Winter Storm Grounds Flights
This has been the winter of their discontent. Once again,
hundreds of passengers were stranded on planes for as many as nine
hours Friday night, as a fierce ice storm settled over New York's
John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The exact number of passengers stuck on flights that had pulled
away from the gate -- but were then unable to take off, or return
to the terminal -- is unclear. After reading reports of earlier
incidents affecting American Airlines and JetBlue flights however,
passengers knew what to do.
They got on their cell phones, and called media outlets.
"You can't keep your passengers on the plane for 9 1/2 hours,"
said Cathay Pacific Airways passenger Rahul Chandran to the
Associated Press. "They kept saying 'half an hour more, 45 minutes
more.' But by the time it got to hour six, we were pretty much
accepting that we weren't going to go ... At least in the terminal,
you can get up and walk around."
Chandran said his plane was held on the ground from midnight, to
about 9:30 am Saturday morning. And then the flight was
Things weren't much better on a Virgin Atlantic flight from
London, that was diverted to JFK due to weather in Boston. Virgin
spokeswoman Brooke Lawer acknowledged the 747, with about 200
passengers on board, sat on a taxiway for six hours before it could
take off again.
Pilots at JFK pointed to a shortage of deicing fluid at the
airport, which forced planes to stay on the ground due to safety
concerns. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey -- which
operates area airports -- were quick to point out the airlines are
responsible for maintaining their own terminal deicing equipment...
and not the airport.
Passengers attempting to escape from New York via Newark
International faced a similar situation.
"We got on the plane, we got off the plane. We got on the plane
and off the plane," said Karen Opdyke, who was trying to catch a
flight to Miami.
Meanwhile, a decision by low-cost carrier JetBlue -- which took
a pounding financially, and in the court of public opinion, for a
similar operations shutdown caused by a Valentine's Day snowstorm
-- to cancel the majority of its flights
Friday appeared to be paying off.
Spokeswoman Jenny Dervin said the airline expected more or less
normal operations Saturday... while many of their competitors were
still iced in.