December 28th, 2010
08:22 PM ET

Airline passengers unloaded after 11 hours waiting on JFK tarmac


Airline passengers who spent 11 hours stuck on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport were unloaded Tuesday afternoon in the latest example of the frustrating effects of a massive blizzard that delayed thousands of would-be holiday travelers.

"There were a lot of people on the plane crying," said passenger Christina Edgar. "It was really a tough situation."

She called the situation "just a bad judgment call."

"They kept trying to get us to go, and they kept us on the plane with no choice," Edgar said.

Travelers aboard the Cathay Pacific Airways flight from Vancouver, British Columbia, arrived in New York at 2:12 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

They 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."

Cathay Pacific spokesman Gus Whitcomb said the airline's intention was "to get passengers to New York as quickly as possible, and we anticipated to have gate space available."

He said the gate typically assigned to the airline had been moved "because of what became a very fluid situation at JFK due to the weather."

Four international flights were stranded at JFK on Tuesday without gates available to unload passengers, officials said.

"We also had four flights come into LaGuardia, but because they were domestic flights we were able to get them off," said Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman.

Coleman said that because the JFK flights were international, they had to be unloaded in specific customs areas to undergo screening.

"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.

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Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Wendy

    My ex husband was one of the pilots on the Cathay flight from Vancouver. What a nightmare, the airport definitely dropped the ball here. I'm sure the crew did the very best they could, that was an ordeal for everyone on board. Here's the weird part...he's made CNN for this crazy weather related incident AND it's similar to another breaking story on CNN. My ex also stole my laptop the night we split, hacked my computer, had my emails illegally fw'd for over a year and a half without my knowledge (letters to my first lawyer, my daughter's teachers, my daughter's counsellor, my divorce coach, my friends and my family. He isolated me from my family with lies, read every private letter of mine before I caught him. 5 yrs in the States for that! When I tell him what he has done is wrong he laughs in my face. Who's laughing now, jerk! Have fun in New York, I'll be giving any news agencies that contact me your cell #!

    December 29, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  2. Karen

    I don't understand why empty planes are left parked at gates. Once they are unloaded, move them out of the way so another plane can come in... Is that so hard to understand?

    December 29, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  3. Bruce M.McLaughlin

    Such a travesty to treat people like this, all based on the bottom line...CASH.

    Airlines will not take the time nor spend a red cent to accommodate passengers.
    This is sickening that corporations can get away with treating people in this fashion, so that they can earn those profits on Wall Street.

    December 29, 2010 at 7:19 am |
  4. jim lafferty

    who ever is in charge at JFK should be fired. I was to fly from Burlington VT. to Ft. Myers Florida. All the flights were canceled. The excuse I got from Jet Blue was that JFK only had one runway open. The storm was Sunday. How incompetent can they get. Newark and Philly were handling most of their flights, so who are the idiots responsible for the disaster at the most important airport in the country. How long does it take to plow a few runways.

    December 29, 2010 at 1:29 am |
  5. chickeee in Canada

    that is unbelievable ! 11 hours to unload a plane ? what else did they do all day ?

    December 29, 2010 at 1:27 am |
  6. David Greenwald

    Saw your story about family stranded on tarmac at JFK for 11 hours. What are terrible ordeal. What did Cathay Pacific have to say about it? You should get a comment from them. Why were the deplaning stairs not brought out for these passengers?

    December 29, 2010 at 1:19 am |
  7. Todd

    It's the passengers fault! To many people spread out all over, so they have to pack airports and fly all over the place like it's nothing. And then during the holidays and a snow storm? Stay home, or don't move so far away from your families. People are spoiled and have no problem burning thousands of gallons of fuel and damaging the environment just for some quick convenience, And they complain...

    December 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  8. John Snead

    What ever happened to common decency. why not show some compassion toward the passengers. Everyone pointing the finger at everyone else. I will bet that if some airline big shot had a son or daughter on the plane something would happen. SHAME ON ALL OF YOU.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  9. Barry

    Since only domestic carriers have signed onto the agreement, the solution is simple. Fly American flagship carriers.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
  10. Joseph

    I can't believe the JFK administration would have people sitting there for so long trying to leave the airport, when there's thousands trying to leave.

    This is just an example how the airports are just not prepared for this situations and highlights how untrained personnel is and how unable are to make proper and helpful decisions in time of crisis.

    December 28, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  11. Ralph Hauck

    This sort of problem is a combination of things. It all boils down to money and fees. The airline did not have a regular assigned gate or gates because it did not pay for use of a gate. The airline probably did not pay customs fees. Ground crews and airline personal on the ground probably had no authority to service airplane because it did not have a gate assigned to it.
    Landing fees probably were not paid ahead of time. If one agency refuses to service due to non payment of fees no agency will do anything. On top of it all, homeland security is a paranoid arbitrary entity. People right are last.

    December 28, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  12. Taylor

    I belive this is a violation of our rights. How can they keep people on a grounded aircraft for eleven hours with no freedom to leave the aircraft. Obviosly there are many problems with the transportation authorities.

    December 28, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  13. Dover

    Why the heck couldn't the airport simply roll up a set of those "stairs on wheels" and escort people to customs with a few police escorts, if needed? Or move an empty, parked jet out of one of the gates in the international terminal? Seems like such an easy fix. Typical inflexible folks calling the shots, I suppose.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
  14. Stephanie Cozart Burton

    Aren't those passengers due some compensation under the new Passenger Rights Act?

    December 28, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
  15. Kevin

    Another example of why JFK is by far the worst airport in the entire country. Just a complete disaster.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  16. Cait

    I fly in and out of JFK frequently and I do not believe the airport should be given the entirety of the blame. If the airlines truly didn't communicate with terminal operations, the fault doesn't lie solely with JFK. Around this time of year it is naturally hectic at such an international hub. I've had flights to JFK delayed due to the problem of an overload of air traffic, because the airport does NOT want people sitting on the tarmac. I've had airlines of delayed flights try to make up the time and we've ended up having to circle the TriState because JFK had no place for the plane, hence delaying us in the first place.

    What probably SHOULD have happened but didn't, is the airline should have given up trying to take off and allowed passengers to deplane, and communicated with the airport to work together to find a place for those passengers to be kept.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
  17. Mark

    I would have faked a heart attack....see how quickly I would have been off that plane.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
  18. Veronica Jackson

    This is ridiculous and poor planning by the airlines. People should not be held on a plane for 11 hours. The international airlines know the have certain screening procedures when loading and unloading passengers. That was a waste of time and resources.

    December 28, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  19. Stephanie

    What is wrong with the administrators at JFK and the officials of the FAA? I understand the need to screen people properly, but nobody deserves to be sitting on a plane with no choice to get on or off for 11 hours if that plane is sitting on the ground.
    I've never flown out of of JFK, and after reading stories like this, I never will.

    December 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm |