Air traffic control shuts down in Jamaica, stranding passengers

(CNN) – Air traffic control was halted for parts on Thursday morning and afternoon in Jamaica, forcing flights to be canceled and leaving thousands of frustrated passengers stranded there or unable to reach the Caribbean island.

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

The airport arrivals board started showing cancellations around 9:30 am local time on May 12th. The departures board also started posting cancellations around 10:30 am

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

It was a similar story to Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, the capital. Arrivals were canceled around 11:30 am and departures were canceled as of 12:19 pm

Kurt Solomon, president of the Jamaica Air Traffic Controllers Association, told CNN that flights would resume at 5:00 pm local time on May 12.

Robert Nesta Morgan, a minister without portfolio with responsibility for information at the Prime Minister’s Office, posted a press release on his Twitter account confirming the resumption of flights.

“The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) wishes to inform the public that, as the dialogue between the Authority and its key stakeholders, in particular the Jamaica Air Traffic Controllers Association (JATCA), progresses, air traffic services are currently being restored “, the communiqué said.

Since that time, Sangster has shown a departure, Delta flight DL1987 at 17:07 Manley has shown an arrival, British Airways flight BA2263 at 16:43

Limited staff

Sharon Hislop, Sangster’s commercial development and marketing manager, told CNN that the airport was informed Thursday morning that the Kingston air traffic control center did not have enough air traffic support due to “limited staff. “.

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

Kingston Air Traffic Control Center controls operations for all three international airports in Jamaica: Sangster, Manley and Ian Fleming International Airport in Ocho Rios.

CNN Travel reached out to the JCAA for comment via email and phone Thursday afternoon, but received no response at 8pm ET.

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

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

TVJ

Hislop estimated there were around 100 passengers on each flight affected by the suspension of services.

The airport shops were supposed to stay open late into the night as some passengers were expected to stay in Sangster overnight, Hislop told CNN.

Local media called the situation a strike, although no official contacted by CNN confirmed that it was.

“This is what we heard, but we can’t know for sure,” Hislop said when asked if a strike by air traffic controllers led to staff shortages which in turn led to the suspension of flights.

Solomon said “an emergency team” that was working Thursday morning at the Kingston Air Traffic Control Center was unable to continue and that team stopped. Solomon was unable to say why they stopped working.

The emergency team is made up of the management staff of the air traffic controllers.

Solomon also told CNN that there have been persistent problems with equipment at the Kingston Air Traffic Control Center and that they have been going on for several years.

Passenger frustrations

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

Novak says the pilots didn’t say much except they were forced to turn around.

“It was a tense homecoming. Mixed reactions but the majority are visibly upset,” Novak said.

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

“What I don’t understand is that they apparently knew it was happening, but let us get on the plane anyway. =” Novak added. “We are rescheduled for 12 noon tomorrow [Friday, May 13]but who knows what will happen “.

Erin Fletcher Langen also had problems Thursday while flying from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Jamaica on business.

He was parked in Atlanta when the problems started. Her flight was delayed, then canceled and then there was hope when officials told them Sangster (MBJ) had reopened. Then he was officially canceled again.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions. When they said MBJ was opening, everyone cheered and cheered. When they said it was canceled (again), people weren’t necessarily crazy, but sad. People were crying.” Fletcher Langen said.

He said people at the airport said they hadn’t traveled in a long time and that many people were traveling for weddings.

He said he hopes to leave on a rescheduled flight on Friday.

Offered Waivers

American Airlines, which had more affected flights to Sangster than any other airline, issued a change fee exemption to affected passengers.

“Due to air traffic service disruptions impacting air travel to Jamaica, Delta has issued a travel exemption for those whose travel may be affected May 12-13,” its website reads. news.

“This waiver allows the fare difference to be waived for customers when the rebooked trip occurs by May 16, 2022 in the same service cabin originally booked.”

You should check with your carrier if your flight has been disrupted.

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

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