Checked Bag Fees Waived, Some Baggage Sent On Flights From
software glitch snarled air traffic and caused baggage pileups at
John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday, leading to
headaches and angry passengers.
The problem led to the delay of 48 flights and the cancellation
of five more. Thousands of customers had to leave their luggage
behind, and hope it would be delivered later. Hundreds of bags
accumulated in the lobby of Terminal 8. The breakdown was galling
to some passengers already steamed over the airline's recent
decision to start charging fees for checked bags on flights within
the US and Canada.
"I'm just not happy. I think it's crazy," said Mike Howell, who
was en route to San Diego after visiting New York City. "If they do
charge people $15 per bag, they should get it right."
The airline tried delaying flights for 60 to 90 minutes, hoping
that would be enough extra time to get them loaded, but many bags
still didn't make it aboard. The chaos stretching into Thursday,
with additional flight cancellations expected. American Airlines
planned to cancel at least five scheduled departures and said
others could be delayed.
Technicians diagnosed the problem on Wednesday evening. However,
the system was still being tested early Thursday and wasn't yet up
and running again, said airline spokeswoman Andrea Huguely. She
also stated she couldn't estimate when the system would be working
again or how many passengers had been affected.
The problem began with a software failure in the equipment that
reads the bar code on each piece of tagged luggage, and then whisks
the bag via conveyor belt to the proper gate. With the automated
system down, airline employees had to sort each bag by hand... an
apparently overwhelming task for workers used to having the
machines do the heavy lifting, so to speak.
Due to the circumstances, American waived its fees Wednesday for
travelers checking fewer than three bags at JFK. Starting in June,
the airline, along with most of its competitors, has charged $15
for one checked bag or $40 for two bags. Passengers may still carry
on luggage with no charge.
Airline spokesman Tim Wagner stated that most of the flights
affected by Wednesday's baggage problem were international and thus
not subject to the fees in the first place. Hundreds of bags were
sent to nearby LaGuardia and Newark airports and put on alternative
A spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration
said its equipment wasn't affected by the malfunction but extra
staff had been deployed to help keep the bag screening operation