JetBlue suffers major NYC disruption following weekend snow storm

Jan 31, 2022

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It was a snowy weekend for much of the Northeast, but once the blizzard ended, JetBlue‘s operation had a tough time digging out.

The New York-based carrier suffered a big disruption in its New York-JFK hub on Sunday as airlines worked to recover from the storm. As the afternoon progressed, the airline had a big backup of arriving flights that didn’t have available gates or traffic marshallers to escort the planes into their parking positions.

Checked bag delivery was delayed as well, with some flyers waiting over an hour for their bags. That’s in addition to the three (or more) hours that some planes waited for a gate.

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As the situation at JFK got worse, the airline started diverting some of its arrivals to the nearby Newark Airport (EWR) in New Jersey. Aviation observer Jason Rabinowitz noted on Twitter that some of these diversions were even happening after the planes were on the final approach for JFK.

JetBlue Flight 954 route (Screenshot courtesy of FlightRadar24)

“The company wants us to divert to Newark, so we are going to discontinue this approach,” the pilot of JetBlue Flight 954 said to a JFK air traffic controller on Sunday, after the plane was already cleared to land on Runway 31R.

The news wasn’t much better for departing passengers, who were left waiting for inbound planes and crews.

The Sunday disruptions followed a major snowstorm on Saturday, with over 12 inches of accumulation being reported at JFK.

The airline scrapped almost all of its New York and Boston flights on Saturday, and the irregular operations piled up on Sunday, too.

Line of passengers waiting to get rebooking help from JetBlue (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

JetBlue canceled and delayed the most flights of any U.S. airline on Sunday, FlightAware data shows. Nearly 30% of all JetBlue flights were canceled, and 46% of the airline’s schedule was delayed on Sunday. (Two of the airline’s primary hubs are in the Northeast, so it’s understandable that the storm had an outsized impact on JetBlue’s operation.)

But it wasn’t just JetBlue that suffered on Sunday — the other airlines operating out of JFK’s Terminal 5 were also impacted. Adam Macht, a passenger on TAP Air Portugal Flight 209 who runs a popular Instagram account @adamtheflyer, told TPG that his flight from Lisbon arrived early in JFK, but that it waited over an hour for a gate in Terminal 5.

For its part, JetBlue is characterizing the disruptions as the “normal” course of action following a large snowstorm.

After this weekend’s heavy snow and freezing temperatures in the northeast, we are focused on safely resuming our flight schedule. We have made good progress in ramping up operations in Boston, LaGuardia and Newark. At JFK, we started operations on Saturday as planned but faced a number of conditions that have slowed the operation down. We have combined some flights today to ease those constraints and are working to rebook customers. It normally takes a few days to fully recover when a storm of this size significantly impacts our two largest markets of New York and Boston, and our first priority continues to be restarting safely. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and we are working to get them on their way as quickly as possible.

Personally, I experienced some major JetBlue disruptions this weekend. I was returning on Sunday from South Florida, and after my original flight to LaGuardia (LGA) was canceled, I managed to get rebooked on a flight to JFK.

Waiting on the plane for over an hour for a gate (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The plane was delayed by over four hours due to staffing-related issues, according to customer service representatives on the ground and data found on ExpertFlyer, an issue we’ve seen in recent months across the industry.

However, once we landed at JFK, we stopped short of JetBlue’s Terminal 5 hub, and the captain announced that we’d be waiting for a gate for a yet undetermined amount of time. I pulled up flight tracking app Flightradar24, only to see that seven other planes were also waiting for a gate.

We were ultimately assigned a gate over an hour after landing. As we pulled into Gate 16, we were greeted with more unfortunate news — the pilot announced that due to short staffing, there weren’t enough marshallers to guide our aircraft to its final parking position.

Waiting at the Terminal 5 baggage claim (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The marshallers finally showed up after another 30 minutes, and the passengers onboard Flight 2592 erupted in loud clapping when the boarding door was finally opened.

Unfortunately, the celebrations were likely a bit premature for many passengers. As we exited the terminal, we found another long line of frustrated travelers who were waiting for over an hour for their checked bags.

The level of frustration was palpable in the baggage claim area. Some people were sitting on their carry-on bags, while others had pulled out their laptops and iPads to stream the latest show or catch the end of the NFL playoffs.

Sunset during landing at JFK (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Thankfully, I wasn’t traveling with a checked bag, but for those who were, JetBlue’s Terminal 5 probably started feeling like their new home.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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