Power outage cancels, diverts flights at Kennedy Airport

NEW YORK (AP) — A power outage in a terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport stretched into a second day Friday after forcing some flights to be canceled or diverted, including one that was turned around and sent back to New Zealand after almost coming to the US

The airport’s operator said Terminal 1, which handles some of the airport’s international flights, would remain closed on Friday “due to electrical issues” but that limited operations could resume on Saturday.

The outage was caused by an electrical panel failure that led to a small fire, authorities said.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates New York’s major airports, said it is working to accommodate affected flights at JFK’s four other active terminals.

The agency said 39 of the 64 flights scheduled to arrive or depart from Terminal 1 on Friday were cancelled, 13 were operating from other terminals and 12 were routed through other airports.

“The Port Authority continues to work with Terminal 1’s operator to complete repairs, restore power and resume flight operations at the terminal as soon as possible,” said Alana Calmi, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Yahayra Hunt and her husband were sent to a hotel near the airport after their flight to Rome was canceled on Thursday. They are part of a group of 16 people who booked an 11-day trip to Italy and Israel.

Hunt, 46, said they were told on Friday that their flight to Italy would not leave until Monday and that the airline refused to cover the cost of their weekend stay in New York.

“Being stuck in a hotel during the holidays is not fair at all,” said Hunt, who owns a beauty salon in North Carolina.

Some aircraft were forced to return to their points of origin.

Kelly Shea, who owns a travel agency in Indianapolis, said she heard from customers Thursday who spent eight hours on a flight from Milan … to Milan.

The clients, a couple who had gone to the Carnival in Venice, were flying home to Indiana via New York when the plane turned around. When they returned to Milan airport, the couple told Shea that the ticket counter was “chaos” with people screaming.

“And of course, when they got up to the counter, there were no more seats left on the next flight,” Shea said. “So I immediately tried to put them on the plane the next day, but my computer system was already showing big zeros.”

Shea said the best she could do was book a round-trip flight for them on Sunday, three days after they were supposed to be back in Indiana.

An Air New Zealand flight was two-thirds of the way across the Pacific Ocean when it had to make a U-turn and return to Auckland. The plane landed back in New Zealand after more than 16 hours in the air.

Air New Zealand officials said the flight turned back because diverting it to another US airport could have stranded it where it could not make scheduled connections with other scheduled passengers. Passengers on the diverted jet were booked on other flights.

“Our teams have been working through this rebooking process and were on hand to assist customers with their travel arrangements once they arrived in Auckland,” said the airline’s chief operational integrity and security officer, David Morgan.

Passenger Rosemary Armao, 73, an adjunct journalism professor, said she was woken by a tap from her friend, who told her the plane was returning to Auckland.

“I thought it was a bad Ambien dream,” Armao said by phone.

After an eight-hour wait back in New Zealand, Armao and her friend, retired music professor David Kechley, were put on a flight to Los Angeles, where they hoped to connect to a flight to New York.

While stuck in Los Angeles, Armao said she used a $100 voucher from the airline to make her stay at the airport a little more pleasant: ordering an expensive dinner and buying out her supply of Cheez Doodles, M&Ms and Pringles at two stores.

Alexis Weisman and Ryan Lindgren, both 28, were scheduled to fly out of JFK on Friday for a one-of-a-kind ski trip in the Swiss Alps.

They learned at noon on Thursday that the flight had been cancelled. They found a flight on Saturday, but only after Weisman and Lindgren — and Weisman’s mother — spent eight hours calling.

“All day yesterday, in the middle of the work day, we were being hung up or disconnected,” Weisman said.

Weisman and Lindgren now fly with another airline, but the booking is still through the original airline, which caused even more headaches. They also fly out of Newark, which is at least a 40-minute longer drive from their home.

“No one is being held accountable,” Weisman said. “We’re just very disappointed in the way they’re handling things.”

Terminal 1 at Kennedy opened in the late 1990s. It is scheduled to be replaced by a new $9.5 billion terminal that is currently under construction. Groundbreaking was originally supposed to take place in 2020, but was postponed until last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia.

____ This story has been corrected to reflect that the Port Authority said it was working to accommodate flights at other terminals, not other airports.

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