After Hurricane Sandy: Travel Update


Slowly, but surely, travel infrastructure in and around New York City is recovering from the impact of Sandy. The storm, which made landfall in New Jersey on Monday evening, had a significant impact on airports, rail lines, and roads. Fortunately, thanks in large part to advance planning, just a couple days after the storm passed, airports are back up and running and the trains are not far behind.

By Wednesday morning airports in Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, DC were back online, handling near normal levels of traffic. New York’s JFK airport and Newark airport both reopened on Wednesday as well, though with limited operations. And as of Thursday morning all major airports in the New York City area were open again and handling both cargo and passenger traffic.

Airlines canceled approximately 20,000 flights as a result of the storm. Delta alone cancelled roughly 3,600 and JetBlue 1,500. And while airlines are not all back up to 100% operations in the region yet most flights are running. By the end of the weekend all airlines expect that they will be running at or close to normal schedules.

The approach taken by the airlines with the largest presence in New York City—JetBlue, United, and Delta—was reasonably consistent. All three evacuated most aircraft from the area in the days prior to the storm. As soon as the airports reopened the airlines began to move planes back into position. Many of the early flights weren’t carrying regular passengers, however. Instead the seats were filled with airline employees, flying in to assist bringing the operations back online.

For United Airlines the assist came in the form of more than 500 customer service and ramp employees taking on temporary assignments in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, trying to clear the backlog of passengers. United was also operating extra flights or using larger aircraft than normal on some routes to move more passengers around their network.

JetBlue altered their operations somewhat following the storm. On November 1 they ran their LaGuardia schedule out of JFK, where they had more capacity and facilities available. The company operated approximately 50% of their regular JFK schedule on Thursday and expects to be back to 100% by Saturday. JetBlue also was able to move members of their “Ready Team” volunteer crew into the NYC area to work alongside the American Red Cross and other relief agencies to support the recovery efforts.

For Delta, following the large number of canceled flights, the airline was back to normal by Friday. As of 4 pm on Thursday they officially ended special operations and announcements specific to the Hurricane.

For travelers looking to ride the rails rather than take to the sky Amtrak has resumed service into and out of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station as of Friday. Schedules were limited and subject to delays due to the recovery efforts but they company expects to move passengers throughout their Northeast Corridor sector reasonably reliably going forward. Commuter rail lines are also running with limited service. Some routes may be down for extended periods of time while the tracks are cleared and repaired.

Photo credit: Traffic at JFK via Shutterstock