The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating why a passenger window broke on a Boeing 737 operated by Southwest Airlines that was forced to land in Cleveland after leaving Chicago for Newark.
The Boeing 737 had been inspected two days earlier, but investigators say a routine visual check might not have been sufficient to spot problems.
Passengers who were on the Southwest Airlines plane that had a deadly engine explosion mid-flight share what their experience was like.
Each of the airport’s 43 airlines has customers to serve and a schedule to keep, but there is no doubt who has the ultimate authority. Ed Freni, the director of aviation for Massport, leads the meetings. Each of the four terminals at Logan has its own manager who reports to Mr. Freni.
“Ask anyone at the airport who’s in charge, they’ll say Ed Freni,” said Thomas P. Glynn, the chief executive of Massport.
The daily meetings also foster a spirit of cooperation among airlines that are typically the fiercest of rivals, said Norbert P. Strissel, director of airport operations at Logan for JetBlue Airways. An airline will make one of its gates available to a competitor in a pinch, especially if it is in danger of violating the time limit for keeping passengers in a plane on the ground, Mr. Strissel said at a recent meeting.
“We’ve been in that situation in years past, as well as other carriers here at Logan,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, we’re saying go ahead and get that plane to a gate and at least get the customers off of it.”
Credit M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times
That is not what happened at Kennedy on the first weekend in January.
Some passengers on a flight from France that landed late on Jan. 5 said they were still aboard when dawn broke the next morning, more than a full day after the storm had swept through the New York area. It was one of several international flights that landed and could not find a gate for hours.
The storm, which had been described as a bomb cyclone, dropped several inches of snow at Kennedy, but the runways had been cleared by Friday morning. Removing the snow was the Port Authority’s business. But sorting out the growing chaos in Terminal 1 was not.
Under Kennedy’s operating model, management of just about everything that happens inside the six terminals is left to the tenants, either airlines that have their own terminals or companies that manage terminals occupied by several airlines. Terminal 1 at Kennedy handles 21 foreign airlines but is operated by a consortium consisting of four of them: Air France, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and Lufthansa.
After the airport reopened on that Friday, the airlines, eager to deliver their delayed and detoured passengers to New York, started sending flights to Kennedy. It was up to the terminal’s managers to schedule access to its 11 gates, but they were quickly overwhelmed by the influx of jets.
The experience of Aeroflot, the Russian airline and a tenant at Terminal 1, illustrates how dysfunctional the situation became. At about 5:30 p.m. on Friday, an Aeroflot flight from Moscow arrived at Kennedy. But passengers said they were held on the plane for nearly three hours, and then had to wait an additional three hours to retrieve their luggage.
Credit M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times
That Saturday afternoon, officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took the unusual step of ordering the terminal closed to inbound flights. That move forced Aeroflot to have a plane that was headed there from Moscow turn back.
The problem had not been solved by the next day, so the Port Authority barred arrivals at Terminal 1 again on Sunday. Aeroflot had to cancel two flights that day from Moscow and one from Kennedy to Moscow.
Aeroflot blamed the cancellations on “the complicated infrastructure situation at the J.F.K. Airport and the lack of parking lots for aircraft,” according to Tass, the Russian news agency.
Adding misfortune to misery, on Sunday afternoon, a pipe burst in the ceiling of the arrivals section of Kennedy’s Terminal 4, flooding an area that had been crowded with stranded travelers and baggage. That mess, too, was not the Port Authority’s responsibility, but quickly became its problem. The agency sent workers to help the operator of Terminal 4, a company known as JFKIAT, and had to bar it from accepting international flights for hours that evening.
What became of the passengers whose flights were blocked from landing at Kennedy that weekend? Six planeloads of them wound up at Logan, Mr. Freni said. Without gates for all of them, airport officials had to close off the end of one of Logan’s runways and park them there, said Todd Smith, Massport’s director of aviation operations. Passengers were then taken by shuttle buses to the international terminal.
Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press
The six planes that were diverted to Logan from Kennedy on Saturday and Sunday, Mr. Smith said, included an Air Europa flight from Madrid and a Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo. Boston was the second of two unscheduled stops the Japanese plane made. It had nearly reached Kennedy when it was diverted to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. After leaving O’Hare for Kennedy, it was rerouted to Boston, where it stayed overnight while some of the passengers made it to New York by bus.
By the weekend, while thousands of suitcases were piling up at Kennedy, all was calm at Logan. Massport’s fleet of snow-removal equipment, which includes 14 plows with 27-foot blades and a rubber-tracked snow-groomer designed for a ski resort, had quickly cleared the airport’s six runways.
“Top-down management is sort of out of fashion these days,” Mr. Glynn said. But, he added, “top-down management works here and it works because people have respect for those at the top.”
Logan, of course, is smaller than Kennedy, and handles only a fraction of the international passengers that Kennedy does. But the responses from officials of the Port Authority in the last several weeks imply that the different management structures of the two airports explain much of the gap in performance.
Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority, has repeatedly apologized and vowed that there would not be a repeat. The agency appointed the former transportation secretary Ray H. LaHood to investigate what happened at Kennedy and said it would immediately make several changes in procedures. Among those changes would be to require airlines to notify the Port Authority whenever a plane is not assigned to a gate within 90 minutes of landing.
Speaking to an air-travel industry group in Manhattan recently, the Port Authority’s director of aviation, Huntley Lawrence, admitted that the agency had paid too little attention to passengers. Reflecting back to the 1960s, when the Port Authority first turned management of terminals over to private companies, he said: “No one ever dreamed that meant we would abdicate control of the customer experience at our airports. But we did.”
Now, Mr. Lawrence added, according to the text of his speech, “those days are over.”
Mr. Cotton said that Port Authority officials would await Mr. LaHood’s report, which is expected this spring. But, he added, “if his recommendation is that the Port Authority needs to take a more aggressive role, the Port Authority will take a more aggressive role.”
A proposed $50 million tax break on jet fuel which would primarily benefit Delta is in jeopardy after the airline eliminated a discount for the N.R.A.
But Ms. Amrich and her landlord, Ines Prelas, said they had heard nothing from the agency before she was removed from the plane.
The entire episode unfolded over a few hours on Jan. 16, after Ms. Amrich learned that her mother, Dixie J. Hanson, had been hospitalized. She could not afford a plane ticket, so Ms. Prelas bought one for her, using Traveler Help Desk because it was the cheapest option she could find. At that point, there was no indication that Ms. Amrich’s mother was dying, so she chose a flight for the next day.
But soon after, Ms. Amrich learned that her mother was in heart failure and was not expected to survive the night. It was around 2:30 p.m., and Ms. Prelas immediately called United and had Ms. Amrich switched onto Flight UA5712, leaving Colorado Springs at 5:15 p.m. That flight would go to Denver, where Ms. Amrich would make a connection to Minneapolis. Ms. Prelas showed The New York Times confirmation emails and a photo of Ms. Amrich’s boarding pass.
She rushed Ms. Amrich to the airport, about an hour’s drive from Pueblo. Ms. Amrich checked in: no problem. Her boarding pass was scanned at the gate: no problem. She took her seat. She buckled her seatbelt.
Minutes later, the gate agent came on board to remove her.
When Ms. Amrich pleaded, saying her mother was dying, the agent responded that her ticket had been refunded and that “nobody flies for free.”
Back in the airport, Ms. Amrich called Ms. Prelas, sobbing. Ms. Prelas got on the phone with the gate agent and offered to pay for another ticket.
“I said: ‘Take my credit card. We’ll straighten this out later, but get her on that plane,’” Ms. Prelas said. The agent, she said, responded that Ms. Amrich could not get back on the plane.
Ms. Prelas said she was given no explanation at the time, but United told The Times that the plane had already left by the time Ms. Prelas made that offer.
And so Ms. Amrich drove.
“I drove 1,000 miles, and she was gone before I got here,” she said. “I never stopped to rest. I went straight through. And she was gone.”
Ms. Gallant, the Traveler Help Desk supervisor, said that when Ms. Prelas contacted United to change Ms. Amrich’s flight, all Traveler Help Desk saw was that the reservation had been modified.
“We had no way of knowing this was a change by Ms. Amrich directly with the carrier,” she said in an email, adding that if the change had been unauthorized and the agency had not canceled the ticket, Ms. Amrich would have lost her money. “We voided the ticket to protect Ms. Amrich.”
“I am just so sorry for Ms. Amrich’s loss,” Ms. Gallant wrote. “It is tragic. I understand it was unfortunate the ticket ended up voided. Had she contacted us directly to make the change, this all would have been avoided.”
Ms. Prelas said that when she made the call, she did not have Traveler Help Desk’s number readily available and thought that contacting United directly would be the quickest way to make such an urgent change. She emphasized that she told the United representative she had booked the ticket through an online agency and that the representative had assured her there was no problem.
As Ms. Amrich drove across the Great Plains, Ms. Prelas made call after call, trying to find out what had happened. The next day, she said, a woman called her back from United’s Chicago headquarters. She wanted Ms. Amrich’s address so United could send flowers.
“What are the flowers going to do? You took away from her that she might have been able to see her mother alive,” Ms. Prelas said. “If I’d have been at that gate, I would have done everything in my power to get her back on that plane.”
Excess heat in Phoenix grounded more than 40 flights in recent days, and scientists say a warming climate could also mean more turbulent rides.