New York City

Port Authority to Investigate JFK Nightmare as Passengers Scramble to Get Luggage

Tempers flared after days of prolonged delays and unforeseen problems that all started when last week's blizzard shut down the airport Thursday

What to Know

  • The Port Authority warned of possible fresh delays at JFK Airport on Monday after a nightmare weekend of delays
  • A water pipe break, a plane collision and a man allegedly carrying a loaded gun created a "meltdown" after a blizzard caused pileup delays
  • 58 flights coming to or leaving from the airport were already delayed or cancelled as of early Monday morning

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Monday it will investigate the water pipe break that added to the weather-related delays that caused a nightmare weekend at Kennedy Airport and will "hold all responsible parties accountable" -- just as passengers struggle to hunt down unclaimed baggage.

The agency said there were still some delays on Monday, the day after a water pipe that feeds a sprinkler system in the privately operated Terminal 4 broke, causing water to flood the terminal and significantly disrupt operations.

Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said investigators want to determine "why an internal pipe was not weather protected and whether any other failures contributed to this disruption."

"We intend to identify what went wrong, why it went wrong, where there were failures of communication and coordination, and we intend to fix it," said Cotton. 

The pipe break sent about three inches of water gushing onto the floor of the terminal. Video shows streams cascading from a ceiling and people slogging through pools of water.

Power to the affected areas was temporarily shut off for safety reasons and additional staffing and busing operations were deployed to assist travelers, the Port Authority said.

The situation added to the misery piled on travelers after a winter storm blasted New York on Thursday. Passengers were kept on planes and waited hours to retrieve luggage as flights were delayed and canceled, and a backup to get to terminal gates built up.

Cotton said Monday, "Gates were not made available to inbound international flights in a timely way, and the question on the table is why." 

Others reported waiting for hours for luggage, only to see their flight numbers disappear from baggage claim boards. At least one NBC employee who arrived at the airport early Sunday said that an employee handed out pieces of paper for passengers to file a report and were told to leave a message on a voicemail inbox that was already full.

Another traveler, Rosemary Owuo, told News 4 she was told to leave her luggage at the terminal after Sunday's chaos, and airport employees told her she'd have to wait two weeks to get them back.

"I couldn't wait two weeks," she said. "There are important things in the bags."

Cotton said Monday the Port Authority has directed the airlines and terminal operators to "immediately expedite return luggage to passengers," and that customers of domestic airlines -- Delta in particular -- will have all baggage on way to customers by the end of the day. 

International airlines have committed to have baggage reunited by passengers in New York City by Tuesday morning, said Cotton. 

In a statement released before the water pipe break, the Port Authority said Saturday's cold "created a cascading series of issues for the airlines and terminal operators."

"These included frozen equipment breakdowns, difficulties in baggage handling, staff shortages and heavier than typical passenger loads," the statement said.

Also among the issues: two planes collided on the tarmac and a man was arrested with a loaded, stolen gun while going through security.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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