NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Operations are returning to normal at John F. Kennedy Airport after days of chaos that included delays, lost luggage and a flooded terminal.
Things were looking much better Tuesday morning inside Terminal 4, where a maze of unclaimed luggage has been cleared out, CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported.
“What happened over the weekend was a completely unacceptable performance,” said Rick Cotton, executive director of Kennedy Airport’s owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “We need to identify what went wrong, why it went wrong and where there were failures in communication.”
Cotton pledged to bring in outside experts and investigators to dissect the breakdowns and improve communication and contingency plans.
The trouble began when a winter storm blasted New York and snarled air travel on Thursday.
As the skies cleared, unusually cold weather shot in, creating what the airport operating agency called a cascade of problems over the weekend.
Temperatures around the airport were in the teens and single digits Saturday and Sunday, hitting just 4 degrees around 8 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
Frozen equipment, luggage-handling problems and staff shortages slowed down operations on the ground. As flights got backlogged, gates clogged up and some arriving passengers waited on the tarmac for hours and ended up being bused to terminals. Other flights were diverted. One plane even clipped another outside a terminal amid the difficult conditions early Saturday.
Then, around 2 p.m. Sunday, a water pipe broke, sending about three inches of water gushing onto the floor of Terminal 4 and suspending its international flight arrivals for a few hours.
More than 48 hours later, there were still headaches. On Monday night, Musav Zeiton had been waiting for his family’s luggage at JFK since Friday and had passed the point of frustration to exhaustion.
“Half of my stuff is not even there and someone’s gone to look for it, wherever the hell it is,” he said.
Ricky Manohar came to the airport Sunday night all the way from Schenectady to pick up his brother from Guyana. By Monday morning he had been there for 16 hours.
“Sleeping the car, in and out, come get coffee, go back in the car cause it’s so cold,” Manohar said.
Cotton said the underlying problem was a lack of communication and coordination between the private terminal operators that provide gates where planes land, and the international airlines. As a result, gates were not available for inbound international planes on a timely basis, he said.
“We will ensure that the failure that occurred over this weekend will not occur in the future,” he said.
Port Authority Director of Aviation Huntley Lawrence said most flights were on or close to schedule Monday. He said there had been 116 cancellations and 98 delays out of about 600 flights for the day.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)