At JFK Airport, the Planes Just Wouldn't Stop Coming

Ice floats along the Hudson River as New York shivers through record low temperatures

Ice floats along the Hudson River as New York shivers through record low temperatures

The Port Authority of NY and New Jersey said Monday it will investigate the water pipe break that added to the weather-related delays that caused a nightmare weekend at Kennedy Airport and will "hold all responsible parties accountable" - just as passengers struggle to hunt down unclaimed baggage.

The water main break resulted in Terminal 4 being flooded, triggering evacuations and causing a huge luggage pile-up.

Many arriving planes experienced long delays in reaching gates, particularly global flights at Terminals 1 and 4.

It's a question no one can fully answer yet, but the Port Authority of NY and New Jersey, which leases, operates and oversees the airport, must do better.

The Port Authority said worldwide arrivals to Terminal 4 were suspended and passengers who had already arrived were taken to other terminals for processing. As of Monday evening, more than 120 flights to and from JFK were canceled for the day, according to, a flight tracking website.

One passenger described Saturday's incident as a "near riot" to the New York Daily News.

The flooding shut down part of Terminal 4, suspending global flights to the terminal Sunday evening. Footage posted online showed water flowing into the arrival terminal, flooding the area.

Flight tracking website Flight Aware reported JFK Airport had 621 delays and 106 cancellations January 7. When operations resumed on Friday, the backlog led to hundreds more delays or cancellations, crowding terminals with stranded passengers.

Officials shut down arriving global flights.

Continued chaos at JFK airport as two planes collide on the runway, prompting a Kuwait-bound flight's cancellation
JFK Airport - Terminal 4

The subsequent problems included "frozen equipment breakdowns, difficulties in baggage handling, staff shortages, and heavier than typical passenger loads", according to the Port Authority.

The agency added that they ramped up staffing and begun utilizing shuttle buses "to bring passengers experiencing delays back to the terminals".

Then a feeder pipe to the sprinkler system broke due to the cold weather around 2 p.m. Sunday, flooding the terminal with 3 inches of water. The threshold is more than three hours for a domestic flight and four for an worldwide one. But hundreds of passengers' suitcases were soaked - including long-delayed luggage from last week's weather calamity.

"We intend to identify what went wrong, why it went wrong, where there were failures of communication, where there will failures of coordination, and we intend to fix it", he said.

He called the closing of the arrivals area for several hours "totally unacceptable", saying: "It is not what the Port Authority expects in terms of providing service to its passengers, and it is totally not what the Port Authority expects from its private operators".

"It's far from it, because I mean just look around; there's no place to sit", he said.

Also Saturday morning, Port Authority police said they arrested a 61-year-old man with a stolen gun as he went through security.

Worldwide terminal operators intend to reunite passengers still in New York City with lost baggage by Tuesday morning, he said. "They weren't using any of the screens to indicate what carousel was being used for what flight", she says.

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