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Thu, Feb 15, 2007

Another Stranded Pax Story, This Time At New York's Kennedy

JetBlue Leaves 10 Planes On Ramp During Wednesday's Snow Storms

A contrite JetBlue Airways is profusely apologizing to its customers Thursday after storms wreaked havoc with its operations Wednesday.

Worst hit were inbound and outbound flights at New York's Kennedy airport. JetBlue says passengers on at least 10 jets were "significantly delayed."

JetBlue said it sent loaded jets to the runway in hopes the weather would break allowing their departure... but the break never came. JetBlue says by then the gates were full with arriving jets. Additionally, the tugs used to tow airplanes away from the gates froze to the ground, adding to the snarl (you know it's bad when tugs freeze to the ground -- Ed.)

Airline spokesman Bryan Baldwin told the Associated Press, "We ended up with a gridlock situation where we couldn't move any of the aircraft at the gates."

While passengers waiting departure might be a little more sympathetic to an airline trying to get them to their destination, it's the arriving passengers who had the most trouble understanding the delays.

Passenger John Farrell of Brooklyn said, "You gotta realize the frustration — you can look out the window and you can see, there's the gate, and if you let us off the plane, we can walk there."

With no gates available, the airline eventually halted incoming flights. By 15:00 local, JetBlue said it started arranging for buses to retrieve passengers stuck in airplanes on the tarmac.

But the airline said safety concerns for passengers made that a slow process.

How slow? Farrell says his jet arrived from Ft. Myers, FL at 10:00, but he didn't get off until nearly 19:00.

On the other side, Cheryl Chesner and her husband Seth spent 11 hours waiting to depart for a flight to Aruba.

The airline said more than 250 flights were cancelled Wednesday. On average, according to the carrier, passengers on the ten jets stuck on the ramp waited for eight to ten hours to get off.

The airline issued an apology to its customers Wednesday night offering a full refund and a free round-trip ticket to any city served by the carrier.

The airline was still digging out Thursday, but Baldwin says it may take some time to sort out all the delays and get the schedule back on track.

ANN reported on a similar story involving American Airlines jets diverting for storms around Dallas/Fort Worth during the holiday travel season.

That incident, and others like it, prompted a citizen's group to urge legislation in creating a "Passenger's Bill Of Rights."



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