Three out of four runways at Kennedy Airport were shut down much of Thursday due to strong winds and an ongoing construction project, causing hours-long delays for some travelers at one of the nation's busiest airports.
It was the fifth consecutive day this week that Kennedy has been operating principally with one runway.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the airport operator, closed one of the landing strips Sunday so work could be done on an intersecting runway to widen it to accommodate larger airplanes and lengthen it to meet federal safety standards.
During this period, gusts of up to 40 knots and sustained winds of 20 to 25 knots forced officials to take two other runways out of service, Thomas Bosco, the authority's aviation director, said Thursday.
Air traffic controllers decided it was safer to avoid using the 4L/22R and 4R/22L runways due to significant crosswinds.
"Now, unfortunately, that creates delays," Bosco said. "But, fortunately, it ensures safety. And, above all, that's our top priority."
When the winds subsided, planes did land on those runways yesterday, said Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the authority.
"In other words, when the winds have ebbed they've been able to use those runways," Marsico said. "But the winds have been pretty strong, pretty consistently over the past five days."
Throughout the week, passengers took to social media to register their unhappiness at the delays.
"One runway, 40 planes in front us. 1hour 20 mins before you can take off!!!" Kevin Streets tweeted Tuesday night.
The current phase of the runway construction project at Kennedy is taking place right next to JetBlue's terminal and the airline had issued several apologies to its customers over Twitter and offered an explanation for the delays.
"Strong wind conditions limited operations even further to one runway at time, impacting all airlines at JFK," said a spokeswoman, Sharon A. Jones. Runway 13L/31R, which closed on Sunday for construction, is scheduled to reopen on April 24.
At its monthly meeting Thursday, the Port Authority approved an additional $3.6 million for the rehabilitation of runway 13-31 at LaGuardia Airport, where Delta flight 1086 recently skidded during landing in a snowstorm, and related taxiways, bringing the total cost of the project to $42.8 million.
"Since the engineer's estimate over a year ago, however, construction activity has increased significantly in the New York metropolitan area, driving up demand for both labor and materials," Bosco said. "Staff accounted for this increase, but bids still came in higher than expected."
The board chose Tully Construction to do the work.