Cancelled flights strand thousands at area airports


| mhayes@queenscourier.com |

Photo via Twitter/@PANYNJ
Photo via Twitter/@PANYNJ

Hurricane Sandy has cancelled flights out of JFK and LaGuardia airports stranding thousands.

Hurricane Sandy has shut down New York airports forcing stranded passengers and evacuated residents to flee to nearby hotels to seek refuge.

“Our first thought, as always, is the safety of our customers and our employees,” said Rick Sacco, the general manager at the Holiday Inn Express at Kennedy Airport.

Airports do remain open, but air carriers have ceased operation until further notice, according to the Port Authority. The organization encourages travelers to not travel to the airports at all.

Delta Airlines in particular has cancelled a couple thousand flights, and have halted operations in and out of New York airports, according to Delta spokesperson Eric Torbenson. Flights are set to resume at a to-be-determined time on Tuesday.

With flights cancelled for at least Monday, October 29 at both LaGuardia and JFK International, hundreds of passengers are stranded in Queens, hoping to ride out the storm comfortably.

“We’ve activated our hurricane action plan,” said Jimmy Mitts, director of security at the Sheraton LaGuardia East. “We are totally up and running, and we have enough staff on hand.”

Members of the staff from both of the hotels are staying in rooms so they can stay off of the roads.

“We have about one half of the staff staying at the hotel as of now,” said Sacco.

Residents from the nearby Rockaways and other areas that were mandated to evacuate also headed to hotels to get out of harms’ way.

“We’re preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best,” said Ed Staniszewski, general manager at the Sheraton. “We’re fully prepared to be without power for a number of days.”

Many area hotels, including the Sheraton, have emergency generators that will kick on to accommodate guests in times of severe weather. The Sheraton’s generator can power the hotel for up to three days.

The Holiday Inn Express at JFK still has open rooms for upcoming reservations, and will hold them for as long as possible. The Sheraton LaGuardia East, however, is completely booked with airport passengers and local community residents.

“Everything is depending on what’s going on outside and in the area,” said Mitts of what security’s next move is. Their emergency plan will go into effect on a circumstantial basis.

Shuttle service for both hotels is still underway, but as the weather intensifies, it may have to be cancelled. Currently, shuttle service to local areas such as drug stores is going on at the JFK Holiday Inn.

“They’re all stuck, and we try to do the best we can and let everyone be as happy as they can be,” said Sacco.