Port Authority unveils new Kennedy Airport winter storm plan after travel nightmare

NEW YORK (WABC) -- After a rough winter for travelers flying into New York City, Port Authority officials unveiled their new winter storm plan Thursday.

It comes in the wake of a luggage mess at JFK Airport this winter when storms turned travel plans into a tizzy. It took some people weeks to get bags, which is just one issue airport officials are trying to avoid moving forward.

The botched baggage handling and planes stranded on the tarmac for hours during last January's storm plunged JFK into an epic meltdown that months later still has the head of the Port Authority acknowledging systemic failure.

"The breakdown that occurred at JFK was totally unacceptable," Director Rick Cotton said.

A "Lessons-Learned" report released Thursday blamed the lack of a command and control center at JFK for creating the chaos, because there was no central communications between the six privately owned and operated terminals. That resulted in mountains of misplaced baggage and passenger-filled planes stuck for hours on the runway even when some gates were empty.

"We have a revolution inside the aircraft," one pilot reported at the time. "A lot of passengers are very, very angry, and they want to have the police at the arrival."

In the weeks following the meltdown, the Port Authority created its first-ever Emergency Operations Center at JFK. The number one recommendation in the report was to expand and strengthen the emergency center.

"We can build a true command and control center for JFK which was frankly lacking," said former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who headed the storm report commission.

It is an understatement, considering in 2018, one of the nation's largest airport's with a fragmented terminal system never thought to have an emergency center.

"We visited or talked to airports in Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas, LAX, Denver, Boston, and Heathrow, every one of those airports has an EOC that works effectively," LaHood said.

And now, years and one snowy weekend from hell later, JFK will have its own emergency center too.

"Any resources that are necessary can be deployed immediately, real time and can address any problem that arises," Cotton said.


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