Damage from blizzard lingers in the Northeast

December 29th, 2010 by Mariah

New York (CNN) — A historic blizzard that blanketed the Northeast with several feet of snow was still causing heartburn for pilots, air traffic controllers and stranded passengers Wednesday.

Some 10,000 flights have been canceled because of the weather since Saturday, according to the airlines.

Representatives from AirTran, American, Continental, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, United, U.S. Airways, Spirit and Southwest reported a total of at least 9,726 trips were called off due to weather since Saturday.

Of those, at least 1,335 flights were canceled on Tuesday as major airports across the region slowly got back to normal.

Nowhere is the traveling heartburn more pronounced than at John F. Kennedy airport in New York where passengers on international flights have had to wait up to 11 hours on the tarmac before being allowed to deplane.

Travel nightmare at JFK airport At least a handful of flights sat in the cold of a New York night early Wednesday, waiting for a gate and permission to unload. Passengers on at least three flights — Aero Mexico, Air France and Lufthansa — waited more than six hours to get off their planes.

No explanation was immediately available from airport officials or the airlines.

The worst case involved a Cathay Pacific Airways flight from Vancouver, British Columbia.

The plane arrived in New York at 2:12 a.m. ET on Tuesday; no one got off the plane shortly after 1 p.m. ET.

“It wasn’t fun with three children sitting there,” said passenger Vincent Butcher. “No one has admitted to making any mistakes.”

At some point, Butcher said, there was even talk of a ladder being brought out to the runway, but that did not happen. The airline told him it may be at least 48 hours before the family gets its luggage, he said.

Passenger Max Ascui told CNN’s “AC360″ that the crew did a good job but couldn’t provide answers on what would happen.

Cathay apologized on Wednesday.

“We are particularly sorry for the great inconvenience that more than 1,100 passengers have suffered throughout their long wait inside our aircraft on the tarmac,” a statement from the airline said.

Five Cathay flights sat on the JFK tarmac from four to 11 hours.

“Our intentions to get our passengers to their destinations as quickly as possible were good, but we could not overcome the challenging conditions at JFK due to the snowstorm and as a result did not live up to our service standards, for which we sincerely apologize,” the airline said.
Four international flights were stranded at JFK on Tuesday without gates available to unload passengers, Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said Tuesday.

Because the JFK flights were international, they had to be unloaded in specific customs areas to undergo screening, he said.

“There is just no place that you can dump 1,000 people in a secured area for a period of time,” Coleman said.

He said the planes were stranded because the airlines brought them in without checking with terminal operations to see if there was a place to put them.

The damage caused by the blizzard likely will continue to linger.

“With all the cancellations and delays, it’ll be two to three days before the airlines are at a regular schedule,” said Thomas Bosco, general manager of New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Early Tuesday evening, LaGuardia was still operating well below its normal 70 flights per hour, he said.

Delta Air Lines canceled 300 flights on Tuesday and was still facing reduced operations at JFK and Newark because of runway issues, according to spokesman Trebor Banstetter.

Banstetter said the airline is hoping to return to a full schedule at JFK sometime Wednesday morning, and at Newark by midday.

The Federal Transportation Security Administration has been coordinating with airports and airlines to bolster staffing as necessary as flights resume, according to spokeswoman Sterling Payne.

Other travel — by rail and road — was snarled as well. Hundreds of people were left stranded at New York’s Pennsylvania railroad station after Long Island Railroad canceled trains. Amtrak said it would resume normal service Wednesday between Boston and Washington, but passengers could see some delays.