A minor water leak at New York JFK International Airport led to hundreds of flights being cancelled or delayed on Saturday evening on what is primed to be the busiest travel weekend of the year so far. The leak prompted the evacuation of the air traffic control tower and controllers had to move to a secondary backup tower as technicians worked to plug the leak.
“JFK controllers are operating from a secondary control tower due to a minor water leak in the main facility. Operations at this facility, combined with area weather, require more spacing between aircraft,” the airport said in a tweet on Saturday evening.
“As such, the FAA is holding most flights destined for JFK from departing,” the tweet continued. By around 10:30 pm, hundreds of flights had been cancelled or delayed. The airport said it expected disruption to continue through Sunday.
Around an hour after tweeting to say the primary control tower had been evacuated, the airport said the tower was slowly getting back up and running. “The airport remains open, however as a result of this, coupled with regional weather conditions, customers may experience residual delays,” a spokesperson warned.
On Friday, the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) screened nearly 2.2 million people at airport checkpoints across the country in what was yet another record-breaking day for air passenger numbers in recent weeks.
The number of passengers who passed through TSA checkpoints on Friday was the highest since the start of the pandemic and even exceeded the numbers screened on the equivalent day in 2019.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske has told passengers to expect delays and has urged passengers traveling over the coming weeks to “pack their patience and remain calm”.
Along with the disruption caused by unexpected but minor water leaks, airlines have also been dealing with disruption caused by severe weather and staff shortages following an unexpectedly rapid recovery from the pandemic. Southwest and JetBlue even resorted to offering staff double-pay and other incentives to work overtime over the July 4 weekend.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.