My vote for worst aiport goes unhesitatingly to KEFLAVÍK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, the largest airport in Iceland, and for worst airline, ICELANDAIR, for its overall poor management and unsocial (or is it untrained, or just incompetent?) gate crew.

I’ll give you my reasons. Please share yours.

Two years ago, my husband Russ and I flew roundtrip to Copenhagen, Denmark on Icelandair, departing and returning to Orlando International Airport in Florida. After the mind-boggling chaos of Keflavík International Airport and the startlingly disorganized manner of boarding, we swore never again to travel on that airline or through that airport.

Unfortunately, a return trip from Norway (stay tuned for my blogs coming soon on that trip) compelled us to do both.

Two years later, neither the airport or the airline has improved. If anything, THEY’RE BOTH WORSE.

People crowd together, searching, ever searching, for where their gate is! photo by Karen Kuzsel

The airport has not enhanced its overwhelmed infrastructure. Too many passengers. Too many airlines connecting through an airport never designed for that traffic. Too few airport staff to field questions. Too few bathrooms within easy access of gates. Too few seats to accommodate waiting passengers. Too little time between gate notifications being posted and time of boarding.

This trip, we arrived from Oslo to Keflavik. Searched for our flight on the departures board. Said departure possibly from D or maybe E terminal. They’re in opposite directions. Asked an airport security person who said he thought it would be D. D was a 15-minute walk from where we were according to signage. Security said we first had to go through passport control. And that would be where? No signage directed us. We weren’t even sure why we had to go through passport control if all we were doing was connecting to another flight with the same airline.

We arrive at D terminal, searching the departures board for our flight that is supposed to be boarding in less than an hour. D terminal is a sea of people. As it was two years ago, this airport is seriously short of passenger seating. People are sprawled across the floor or sitting with their backs against the walls. Some are sleeping, spread out with legs akimbo.

Half an hour to boarding our gate number is posted. D-23. We head there, trying not to step on people or be bumped by them scurrying to their destinations. Our gate number is at the end of a long hall, next to a glass partition leading into another hall with people crammed together shoulder to shoulder. Forgive me, but my first thought was, “A pickpocket’s dream.”

We spot a long line of people snaking down the length of the wall in front of gate signs saying D-21 and D-23. We asked for which gate they were lined up. Here’s one answer that succinctly summed up the situation. “We aren’t sure. At least it’s a line, so we thought we should get in it.”

D-21 and D-23 gates. One long line. Where will this line lead? photo by Karen Kuzsel

Nothing happens for the next 25 minutes. The crowd increases. I need a restroom. The nearest restrooms are back down the long hallway, turn left, weave through the crowds across a large expanse, run down a long flight of stairs and then stand in line in the ladies room. I hurried back just in case our flight is called.

Finally. A door under the D-23 sign opens to let crew members pass through. The crowd senses we might actually be boarding. People crush the area, but no one is allowed through. Ten more minutes pass. The door opens and the crowd surges forward. We now walk down two flights of stairs with our luggage. I’m sure there’s an elevator somewhere for those unable to use stairs, but I never saw it.

Then we stand in another line, where a lone gate woman wants to examine each person’s passport and boarding pass once again. The people who haven’t made it yet into this queue are still in limbo on the staircase leading into the room. We are there at least another half hour. No water. No bathrooms accessible.

She finally corrals us forward into a 10×10 area, urging everyone to pack together until there is no room left to move. Suddenly, a gate barring entrance to the plane ramp rises and the crowd once more surges forward. There is no call for seating by rows. Just a stampede. This doesn’t surprise us as this was the unsuccessful pattern two years ago on flights going and returning. Icelandair needs instructions from theme park operators on how to run lines. They need instruction on how to call for boarding in an orderly manner. The staff definitely needs help in how to address passengers without being surly or indifferent.

We finally board. Our seats are not as described. Icelandair has switched to a smaller plane. No one cares what we paid for vs what we actually received. We realize we can’t challenge the seating, so just buckle up, eager to get home. We still have one more flight after this.

Once in the air, Icelandair does get you where you’re going safely. The airline crew is always courteous. Thank goodness Icelandair gets something right! Will Keflavík International Airport ever be able to say the same?

I’ve told you my choices for worst airport and airline.

What are yours?

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is an active member of ILEA and MPI and is now serving on the 2016 – 2017 MPI Global Advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine for the second consecutive year. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.

 

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