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Probe of JFK problems to be led by ex-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Last week’s snowstorm caused massive flight delays, then a burst water pipe on Sunday added to the troubles and resulted in a baggage backup, the Port Authority said.

Avianca passengers rest while waiting for their flight

Avianca passengers rest while waiting for their flight at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport Terminal 4 on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew

Ex-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will lead a probe into the multiple problems that caused several days of massive delays at Kennedy Airport, beginning with last Thursday’s snowstorm, officials said on Wednesday.

LaHood, former President Barack Obama’s transportation secretary from 2009 to 2013, “will assemble a team with independent resources and experts,” the Port Authority said in a statement.

Critics say the Port Authority, which owns and runs Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports, failed on many fronts, including inadequately planning for emergencies, such as the burst water pipe in Terminal 4 on Sunday.

Thousands of passengers were delayed, shuttled on and off planes, and separated from their baggage. Delays continued into Monday.

LaHood, now a senior policy adviser at the DLA Pipers law firm, will analyze “all aspects of operations including but not limited to the performance of airlines, terminal operators and the Port Authority’s airport management,” the agency said.

LaHood will examine “the preparations and contingency planning leading up to the storm, the snow event itself including the closure and reopening of the airport, all aspects of recovery operations in the days following the water leak that occurred on Sunday, January 7, and baggage handling,” the Port Authority’s statement said.

LaHood starts work next week; he will report his findings and recommendations “in the coming months,” the agency said, adding he also might issue interim analyses.

A Port Authority spokesman did not immediately comment on how big a budget LaHood will have or whether his investigators will all come from outside the agency.

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