Arctic blast causes US travel meltdown

A passenger catching up on sleep as airport staff cleared snow on the tarmac at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport on Friday. Some planes spent up to four hours on the tarmac waiting for a gate. As of Saturday, more than 3,420 flights within, into or
A passenger catching up on sleep as airport staff cleared snow on the tarmac at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport on Friday. Some planes spent up to four hours on the tarmac waiting for a gate. As of Saturday, more than 3,420 flights within, into or out of the United States were still delayed, with JFK Airport and South Carolina's Charleston among the most affected.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • A record-breaking deep freeze brought more travel chaos to the eastern United States and Canada over the weekend, with the Arctic blast causing flight cancellations and delays.

Some trans-Atlantic flights from Europe turned back and went home.

New York's John F. Kennedy Airport descended into chaos, battling to contain a flight backlog, with some planes spending hours on the tarmac waiting for a gate.

The deep freeze follows a storm, dubbed a "bomb cyclone" by forecasters, which has been blamed for at least 19 deaths in the US, from Texas to Wisconsin, US media reported.

The weather and dangerously cold wind chills could make it feel as low as minus 43 deg C across the eastern US, with the risk of frostbite to exposed skin within 10 minutes, officials warned.

Thursday's storm raked the East Coast with heavy snowfall, icy temperatures and high winds, forcing flight cancellations.

By Saturday, more than 3,420 flights within, into or out of the US were still delayed, with JFK Airport and South Carolina's Charleston among the most affected.

The Port Authority, which runs New York-area airports, announced that flights were being limited into JFK, "including all flights scheduled to arrive into Terminal 1 for the rest of the evening".

  • -43 deg C The wind chills could make it feel dangerously cold in the eastern US.

It said a surge in flights rescheduled after the storm, combined with severe storm damage to equipment, resulted in delays in getting planes and passengers to gates.

Tracking site Flightradar24 said at least 12 international flights had been waiting around two to four hours for a gate to deplane.

Passengers complained of being stranded on the tarmac for hours and then facing lengthy delays in baggage claim that made travelling, particularly with babies or the elderly, a misery.

"Losing patience," tweeted passenger James Allen, who said he travelled on Virgin Atlantic and had to wait three hours on the tarmac before reaching the gate, then two hours in baggage claim.

"Two small children hungry, thirsty and tired with no facilities or help in baggage reclaim. Very poor," he tweeted.

Multiple trans-Atlantic flights simply gave up and went home, including an Aeroflot flight from Moscow that turned back over Iceland.

A Norwegian Air flight from London diverted to Stewart International, 112km north of Manhattan, while Flightradar24 said a Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo diverted to Boston.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2018, with the headline 'Arctic blast causes US travel meltdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe