Charlotte airport passengers encountered exasperatingly long lines, packed terminals and countless flight delays as thousands of Boy Scouts crammed the airport after attending the World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.
American Airlines officials said in a statement Saturday that they’d worked with World Scout Jamboree and Charlotte airport officials for weeks to prepare for the expected onslaught of scouts flying home on Friday.
“Unfortunately, getting the Scouts home today has been extremely challenging,” according to the airline statement. “Severe weather the night before resulted in numerous delays and cancellations and increased traffic in the lobby area, which became overcrowded.”
The Scouts “were staged” outside the airport and given water during the day Friday, according to the statement. American Airlines provided pizza at night for those in the lobby, and snacks and drinks at all of its special service counters on each concourse, officials said.
The Boy Scouts of America changed the name of its program for 11 to 17-year-old boy and girl scouts to Scouts BSA this year.
American, however, “had nothing to do with that staging, and we’re trying to get them through security as soon as possible,” airline spokeswoman Alexis Coello told The Charlotte Observer on Saturday afternoon.
“Nobody has been stranded,” she added, countering claims on social media and some news reports.
The airline held more than 70 percent of its flights “to accommodate hundreds of passengers in case of delays that were caused by check-in and/or processing through security,” airline officials said in the statement.
Scouts unable to make their flights were put on the next available flight, according to American Airlines.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport is American’s second-largest hub. The airline operates about 90 percent of the flights at the airport, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.
“We know it has been a long day for the Scouts and many of our passengers and we look forward to getting them to their final destination safely,” read the American Airlines statement.
That was little solace to local passengers caught up in the mayhem.
“The #CLT airport (“Like no place else!”) didn’t prepare for the 45,00 Boy Scouts flying out of here,” passenger Page Leggett complained on Twitter with a photo of hundreds of Scouts jamming the airport. “And now I’m a victim of their poor planning. Stuck here for the foreseeable future.”
“Thank goodness for TSA Pre or I would have been 500-deep in the security line,” Mona Baset of Charlotte tweeted.
In reply, Leggett tweeted: “I was 500 deep in security line! Tried calling American and CLT. Tweeted American. Did everything I could do to alert gate we were on our way. Gate agent actually seemed please to tell us they’d *just* shut the doors.”
“Jerks,” Baset replied.
The airport urged passengers on Friday to show up three hours early.
In a statement Saturday, airport officials said they were “working closely with the airlines, partners and tenants to coordinate operations. Extra staff is on hand inside and outside the terminal to assist the large crowds.”
Said Coello, the airline spokeswoman: “American Airlines is doing the best they can with the situation they’ve been encountered with,” she said.
In a statement on Saturday, a spokesperson for the 2019 World Scout Jamboree said:
“Despite ongoing efforts, inclement weather and higher than normal passenger volume have contributed to a number of delays at Charlotte Douglas International Airport that have affected scheduled travel of Scouts returning home following the World Scout Jamboree.
“While factors such as the weather are out of everyone’s control, World Scout Jamboree leadership has been actively working with the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, airlines and the TSA to ensure that airport services were open early to accommodate the expected, increased volume,” according to the statement. “In fact, WSJ staff have been at the airport since the early hours of August 2nd to support efforts and remain engaged with airport officials and airline personnel.
“We appreciate the efforts undertaken by Charlotte Douglas International Airport staff, the various airlines, TSA and local law enforcement to help keep Scouts safe and as comfortable as possible during these delays.”
This year’s jamboree was the largest on record, with about 40,000 people in attendance, WVMetro.com reported.
This is a developing story.