Thousands have been stranded at Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport due to bad weather.
Travelers describe ‘otherworldly’ conditions, lack of food and water, and no way to reach hotels.
Caroline Rose, who finally returned to DC, also spotted actor Damian Lewis among the crowd.
Thousands of people have been stranded at Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport due to bad weather — and they’ve taken to social media to commiserate, sharing photos of “otherworldly” airport conditions during the December holiday travel rush.
Caroline Rose, a 26-year-old researcher at New Lines Institute, a Washington-based think tank, shared a few photos to Twitter, including a selfie with 51-year-old “Billions” actor Damian Lewis.
Over Twitter DM, Rose described the experience as an “utter nightmare” to Insider and said she asked Lewis, who appeared to be waiting with his kids, for a photo — “I figured I’d ask for a selfie to have some sort of positive memory of the night,” Rose explained. “He was incredibly kind!” Lewis’ representatives did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Rose, who’d flown from Heathrow to Keflavík on Saturday, described her flight getting delayed “every several minutes or so, citing extreme weather on the ground,” but, after calling Icelandair to make “alternative arrangements,” she told Insider she was instructed to stay on the flight, which eventually left London and landed in Keflavik.
Rose described fellow travelers arriving in Keflavík late Saturday night to find “otherworldly” conditions, saying “all of the restaurants shut down and vending machines pretty much looted.”
“Many of us were starving and had to scrounge for any food we could find after the airline only gave us cereal bars to munch on while waiting on the tarmac,” Rose said, alluding to a two-hour delay she experienced waiting on the tarmac to de-board.
As the number of stranded travelers increased, the available hotel accommodations rapidly decreased.
One TikToker, who said in a December 21 TikTok that he’d landed in Iceland for an hour-long layover and since been stranded for four days, described the “swarming” of passengers to find hotels at the same time. According to NBC Newsmany hotels nearby were already fully booked over the weekend.
While Airlines such as Icelandair and easyJet did offer passengers hotel accommodations and reimbursements, even those lucky enough to book hotel stays weren’t necessarily able to reach the beds they’d paid to sleep in. Rose, who said she booked a hotel room while still on the tarmac, was one such traveler.
“There were no taxis or buses that could take us to nearby hotels or into Reykjavik,” she explained, “so I had to eat the cost of my hotel booking for the night (they would not refund) and sleep on the airport floor along with hundreds of others.”
Travelers trying to pick up visitors from the airport also shared failed attempts on the “perilous drive” to retrieve visitors from the airport on December 19, including a woman whose mother was eventually escorted by a “mountain rescue guy.”
Rose described travelers sleeping on the check-in baggage belt and on top of luggage, as well as those setting up “campsite-like circles” with strangers on the floor to share whatever snacks they had on them.
“It was heartbreaking to see parents try and put little children to sleep,” Rose said. “The airport was very cold.”
At around midnight, when rebookings started to hit passengers’ accounts, Rose described frustratingly convoluted or impossible routes — she recalled one traveler being placed on a Thursday flight out (it was, by then, Sunday morning) and another who would need to return to London and switch airports during an hour-long layover.
“I had to fly to Amsterdam, where I had a transfer in under 15 minutes to my flight back home to DC,” Rose, who is now finally back in Washington, said. “I made it by the skin of my teeth.” Unfortunately, Icleandair lost her checked bag, she said.
A crucial 30-mile highway that connects Keflavík to Reykjavík was cleared of snow as of Tuesday, and flights out of the airport have resumed, albeit with delays, according to a statement from Icelandair.
“Our team has worked tirelessly throughout the night to rebook passengers on new flights, and they will continue to do this today,” Icelandair said in an update Wednesday morning. “It is our absolute priority to get passengers to where they need to be before Christmas.”
But passengers remain frustrated by the experience and by the way airlines handled the chaos.
Ryan Stevens, another London traveler, is down 1,500 euros after paying for three nights in a hotel and two additional booked flights, per reporting by Insider’s Rebecca Cohen, with no information about being reimbursed.
“I’m lucky, I didn’t go to the airport. I’m not stuck there. But I don’t know what to do,” Stevens previously told Insider. “Nobody can blame airlines for cancellations, but the aftercare after such an event needs to be handled better. I’m stuck. No idea what the next move is. No support whatever.”
Rose felt similarly.
“I have a hard time understanding why Icelandair did (and continued to) irresponsibly decide to send passengers to Keflavík when it knew all too well that weather conditions were so dangerous and would prevent people from accessing a warm place to sleep, food, and water ,” she said.
Icleandair did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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