BOSTON (CBS) – More study is needed.
That was the outcome of the Diversion Forum called by the Department of Transportation held in Washington on Wednesday. It was held after a series of airport and weather events caused a major tie-up of planes arriving at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut on October 29 from the Boston and New York areas.
Passengers were stranded on the tarmac for over seven hours as the snow piled up and passengers became frustrated when they could not reach the terminal.
It turned out that a similar event took place in Washington several years ago, but no one seemed to know actually when it took place.
About 600 people associated with airports, airlines, the FAA, the U.S. Weather Service, the Coast Guard and others interested in aviation attended the morning session with the group, breaking into three groups in the afternoon. The groups were airlines, customer service and airports. The airport group included Ed Freni, Director of Aviation for Massport that runs Logan Airport in Boston.
“It was definitely worthwhile, and a step in the right direction,” said Freni. “Obviously, communications between airports is crucial.”
He indicated that Massport had offered to host an annual session in Boston that would bring together many of the airport operators in New England to discuss their mutual problems, such as FAA annual safety exercises and inspection of airport snow equipment. This session should prove helpful and may be long overdue.
Freni pointed out that such a meeting should include airport and FAA personnel from the New York region as a large amount of air traffic is often diverted to New England airports from that region of the country.
“We’re always ready to help the system remain open and not have gridlock occur. We’ll take 100 aircraft if there’s an emergency,” concluded Freni in a telephone interview on his return to Boston.
With JFK and Newark shut down on Oct. 29 because of repairs and an unexpected electrical outage, Boston accepted 20 diversions, including 13 international flights from Europe and Canada in addition to its regular afternoon flights.
One of the areas that was discussed in Washington was a better way to handle international flights that are diverted and require customs personnel clear passengers when they leave the aircraft.
Over the last decade, airlines usually cancel all flights coming into an airport if a major snowstorm is predicted.
Bob Weiss and “All Things Travel” can be heard weekends on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.