MacArthur back on schedule; JFK's not

Stranded travelers, many waiting since Sunday, take refuge

Stranded travelers, many waiting since Sunday, take refuge in the American Airlines terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Tuesday. (Dec. 28, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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As New York City airports struggled to return to normalcy Wednesday morning, Long Island MacArthur Airport was back on schedule with minor flight delays.

"Everything seems to be on time," said Catherine Green, a spokeswoman for MacArthur. "Things are looking very good today ... The sun is out and it's smooth sailing."

Green said some flights arriving and departing from MacArthur were delayed five to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 passengers remained stranded at Kennedy Airport as people continued to try to rebook canceled flights, said Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman.

The situation at LaGuardia was much better. Coleman said about 225 people remain stranded there.

Officials are hoping to have both airports back to normal between Wednesday and Thursday, Coleman said.

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By Wednesday morning, Kennedy officials expected to have two of four runways open, while LaGuardia should have each of its two runways open, Coleman said.

He added that the runway openings "will greatly improve the ability to get planes in and out today."

By 9 a.m., LaGuardia reported 25 flight cancellations. Coleman said that number is nearing normal for the airport.

In the meantime, he said cots continue to line the walls of Kennedy Airport and food vouchers are being doled out to stranded passengers.

To help cut down on airport congestion, Coleman said people should call carriers to check the status of their flights before coming to the airport.

"You don't want to add to the problem," he said.

In the aftermath of Tuesday's airport situation - specifically that short staffing and communication lapses at JFK were being blamed for lengthy delays endured on several international flights - Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asked what part staffing of security personnel played in lengthy passenger delays.

Two Cathay Pacific flights spent 10 and eight hours, respectively, on the tarmac Tuesday at JFK, while an earlier British Airways flight waited eight hours before its passengers disembarked.

U.S. airlines operating domestic flights are not allowed to keep passengers waiting on the tarmac for more than three hours, but international flights and foreign airlines are exempt from the rule.

"One of the most troubling reports ... is that insufficient Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staffing may have contributed to the situation," King wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

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King asked for a full report on the allegations of understaffing and also requested an overview of standard operating procedures for CBP operations at international airports in the United States during extreme weather conditions.

King called the extensive passenger delays unacceptable and asked that the department respond by Jan. 5.

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