Power outage cancels, diverts flights at Kennedy Airport
NEW YORK — A power outage in a terminal of 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 nearly making it to the U.S.
The airport’s operator said Terminal 1, which handles some of the airport’s international flights, would remain closed Friday “due to electrical issues,” but that limited operations could resume 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 runs New York’s major airports, said it was 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 canceled, 13 were operating from other terminals and 12 were being 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,” agency spokesperson Alana Calmi said.
Yahayra Hunt and her husband were sent to a hotel near the airport after their flight to Rome was canceled Thursday. They’re part of a group of 16 people who booked an 11-day tour to Italy and Israel.
Hunt, 46, said they were told Friday that their flight to Italy wouldn’t 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 your vacation is not fair at all,” said Hunt, who owns a beauty salon in North Carolina.
Some planes were forced to return to their points of origin.
Kelly Shea, who owns a travel agency in Indianapolis, said she heard from clients Thursday who spent eight hours on a flight from Milan … to Milan.
The clients, a couple who had gone to the Venice Carnival, were flying home to Indiana through New York when the plane turned around. When they returned to the Milan airport, the couple told Shea that the ticket counter was “chaos,” with people screaming.
“And of course, by the time 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 flight the next day, but my computer system already showed big zeros.”
Shea said the best she could do was book a return 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 head back to Auckland. The flight 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 U.S. airport could have stranded it where it couldn’t make planned connections with other scheduled passengers. Passengers on the diverted jet were booked on other flights.
“Our teams have been working through that rebooking process and were on hand to help customers with their travel arrangements when they arrived in Auckland,” the airline’s chief operational integrity and safety officer, David Morgan, said.
Passenger Rosemary Armao, 73, an adjunct journalism professor, said she was awakened by a tap from her friend, who told her the plane was headed back 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 airport stay a little nicer: ordering an expensive dinner and buying out the supply of Cheez Doodles, M&Ms, and Pringles at two shops.
Alexis Weisman and Ryan Lindgren, both 28, were scheduled to fly out of JFK on Friday for a once-in-a-lifetime ski trip in the Swiss Alps.
They learned at noon Thursday that the flight was canceled. They found a flight out on Saturday, but only after Weisman and Lindgren — and Weisman’s mother — spent eight hours making phone calls.
“All day yesterday, in the middle of the workday, we were getting hung up on or disconnected,” Weisman said.
Weisman and Lindgren are now flying on a different carrier but the booking is still through the original airline, which caused even more headaches. They’re also flying 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 really disappointed in the way that 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 now under construction. Groundbreaking was initially supposed to happen in 2020 but was delayed until last summer by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia.
____ This story has been corrected to show that the Port Authority said it was working to accommodate flights at other terminals, not other airports.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.