Airlines play catch up game in US

By morning, most flights at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport were taking off and landing as scheduled. Continental Airlines said on its website that its hub there was nearly normal but that some cancellations and delays remained.

In snowbound neighbourhoods in New York, where hundreds of buses and dozens of ambulances got stuck in the snowdrifts, unplowed roads still hampered bus service on Wednesday morning. Officials, while making no promises, had said they hoped to have streets cleared by later in the day.

“It is a bad situation and we are working together to correct it,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Some 1,000 vehicles had been removed from three major New York City-area expressways alone, the mayor said.

General delays were reported on Wednesday morning at New York’s Kennedy airport, where at least three airliners—two Cathay Pacific planes and a British Airways plane—were stuck for more than seven hours on Tuesday while they waited for an open gate.

The airport remained filled on Tuesday night with passengers on cellphones and laptops, trying to rebook flights, make hotel reservations or figure out alternate plans. Lines at counters for rental cars, ground transportation and lost luggage remained long throughout the day. More than 5,000 flights were cancelled at the three main airports in New York—1,000 on Tuesday alone.

As airlines struggled to catch up, they dispatched planes to Kennedy without lining up gate space first, causing backups on the ground, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport.

Cathay Pacific spokesman Gus Whitcomb said the planes had taken off under the assumption that they would have somewhere to go upon landing. US airlines operating domestic flights are not allowed to keep passengers waiting on the tarmac for more than three hours, but international flights and foreign airlines are exempt from the rule.

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