Delays from apparent suicide strand travelers at Orlando International Airport
Crowds wait to get through security, get off of planes
ORLANDO, Fla. – An apparent suicide at the Orlando International Airport on Saturday morning has left crowds of travelers stuck inside the airport -- or, in Timothy Haines' case, outside.
"I'm stuck on the tarmac," Haines, who was flying into Orlando from Michigan, told News 6 via Facebook message. "We haven’t been able to get off of our plane for over an hour. Very little communication."
As of 2:45 p.m., Southwest Airlines canceled 49 inbound flights and 45 outbound flights. Officials said those numbers could increase.
Haines is one of many whose travel plans were delayed after a Transportation Security Administration agent reportedly jumped to his death around 9:30 a.m. Haines' Southwest flight and multiple other flights were forced to wait until gates were reopened.
For some passengers inside their planes, that wait was three hours.
Because of the chaos caused by the incident, some travelers waiting in the security line for gates 70-129 ran ahead before they could be screened. Airport officials said all passengers who were set to leave from those gates must be rescreened. All flights to and from those gates were stopped until security was reinstated, officials said.
Airport officials said security investigated all aircraft and gates before the security checkpoints were reopened.
As of 2 p.m., seas of people, corralled in by police tape, were waiting to get through the east security checkpoint, near where the suicide occurred.
Others, like Haines, were stuck on their incoming flights. Haines' flight, which was scheduled to land just before 11 a.m., was still on the tarmac with its passengers inside at 1 p.m.
"No lunch is being provided," Haines said. "They are out of water, I think. How could the emergency response plan not take this into account?"
According to airport officials, gates 70-99 were reopened around 11:30 a.m., while the rest of the gates were opened around 12:30 p.m. Officials are asking travelers to check with airlines, as many flights have been delayed or canceled.
The east checkpoint wait time is now <15 mins. As several flights have been cancelled, passengers are advised to contact their airline for flight status, esp Southwest passengers. Residual delays possible as airline partners work toward normal ops. Thanks again for your patience.— Orlando International Airport (@MCO) February 2, 2019
For Haines, the experience can't end soon enough.
"We just want some food and to get off the plane," he said.
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