Photo Courtesy of JFK Airport
This week, Sen. Schumer made a formal push for the U.S. DOT to take an active role in bringing foreign airlines to the table, along with the Port Authority and its terminal operators, to come up with a coordination and communication plan to prevent future chaos and dysfunction at JFK.
By Michael V. Cusenza
While myriad factors led to the untenable situation last week at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the lack of communication between foreign airlines and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey “intensified the chaos, doubling down on what was an already hectic scene,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday.
A severe winter storm, brutal cold temperatures, a broken water pipe, and a general lack of preparedness crippled operations at JFK for days. Last Wednesday, Port Authority announced that former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will lead an independent investigation into the events at the airport.
Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton called what happened at JFK “unacceptable, and travelers expect and deserve better.”
Schumer on Tuesday revealed that many passengers are still without their luggage.
New York’s senior senator also made a formal push for the U.S. DOT to take an active role in bringing foreign airlines to the table, along with the Port Authority and its terminal operators, to come up with a coordination and communication plan to prevent future chaos and dysfunction.
“Make no mistake, there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to what happened at JFK, but some of that blame squarely lands on a lack of communication between foreign airlines that flooded JFK with flights and the entities that manage the airport,” said Schumer, who penned a letter this week to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. “It was this lack of communication that helped to create the chaos at Kennedy and it is only through improving this system that we will prevent this from happening again. So, I am asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to take an active role here and make sure people aren’t put through travel-hell again. Federal pressure on foreign airlines to work with the Port Authority to come up with a better communication plan for the airport can help prevent this kind of winter chaos from snowballing in the future.”
Schumer noted that because many of the communication breakdowns and failures occurred between foreign airlines and the Port Authority, increased federal pressure would likely help resolve the situation sooner because foreign airlines are not always as responsive to specific needs and challenges of an individual airport. Schumer said that DOT has the strongest leverage over foreign airlines because they issue Foreign Air Carrier Certificates that allow foreign airlines to fly in the United States, and that as such the agency should make sure foreign airlines are doing everything in their power to improve communication and coordination systems with JFK. The senator added that while the Port Authority and the terminal operator are culpable, communication breakdowns with foreign airlines did make things worse, and that as the Port Authority begins its own investigation, the feds must step in and assist.
“It’s my hope that you will utilize that leverage to ensure that foreign airlines work hand-in-glove with the Port Authority and terminal operators to develop a real and meaningful solution so that this situation never happens again,” Schumer wrote to Chao.