NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is expected to give an update on his investigation into the meltdown at John F. Kennedy International Airport earlier this month.
The problems started with the Jan. 4 snowstorm that canceled hundreds of flights, froze equipment, separated thousands of passengers from their luggage and led to days of delays. A burst water pipe also forced the main international terminal to temporarily close.
Two weeks after the snowstorm, some passengers are still waiting to be reunited with their luggage.
The luggage in limbo is a fraction of the thousands of unclaimed bags that accumulated during the chaos. But it illuminates the magnitude of the breakdown and airlines’ limitations in handling baggage backups.
The industry generally has a good record on luggage: Thanks to improvements in bag-tracking technology and processes, the rate of mishandled baggage has fallen 70 percent since 2007, hitting a record low in 2016, according to airline technology firm SITA. But airlines aren’t prepared for an unexpected backlog that happens fast, said Robert Mann, an industry consultant and former airline executive.
“When an event like this happens, there’s suddenly no physical manpower to address it,” Mann said. “They are forced back into manual procedures and not equipped to handle it.”
The airport agency, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said in a statement Wednesday that it’s “unacceptable that international airlines lack adequate on-the-ground resources” at JFK to return bags to passengers.
Under U.S. regulations and international agreements, an international passenger whose luggage was lost may be able to recoup up to $1,536. A domestic passenger might claim up to $3,500. For baggage delays, airlines may have to pay “reasonable” expenses.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer spotlighted the JFK luggage lag Monday while pressing federal transportation officials to urge foreign airlines to work better with the airport’s government and private operators.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)