Police React to Unruly Crowd, Riots at Delta JFK Terminal Following Snowstorm Delays


jfk-airportNYPD officers were called in to help with an unruly crowd yesterday at the Delta Air Lines terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport.Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Steve Coleman says Delta asked the authority to send in officers yesterday morning to help with crowd control, and the situation was resolved.

When asked what happened at the terminal Tuesday, Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Susan Elliott said a number of people whose flight to Haiti was canceled in Sunday’s storm have been trying to get to Port-Au-Prince on standby but haven’t been having any luck.

She says they’ll all be placed on a new today that was added yesterday. Elliott says the decision to add a flight was not related to any disruption at the airport.

Ben Popken of Cosumerist.com provides his first-hand account of what happened:

Around 9:30 yesterday morning, NYPD descended on the JFK Delta Terminal to calm an unruly mob of holiday travelers. I myself escaped the same terminal 2 hours earlier, and I could already tell at that point that something was going to go terribly wrong.

I got there at 5:30 am. The security lines for Terminal 2 and 3, one from the left and one from the right stretched so long that they met each other. (Only one security belt was open on each side.) Planes were being held to accomodate passengers stuck in security line. Considering the high volume of travelers, many of whom were rebookings from the weekend snowstorm, the place was understaffed. Not all the ticket agent counters were staffed. A few floaters appeared briefly in the scrum but quickly disappeared.

People were missing flights just because they couldn’t get through the line. There was no communication with passengers to make sure that people who just needed to drop bags off weren’t in the kiosk assist line; a whole section of the line found out they’d just been standing in the wrong line for over an hour.

A new ticket agent appeared and promptly began arguing with two old ladies in wheelchairs. The staff was very harried. Some kept their cool, others were on the edge of losing it.

At the time, having nothing better to do, I tweeted, “going to be some bad incident in jfk delta today. I can feel it. Backed up the yinyang. Low staff. No communication. People starting to snap.” A few hours later, police were called to squash a gate riot. Delta, send some reserve troops in, stat!

The AP later reported that the fight broke out when passengers flying to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti who had been trying to get home on standby since Sunday with no luck, finally snapped and unleashed their wrath on the customer service reps. I was in line for the ticket counter when I heard them calling all people for Port-Au-Prince, Haiti to go check in the special international area. The passengers who responded were excited and relieved at the time. If that ultimately ended in failure, I can see how they would be crushed.

Luckily it only took an “hour” for the fracas to be resolved.

Delta told Consumerist: “We apologize to these customers for this delay and have been working around the clock to get our customers home for the holidays despite the disruptions caused by weather over the last few days.”

 {Consumerist.com/1010WINS/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}