NEW YORK (AP) — A power outage in a terminal of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport stretched into a second day Friday after forcing some flights to be canceled or diverted, including one that was turned around and sent back to New Zealand after nearly making it to the U.S.
The airport operators said in a tweet late Thursday that Terminal 1, which handles some of the airport’s international flights, would remain closed Friday “due to electrical issues.”
The outage was caused by an electrical panel failure that led to a small fire, which was quickly extinguished, authorities said.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs New York’s major airports, said it was working to accommodate affected flights at JFK’s four other active terminals.
The agency did not provide any estimate of how many flights were canceled or diverted, but thousands of travelers were likely affected.
Yahayra Hunt and her husband were sent to a hotel near the airport after their flight to Rome was canceled Thursday. They’re part of a group of 16 people who booked an 11-day tour to Italy and Israel.
Hunt, 46, said members of her group were told Friday that their flight to Italy wouldn’t take place until Monday.
“Being stuck in a hotel during your vacation is not fair at all,” said Hunt, who owns a beauty salon in North Carolina.
Some planes were forced to return to their points of origin.
Kelly Shea, who owns a travel agency in Indianapolis, said she heard from clients Thursday who spent eight hours on a flight from Milan … to Milan.
The clients, a couple who had gone to the Venice Carnival, were flying home to Indiana through New York when the plane turned around. When they returned to the Milan airport, the couple told Shea that the ticket counter was “chaos,” with people screaming.
“And of course, by the time they got up to the counter, there were no more seats left on the next flight,” Shea said. “So I immediately tried to put them on the flight the next day, but my computer system already showed big zeros.”
Shea said the best she could do was book a return flight for them on Sunday, three days after they were supposed to be back in Indiana.
An Air New Zealand flight was two-thirds of the way across the Pacific Ocean when it had to make a U-turn and head back to Auckland. The flight landed back in New Zealand after more than 16 hours in the air.
Air New Zealand said through a spokesperson that the flight turned back because diverting it to another U.S. airport could have stranded it where it couldn’t make planned connections with other scheduled passengers. Passengers on the diverted jet were booked on other flights.
Terminal 1 at Kennedy opened in the late 1990s. It is scheduled to be replaced by a new, $9.5 billion terminal now under construction. Groundbreaking was initially supposed to happen in 2020 but was delayed until last summer by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia.
____ This story has been corrected to show that the Port Authority said it was working to accommodate flights at other terminals, not other airports.