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If you were flying to, from or through the New York City area on Saturday evening, you probably had a miserable night. According to the least detailed press release I’ve ever seen (even from the FAA), flights at NYC metro airports were delayed “due to a widespread problem on a local telecommunications network.”

While that explanation is pretty much as vague as can be, a bit of digging confirms that the issue specifically affected the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility, which handles departure, arrival and pass-through traffic for all of the city’s airports, including JFK, Newark and LaGuardia, as well as a handful of smaller airports used by private aircraft. For more on TRACONs and the ATC network, see this post from TPG’s FAA insider.

Delta also had hours-long delays (as did many other airlines).
Delta had hours-long delays (as did many other airlines).

The result was delays lasting many hours at all of the city’s major airports — whether you were traveling 3,500 miles to London or just 200 to Boston, it was a miserable night to fly. What’s especially unpleasant about FAA delays is that the airline isn’t responsible for providing any compensation, including meal or hotel vouchers, though you may be able to change or cancel your flight for free in such situations.

Hours-long delays were the norm on Saturday night.
This United flight to London arrived more than three hours late.

As always, be sure to check your flight status before you head to the airport, and the general FAA system status as well. And consider these tips whenever you’re experiencing a flight cancelation or delay, whether it’s due to winter weather, an FAA outage or an airline mechanical issue (in which case compensation may be an option).

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