Poor communication between airport officials and international airlines made a bad situation worse as New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport struggled to cope with a winter storm and flooding on Jan. 4, a U.S. senator said.
Sen. Charles Schumer, Democrat from New York, called for the U.S. Department of Transportation to address the communication problems that led to flights continuing to land at the airport despite a lack of gates to accommodate arriving aircraft, leaving passengers stranded for hours on the tarmac.
“Make no mistake, there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to what happened at JFK, but some of that blame squarely lands on a lack of communication between foreign airlines that flooded JFK with flights and the entities that manage the airport,” said Schumer. “It was this lack of communication that helped to create the chaos at Kennedy and it is only through improving this system that we will prevent this from happening again.”
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Schumer wrote, “Passengers were left stranded, luggage was lost, and flights were diverted as a result of, among other things, the inability for international airlines, the Port Authority, and terminal operators to quickly and adequately communicate on a plan of action.
“It’s notable that while every airline experienced issues as a result of the weather related emergency, the situation was far worse with foreign carriers. It’s my firm belief that part of the reason for that is that foreign airlines simply do not have the same level of cooperation, coordination, and communication with ground control operations.”
Schumer said another complicating factor was that each of JFK’s six terminals is managed by separate independent outside contractors, snarling communications even further.
Some JFK travellers are still waiting to receive their luggage a week after the storm.