JFK Delta Terminal A Living Hellhole, Cops Called To Quell Crowds

Around 9:30 this morning, NYPD descended on the JFK Delta Terminal to calm an unruly mob of holiday travelers. I myself escaped the same terminal 2 hours earlier, and I could already tell at that point that something was going to go terribly wrong.

I got there at 5:30 am. The security lines for Terminal 2 and 3, one from the left and one from the right stretched so long that they met each other (UPDATE: Perhaps due to only one security belt being open on each side!). Planes were being held to accomodate passengers stuck in security line. Considering the high volume of travelers, many of whom were rebookings from the weekend snowstorm, the place was understaffed. Not all the ticket agent counters were staffed. A few floaters appeared briefly in the scrum but quickly disappeared.

People were missing flights just because they couldn’t get through the line. There was no communication with passengers to make sure that people who just needed to drop bags off weren’t in the kiosk assist line; once a whole section of the line found out they’d just been standing in the wrong line for over an hour many got pretty pissed.

A new ticket agent appeared and promptly began arguing with two old ladies in wheelchairs. The staff was very harried. Some kept their cool, others were on the edge of losing it.

At the time, having nothing better to do, I tweeted, “going to be some bad incident in jfk delta today. I can feel it. Backed up the yinyang. Low staff. No communication. People starting to snap.” A few hours later, police were called to squash a gate riot. Delta, send some reserve troops in, stat!

UPDATE: The AP reports the fight broke out when passengers flying to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti who had been trying to get home on standby since Sunday with no luck, finally snapped and unleashed their wrath on the customer service reps. I was in line for the ticket counter when I heard them calling all people for Port-Au-Prince, Haiti to go check in the special international area. The passengers who responded were excited and relieved at the time. If that ultimately ended in failure, I can see how they would be crushed.

Luckily it only took an “hour” for the fracas to be resolved.

Delta told Consumerist, “We apologize to these customers for this delay and have been working around the clock to get our customers home for the holidays despite the disruptions caused by weather over the last few days.”

Police React to Unruly Crowd at Delta JFK Terminal [1010WINS]
Police Called to Quell “Unruly Crowd” at JFK Delta Terminal [Gothamist]


Edit Your Comment

  1. ConsumerPop says:

    So glad I am not flying Delta or out of JFK this week…

    • FaustianSlip says:

      If I were going anywhere on the Eastern seaboard, I think I’d consider either renting a car or taking a train or something at this point. It might take a little longer, but it has to be preferable to rotting away at JFK for days on end. Ugh. Heck, even taking the train from Penn Station down to, say, BWI (or up to Boston) and then trying to fly out of there might meet with marginally more success.

  2. Miraluka says:

    Glad I’m not flying at all this week…

  3. Gravitational Eddy says:

    ….So glad I’m not fying ANYWHERE this year…

  4. ScarletsWalk says:

    I got caught at an airport on a day like this once. 8 hours in line before I gave up, got a room, and tried the next day. I had tickets, but the kiosks wouldn’t let me check in so I had to go to the counter, which was deluged with people who had been bumped or diverted and trying to make alternate arrangements.

    Quick triage of people would have helped so much. People who need tickets – go over there. People who have tickets – go over there. Special needs passengers – go over there. People whose flight is supposed to leave within the next hour – come over here. It wouldn’t have been perfect, but standing in line for hours and hours and hours was worse.

    • Esquire99 says:

      Such a system would require foresight, logic, common sense and customer service agents who actually want to help customers. As we all know, airline employees (pilots excepted) are completely devoid of all of these things.

      • thisistobehelpful says:

        Such a system would have required half of the east coast not being knocked out due to a gigantic storm that shut down all the airports in the NYC and DC areas and destroyed car travel as well. This was not that forseeable.

        • Esquire99 says:

          If you’ve ever been at an airport encountering ANY type of delay, you know this incident isn’t isolated. Airline gate staff are rarely, if ever, helpful and efficient during a delay. No one bothers to “triage,” as suggested above, in order to move things along at a faster pace. I think this is because, in part, no one cares. Clearly there are exceptions, but they seem to be few and far between. Crappy customer service is the norm in many industries (big box retail, etc.). Unbelievably, almost comically bad customer service is the norm when it comes to airports/airlines.

          • thisistobehelpful says:

            I’ve been at the airport in many a delay. I stood in line for three hours at American coming out of Vegas on the big convention weekend and missed the flight. I knew that I was traveling at an INCREDIBLY high volume time being both around the holidays and the weekend of two major conventions. I didn’t become an asshole because AA took so long processing the line that I missed the flight and spent an extra 11 hours traveling. Griping in line to fellow passengers is one thing, starting such a riot as to require the local PD is completely beyond what people should’ve been doing.

            Triage is based on the idea that the customers/patients with the most need are treated first and people that need bandaids wait. In this case EVERYONE was at the same level of need. They all missed their flights, had canceled and delayed flights or were now being bumped all around. Delta let them switch without fees and accomodated as much and as fast as they could. This is not a case of needing “triage,” this is a case of “Act of God” so deal with it. They probably should’ve called in more staff but that doesn’t change the number of ticket counters, the number of flight problems or the number of passengers needing new accomodation.

            • Esquire99 says:

              While I agree that the riot was uncalled for, I don’t agree that everyone is at the same level of need here. Granted, they all “need” to get out of JFK, but with many different destinations, connections, etc. and the variety of flight schedules, some people “need” to be seen quicker than others. If you’re flying to bumfuck, MT and the next flight isn’t for 12 hours, you don’t need to be seen right away. If you’re flying from JFK to LA and the next flight leaves in 1hr, you need to be seen quickly to ensure you’re not still waiting in line when that flight takes off (assuming you could have gotten on it).

              • thisistobehelpful says:

                And with 6,500 passengers arriving at the same time with maybe 8 ticket counters how would they really have had a chance to sort that out? It’s just not near any normal volume. Extra planes? Extra pilots? Extra flight attendants? Baggage handlers? It just was not feasible. JFK is too big of a hub going to other huge hubs. Plus it’s the only really international airport “in” the city.

                And even if they’re going to bumfuck Montana they wouldn’t be able to check availability of seating AND when the next flight is while you’re in line since the computer access is still at the checkout counters. Bumfuck MT is also probably service through like Helena or something so getting all connecting flights together for all people there would be incredibly difficult. Plus all the connecting flights that come from upstate New York and New England. Loads of the Logan flights connect through NYC. And then the people taking multiple carriers… It just goes on and on.

          • jamar0303 says:

            THIS. Compare to Japan, which gets battered by typhoons and earthquakes on a regular basis. Their airline people are much more helpful when that happens.

    • RookOmega says:

      Problem with that is that most of the people would jump into the “plane leaving in 1 hour” line – simply because they can.

      • Esquire99 says:

        Agreed. Your fellow passengers can sometimes carry just as much blame for the long lines as the carriers themselves do.

  5. RandomHookup says:

    Is that a metric or an English measure yingyang?

  6. RickinStHelen says:

    Grumpy people trying to get home, understaffed counters, poor customer service, uncaring TSA folks, and poorly designed facilities. Tell me, what could possibly go wrong?

  7. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I was stuck at an airport for 6 hours or so during a giant snow storm.
    Everyone was passed out on floors, complaining, yelling on phones, etc.
    I thought it was kind of fun, though.
    Plus it helped me miss a day of work.

  8. cmdr.sass says:

    The holidays are supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation. Just stay home. See your great Aunt Mathilda some other time.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Christmas is one of the only times in which family members can get together and spend time together as a whole. Proverbial killing two birds with one stone. If you’re going to visit Aunt Mathilda, it would be great to see Uncle Hubert, Cousin Ichabod, and Great-Aunt Enid at the same time. Airfare is expensive. I don’t blame people for needing to travel during the holiday season. I blame the airlines for standing in the way of them getting there.

      • Sanspants says:

        How is Cousin Ichabod? I haven’t talked to him in ages.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Doing better now that Thanksgiving is over. No one remembered to warn him about the pumpkins on the front step.

      • phonebem says:

        Pretty much exactly why 7-8 hours is my cutoff in deciding whether to drive or fly. When you consider transit to/from the airport(s), dealing with security, airport people in general, tarmac delays, plus the cost you really don’t save much time on a shorter trip. Plus to me, the actual cramped, noisy flight is usually the most pleasant part of any trip…

    • halothane says:

      My options are a) travel 350 miles to visit my parents and brother for the holidays or b) stay home, alone and depressed. My family can’t come down HERE because they work retail and can’t get those days off. My friends are all busy with their families, understandably, so it’d just be me and my dogs. Really, when my options are stay home and be lonely or fight holiday traffic, life sucks either way, but at least I get the benefit of making my mom happy by trekking up there.

      • WagTheDog says:

        I like spending the holidays alone with my dogs. We go for our annual trek around the state capitol. But I realize that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

        Still, I’d drive 350 miles before I’d fly. Of course, I used to live in LA and had a 100 mile commute, so maybe my mileage varies. [sorry could not resist the pun]

      • RandomHookup says:

        The alone thing ain’t that bad. I’ll be hanging out at home watching Christmas porn… I mean, watching holiday-themed adventure movies.

      • cash_da_pibble says:

        If it’s less than a day of driving-
        I’d rather drive than fly.
        350 miles is equivalent to 6 hours of driving-
        sounds like-
        *squeals like Flapjack*

    • ahleeeshah says:

      Also, you have students trying to get home from college for Christmas (I know my campus shut down if it was closed for more than a week, so you couldn’t stay, you had to leave), kids whose parents have custody agreements where the child is to be with the other parent for the holidays, and other situations like that. Some people don’t have built-in immediate families in the same city or even state. It would take me 12 hours to reach my closest family, and that’s my dads, not my Great Aunt Mildred.

  9. KyleOrton says:

    All because Wall Street execs are worried about bonuses and flew commercial.

  10. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I just hope Detroit stays clear so that the BF can get home O_o

  11. Cameraman says:

    My wife, toddler, and I are all going to Connecticut from central New Jersey for the weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, when we have to go anywhere, we drive (my 2 year old is very, very well behaved for a toddler, but he has meltdowns as all kids do and it is unfair to subject other flyers to kids’ bad behavior).

    Fortunately, it’s just a 4 hour drive (we have to stop to let the kid stretch his legs and generally run around), so I can be back at work on Sunday morning.

    Sooooo glad I’m not flying.

    • wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

      Thank you for realizing the travel limits of your small human; I hope to one day be an aware parent myself.

    • tbax929 says:

      This is one reason why I’m trying to so hard to convince the rest of my immediate family to move to AZ, where the rest of us already are. I don’t mind traveling for pleasure, but traveling around the holidays is such a huge pain in the ass.

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      Kudos to you for respecting other potential air travelers, thank you.

    • mythago says:

      I applaud your being aware of your toddler’s limits, but it’s not “bad behavior” for a two-year-old to have a meltdown in a stressful situation like a crowded airport. Toddlers don’t have the experience, cognitive ability or language skills to deal with severe emotional stress calmly. A normal twelve-year-old throwing a similar tantrum would be “bad”.

  12. MalcoveMagnesia says:

    I escaped JFK yesterday out of that same gate (and truly thankful I made it, even though the confirmed first class upgrade that I had used miles to upgrade when ticketing got yanked away and I was put in a middle seat directly in front of a lav).

    According to knowledgeable people on FlyerTalk, for flights between NYC & SFO/LAX on Sunday 12/10, United got 9 out of 15 in the air, American 8 out of 14, Virgin 7 n 11, Continental 12 of 13, JetBlue 10 out of 13 and Delta… exactly TWO out of 11. Great jorb, Delta bean counters!

  13. JohnDeere says:

    im glad im a couch potato, and the fridge is as far as i ever have to go.

  14. headhot says:

    A vast majority of the Airline’s problems are due to mis- (or no) communication. Why don’t they have a manager there who can stand up, take charge and start moving people to where they need to be, instead of the staff deal with that mass of people like they would any other day?

    That being said, when ever things go wrong at the airport, I don’t stand in a line, I get on the cell phone to the resevations. They can usually square things away much faster then any one at a counter. Just make sure your not checking any bags.

  15. theholymac says:

    This is basically why I drive everywhere if possible. ESPECIALLY on holidays. Roadtrips are awesome, folks!

  16. AI says:

    This is why I support the development of Star Trek transporters.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      Right, because Delta wouldn’t accidentally send ME to Miami and my ARM to DFW. And then it’d be six weeks of claim forms and insurance disputes before they’d transport my arm back onto me.

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      Airlines would promptly tack on severe baggage transport fees, cancellation fees, crowd people into the terminals and on the platforms themselves, overbook the schedules set by engineering, have the transporter platforms understaffed, under trained and overworked transporter engineers left manning the devices, and claim the money they saved by not having to serve an in-flight snack/meal was actually lost in the increased man hours required to scan all passenger checked and carry on luggage for undisclosed tribbles.

    • zlionsfan says:

      not that it would change much, because they were frequently out of order.

      And really, would you trust people not to accidentally beam you to the wrong location, then apologize because there were supposed to be other people where you were standing?

    • zlionsfan says:

      not that it would change much, because they were frequently out of order.

      And really, would you trust people not to accidentally beam you to the wrong location, then apologize because there were supposed to be other people where you were standing?

  17. Elbee23 says:

    Delta’s terminal at JFK has been a problem for a long time. I had to cancel my holiday travel in 2008 because of it…I got there plenty early, but plenty early just isn’t early enough when it comes to Delta during the holidays.

    I got them to issue me a credit for the missed flight (it required a letter; phone calls were insufficient to persuade anyone to do anything), but since then I refuse to fly Delta for any reason. If you must fly Delta, do not do so out of JFK. Ever.

  18. W10002 says:

    I’m glad all of my family is in the same state I live in, rather than out of state, so I don’t have to fly anywhere during any holidays.

  19. Guppy06 says:

    I await Albany sending in the state militia, the NYNG marching down the terminal stairs, driving the crowd of beleaguered Delta passengers before them ala Potemkin.

  20. miss_roxxan says:

    this is why i don’t visit family on holidays…sorry mom!

  21. bermygirl says:

    Super, I’ll be flying through JFK tomorrow on my way from Bermuda to Chicago. Luckily I’m flying American, and will not have to go through check in/security. Though with a large storm being predicted in the midwest, who knows, I just may be subjected to it yet.

  22. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    My brother was caught at National yesterday (I guess it’s Reagan now? Anyway, the DC airport that is not Dulles) and said there was a literal near-riot, for similar reasons, plus the total inability of DC airports to clear runways after that kind of snow so they had a multi-day backup of passengers to clear.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      I’ll be that grumpy old guy five decades from now demanding the flying taxidriver mag-jet me to National Airport. Louder each time until he finally groks what I mean.
      And then I’ll say, “Thank you very much. Vat-birthed whippersnapper.”
      Then I’ll hit him with my cane. Because what’s the point in being an old man if you can’t be a mean old man?

      • Doncosmic says:

        As someone who has lived in Arlington County most of my life, I agree, I will never call it Reagan, ever.

      • echovictorecho says:

        Glad everyone’s safe. As a certified Turbulence Wuss, I’d rather wait for hours than fly anywhere near a massive snowstorm, ten times out of ten. Yes, even if I’m flying JFK to ORD and the storm’s in…I don’t know…FAI.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      It’s Reagan National Airport. So technically, it’s both Reagan and National. I usually call it Reagan because for some reason, National causes confusion.

    • brianguyy says:

      yes, that’s why they call it Reagan National.

    • FaustianSlip says:

      Well, it can always be worse. A few years ago, a friend of mine was caught in an actual riot at the airport in New Delhi. Nothing says “Happy holidays!” like Indian police and tear gas!

      Seriously, this sounds awful. The irony is that New England was bracing for a hit, too, and we only got a few inches. I was an undergrad at the University of Delaware the last time a huge storm hit, and it took them days just to get the streets cleared- we were hiking through hip-deep snow to get to the dining halls for a while. They were totally unprepared for that volume of snow.

  23. Razor512 says:

    thats the problem with airports, on days when it is crowded, the places are understaffed, and even worst, the few that are working will be carrying on a conversation or telling their life story. there should be no reason for some people to be at the counter for such a long time, there just so many delays.

  24. Ronin Democrat says:

    Glad i flew lat wednesday, Virgin to SFO.

    Eat yellow snow Delta…. Understaffed. HAHAHAHA

  25. RandomHookup says:

    One of the best options is to travel on Christmas Day itself. It’s a lot less crowded and you can end up causing a second wave of gift opening, rather than the embarrassing tsunami of gifts at daylight. Most of your family isn’t going anywhere for 3-4 days anyway.

    • lihtox says:

      Travel on Christmas would seem more reasonable (to those who celebrate it) if we’d take the old carol to heart, and celebrate *twelve* days of Christmas. No reason to try to stuff it all into one day, particularly given all the preparation we put into it.

  26. Preppy6917 says:

    Traveling from Miami to New Orleans was a breeze…of course, our hazardous season is June through November.

  27. savdavid says:

    I have no sympathy for anyone who rewards the airlines by paying their absurd fees and ticket prices. They deserve every delay they get.

  28. Crabby Cakes says:

    Hold me, Consumerist friends! I’m flying Delta into JFK from LAX Wednesday night and returning Sunday afternoon.
    That last minute awesome fare doesn’t seem like the best idea anymore.

  29. Moosenogger says:

    It always blows my mind how long it takes some of these staff members to get anything done. When things get busy, I move as fast as I can to get as many people through a line as possible without making a mistake.

    You’d think someone could have taken it upon themselves to just call for people dropping off bags. That probably would have shortened the line considerably and made fewer people miss their flights.

  30. spamtasticus says:

    Delta is, in my opinion the worst airline on the planet. I’ve told the whole story before so I will only touch on it here but they once made me wait until “my turn” when trying to board a plane with a broken hip using crutches.

  31. CapHwys says:

    Wouldn’t JFK call for the Port Authority Police and not the NYPD?

  32. CapHwys says:

    Wouldn’t JFK call for the Port Authority Police and not the NYPD?

  33. DonToolBag says:

    Hey everyone, I was THERE. It was the most amazingly disgusting thing I had ever seen, and the worst travel experience I have ever had.

    While there, I searched on my blackberry on the consumerist for an executive email list to send, and I found one. This is the email I had sent. (Approximately 7:40 AM)

    “I found these email addresses doing a search on my blackberry.

    But if anyone reading this has any authority on anything, fix terminal 2 at JFK airport asap. No authority, people cutting in lines, no organization, people screaming, many flights and connections will be missed.

    Attached is a picture!

    Help! Never seen disorganization like this!

    If you want video of people screaming and cutting lines, I will send it!”

    No response back from them Delta :(

  34. That's Consumer007 to you says:

    This is the logical conclusion / end result of an air travel system that was designed exactly to treat human beings like red ants. People are not only shoved into flying tubes like sardines to fight each other and staff over lack of room, being trapped for long periods of time and other maladies, but now, unlike before 9/11, airports have become corridors of hell stripped of any personal liberty, privacy, or respect, where you are no longer a citizen, you are an airport inmate, and you BETTER obey, because if anything goes wrong IT IS YOUR FAULT and you WILL be PUNISHED!

    The whole fucking system needs to be scrapped, the people who support the current concept jailed and tortured, and airports and airplanes redone in the following manner:

    Airplanes – designed like trains or cruise ships with separate sound proof cabins, some solo size and some cabinet size. There is a safe seat just like the current seats, you buckle in when the light is on, if not, too bad for you. Kids have to stay in there during the flight with the door closed or get muzzled and tasered :) Of course, this would mean more planes need to be built compared to the number in the current fleet. Good for commerce, the airlines should have to build it and not charge us for it either – cost of doing business, shut up, hire people, reinvent yourself and have a nice day.

    Airports – All security and airline employees need to be monitored like a hawk by a quality control service, and the moment any situation like this story mentions erupts, or anything where customers are not treated right, the service offenders are excused, disciplined and fired. Planes monitored by video too for the same thing like the OJ incident. Hey – higher bar, more hiring, reinvent yourself, try harder and have a nice day.

    Airports redesigned with plenty of extra room for lines, comfy couches if lord forbid people have to wait more than an hour, more seats, more comfortable seats, plenty of plugins everywhere for laptops and data, etc. Any major screwups where people have to stay overnight, hotels covered and NOT out of pocket for passengers, period, ever. And yes, NICE hotel rooms, NOT airport holding cells.

    No overbooking or bumping off flights, period, ever. No lost baggage, try TRACKING the damn things!!! Have a flight attendant and a passenger from each flight stand beside baggage felon handlers to make them behave and stop damaging everyone’s stuff.

    Parking – if there isn’t enough room at the standard parking, airports and hotels cart you around to more parking free, you shouldn’t be punished for their lack of planning.

    Fares – No more fricking butt fucking face slapping fees, it’s all in the price. Traveling with baggage and getting meals on the plane are all included, no hassle.

    Baggage Claim – Everyone sits on nice comfy couches and waits for their number to be called to be handed their baggage so the fights and overcrowding and people taking each other’s stuff at the carousels end.

    I’m sure I have forgotten things in my tirade, and other people will add them but it amounts to be a fucking human, and then other people will be. Disrespect them 24/7 and they will riot. No justice, no peace, and until all this happens, chain up the airline CEO’s in the middle of the hallways from hell and let the victims get even on their way to their flight.

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      sorry on the ants, that is “fire ants”, not “red ants” and on the cabin size that is “solo” and “family” size. “Cabinet” size might be okay for pet storage lol.

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      Oh and I’m sure someone will say in regards to cleaning it will take longer to clean and prep planes. Have more hangars, more planes ready to go and there you go – more cleaning jobs – good for the economy.

  35. pot_roast says:

    “once a whole section of the line found out they’d just been standing in the wrong line for over an hour many got pretty pissed.” – at my old airline job, we had a very amusing and LOUD employee walking around in front of the counters directing people and making sure that people were in the right lines. It helped a LOT. Also, a lot of people jump in that First Class line with coach tickets so they can try to cut in front of other people. But in my experience, most people simply show up at the last minute and then get pissed off at the employees because they missed the bag cut off time. It really is a stressful position.

  36. Sumtron5000 says:

    I can’t imagine being alone on Christmas, so I understand why people choose to fly at one of the busiest and most expensive times of the year, but this is why my brother comes home AFTER the holidays: cheaper, less stressful, and easier to get time off of work.

  37. tiger ali says:

    Delta service is total garbage anyway. Not surprised.