people.
For those wanting further details as events unfold, the BBC has a useful Breaking News feed.
In the meantime, airlines have canceled their scheduled flights for the remainder of today, and are issuing waivers for travel today, and in some cases tomorrow. You can see the individual policies on the airline sites:
- Air Canada
- Alaska (no advisory yet, but that’s the page it will post to if they issue one)
- Frontier (no advisory yet, but that’s the page it will post to if they issue one)
- Virgin America
If you are traveling to or through Fort Lauderdale today or tomorrow, you’ll want to get in touch with your airline ASAP.
Tips for rebooking
Regardless of the reason for flight cancelations, phone queues can get ugly fast. Given that many people need to rebook at the same time, you might be able to get new plans confirmed more quickly by using an alternate method.
Try the club lounge
If you’re already at the airport, start with the lounge agents. They tend to have fewer passengers to deal with than the gate agents, and thus may have more time (and more patience), when it comes to rebooking your flight.
Reach out on social media
I’ve had good luck changing flights by sending direct messages to American via Twitter. Several other airlines have a Twitter presence as well, and while they might not be able to fix your reservation, it’s worth trying:
Avoid the domestic call centers
If you’re willing to spend a few dollars on Skype or Google Voice credit, calling the international call center for an airline can often save you an hour or more of hold time.
Almost all of these call centers have an English-speaking option, but you can also call Australia, where I understand the weather is nice today, or even just Canadian numbers can get you through faster.
- Air Canada international reservations
- American Airlines international reservations
- Delta Air Lines international reservations
- JetBlue international reservations
- United international reservations
- Virgin America international reservations
If you have a rudimentary understanding of Spanish (like, just enough to get through the computer system), you can try the Spanish-speaking numbers. Again, fewer people calling means shorter hold times, and the agents typically speak English as well.
- American Airlines Spanish line: 1-800-633-3711
- Southwest Spanish line: 1-800-VAMONOS
- United Airlines Spanish line: 1-800-426-5561
Be your own advocate
This is maybe more a life philosophy than one specific to travel disruptions, but it holds true — no one cares about you (or your travel) as much as you do.
So be nice, but ask questions, present alternatives, be prepared to book your own hotel rather than waiting in line with a hundred other people for a voucher, and so forth.
If you stand around and wait, you will almost certainly have a worse time than those who are actively finding solutions to the situation.
If you’re traveling to or through Fort Lauderdale today, or even tomorrow, I’d recommend contacting your airline immediately to make alternative arrangements. Be nice, but ask questions, present alternatives, be prepared to book your own hotel rather than waiting in line with a hundred other people for a voucher, and so forth. If you stand around and wait, you will almost certainly have a worse time than those who are actively finding solutions to the situation.
My thoughts are with everyone involved, and their families.