Air traffic control shuts down in Jamaica, stranding passengers

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(CNN) – In Jamaica, air traffic control was cut off for some parts of the morning and afternoon on Thursday, forcing flights to be canceled and thousands of frustrated passengers stranded or unable to reach the Caribbean island.

MBJ Airports Limited, the operator of Sangster International Airport near the popular resort destination of Montego Bay, confirmed to CNN in a news release that flights were canceled on Thursday morning “due to suspension of air traffic services”.

Of the airport Arrival board The cancellation began showing around 9:30 a.m. local time on May 12 Board of Departures Posting cancellations also begin around 10:30 p.m.

American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United flights were canceled, among others.

There was a similar story at the Norman Manley International Airport in the capital, Kingston. Arrival The cancellation began around 11:30 a.m., and Departure Canceled starting at 12:19 p.m.

Kurt Solomon, president of the Jamaica Air Traffic Controllers Association, told CNN that flights would resume on May 12 at 5 p.m., local time.

Robert Nesta Morgan, the minister without portfolio with information responsibility in the prime minister’s office, confirmed in a news release posted on his Twitter account that flights were being resumed.

“The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) seeks to advise the public that air traffic services are currently being restored as the dialogue between the Authority and its key stakeholders, particularly the Jamaica Air Traffic Controllers Association (JATCA), continues. . ” Stated in the publication.

Since then, Sangster has made a departure, Delta Flight DL1987 at 5:07 p.m. Manley has made an arrival, British Airways Flight BA2263 at 4:43 p.m.

Limited staffing

Sharon Hislop, commercial development and marketing manager at Sangster, told CNN that the airport was notified Thursday morning that the air traffic control center in Kingston did not have adequate support for air traffic due to “limited staffing”.

The JCAA then decided to suspend air traffic services and flights, Hislop said.

The Air Traffic Control Center in Kingston handles operations for all three of Jamaica’s international airports: Sangster, Manley and Ian Fleming International Airport in Ochoa Rios.

CNN Travel contacted JCAA on Thursday afternoon via email and phone for comment but received no response until 8 p.m.

Passengers are shown trapped in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on May 12, 2022.

Passengers are shown trapped in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on May 12, 2022.

TVJ

Hislop estimates that there were about 100 passengers on each flight who were affected by the suspension of services.

The shops at the airport were set to remain open overnight as some passengers were expected to stay overnight in Sangster, Hislop told CNN.

Local media The situation has been described as a strike, although officials contacted by CNN have not confirmed it is the case.

“We hear this, but we don’t know for sure,” Hislop was asked when a strike by air traffic controllers led to limited staffing that led to the suspension of flights.

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Solomon said an “emergency team” that was working at the Kingston Air Traffic Control Center on Thursday morning was unable to continue and that the team was shut down. Solomon could not explain why they stopped working.

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The contingency team is made up of management personnel for air traffic controllers.

Solomon also told CNN that the Kingston Air Traffic Control Center has constant equipment problems, and has been going on for many years.

Passenger frustration

Justin Novak told CNN he was flying from Toronto to Montego Bay on Thursday when his flight was diverted 30 minutes before landing.

Novak says the pilots did not say more unless they were forced to return.

“It was tense to return home. Mixed reactions but the majority was obviously upset,” Novak said.

Novak went to Jamaica with his wife for an eight-day vacation. He will now lose two days due to the delay, he said.

“What I don’t understand is obviously they knew this was happening but let us get on the plane anyway. =,” Novak added. “We have rescheduled for 12 o’clock tomorrow [Friday, May 13]But who knows what will happen. “

Erin Fletcher Langen also had problems Thursday as she traveled from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Jamaica for work.

She was on a layover in Atlanta when the problems started. Her flight was delayed, then canceled and then hoped for when officials told her that Sangster (MBJ) had reopened. It was then officially canceled again.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions. When they said MBJ was opening, everyone cheered and applauded. When they said it was canceled (again), people were not necessarily mad, but sad. People were crying.” Were. ” Said Fletcher Lange.

She said people at the airport were saying how they hadn’t traveled in a long time and a lot of people were traveling for the wedding.

She said she hopes to fly on a rescheduled flight on Friday.

Offered an apology

American Airlines, which had more flights affected at Sangster than other airlines, issued Apologies for the change fee Affected passengers.

“Due to air traffic service disruptions affecting air travel in Jamaica, Delta has issued a travel waiver for those whose travel may be affected between May 12-13,” it said on its news website.

“This waiver allows fare bookings to be waived for customers when the travel booked on or before May 16, 2022 is the same cabin as the originally booked service.”

You should check with your carrier if your flight is disrupted.

Top image: Normal view of Norman Manley International Airport from 2016. (Henry Romero / Reuters)

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