“The harsh winter storm had passed. In its aftermath, parts of the airport were overloaded, jammed with planes that had been kept on the ground during the storm. But screens showed bright yellow airplane icons — incoming flights — approaching, with many more on the way.
“One by one they landed. Unused runways became parking lots, with planes waiting for gates.
“And still they kept coming. Hours and hours passed.
It was the failure to stop them, experts said, that turned a chaotic but manageable winter-storm episode into an airport delay for the ages.
“It was the international terminals that were hit hardest, forcing the Port Authority to finally shut down two of them to incoming flights until their occupants could undo the messy knot outside and within.
“A rolling cascade of emergencies brought about by human error and winter weather led to the nightmarish long weekend, as thousands of travelers from around the world found themselves trapped. And that was before frigid water from a burst pipe began raining from a ceiling in Terminal 4, pooling amid the luggage of the stranded.
“Virtually no foreign airline canceled any flights into J.F.K.” on Thursday, said Jason Rabinowitz, a freelance aviation blogger who tracked the cascading pileup as it played out. “They all launched their aircraft, but by the time they got halfway over the Atlantic, they found out they couldn’t land at J.F.K.”
“[…] Iberia Flight 6253, got halfway to New York from Madrid before making a U-turn and going back to Spain: an eight-hour fight to nowhere. Norwegian Air Flight 7019 made a similar journey Thursday night en route to New York from France. “That was kind of weird,” said Mona Bismuth, 27, a passenger. “We turned around at the southern tip of Greenland.” A passenger on a different flight was sent back to Moscow — twice — because of what was happening in New York.
Inside Terminal 4, a line of hungry men, women and children like something from a Depression-era newsreel formed outside a Dunkin’ Donuts stand.
“There were queues and queues of people going nowhere,” said Mike Bedigan, 22, of Britain. “People didn’t know what it was they were queuing for.”
“Outside was no different, as arriving flights were forced to sit idle on the runways. “We were, like, in a weird little no-go zone,” said Ms. Bismuth, after her Norwegian flight from France eventually arrived in New York after having made a U-turn back to Paris. “The crew was exhausted. We were exhausted.”
“Another passenger, Eliott Ozeel, 25, landed at Kennedy from France at 10:30 p.m. on Friday. He fell asleep while his plane sat on the tarmac, only to wake with the dawn more than six hours later, still there…”
Text: At J.F.K. Airport, the Planes Just Wouldn’t Stop Coming, New York Times
Pic: Warm Bodies, 2013.