Travelers Aid Assists Stranded
Travelers During ‘Snowzilla’
“We were present when others were not”
The Blizzard of 2016 (aka Snowzilla on Twitter and with the bored TV weather teams) dumped more than 2 feet of snow on the Mid-Atlantic on Jan. 22-23. The blizzard impacted airline operations closing the region’s airports including the 4 managed by Travelers Aid International – Washington’s Reagan and Dulles, New York JFK and Newark Liberty.
Our 4 airports assisted more than 9,400 passengers find new flights, local hotels, local transportation and resolve baggage issues. “Our feeling is that the number of people matters less than the quality of service provided,” explained Jane Mrosko, Travelers Aid program manager at New York JFK. “We were present when others were not and could give caring and thorough information. “
During the height of the storm on Saturday, all flights into the region’s airports were cancelled and airports were effectively closed. On Sunday morning, international flights began returning to JFK and by Sunday evening Newark resumed limited operations. Washington’s airports resumed operations on Monday. For the most part, by Tuesday all the airlines were flying their full schedules through these airports.
With the exception of Washington Reagan, all Travelers Aid operations were closed on Saturday. New York JFK re-opened on Sunday morning. Newark and Dulles re-opened on Monday.
Travelers Aid Program Manager Leanne Omland camped out at the airport from Friday afternoon through Tuesday. Although no flights were scheduled for Sunday, a number of passengers still traveled to the airport thinking their flights were still flying. “The passengers who mistakenly came into the airport on Sunday needed hotel rooms or local transportation. Very few hotel shuttles were running and there were virtually no cabs.
On Sunday, a second information desk was manned by 2 volunteers who made it into the airport, despite the fact that the local subway and bus systems were not running. All desks were fully staffed on Monday.
On Saturday, Leanne, one of the few people in the airport, was interviewed by the local ABC affiliate.
While the airport reopened on Monday, it did not have a full schedule. “The international flights were not cancelled so we had a lot of folks waiting for cabs,” said Travelers Aid Program Manager Sally Harvey. “The line for the cabs was more than an hour.”
New York JFK
“The Travelers Aid JFK office opened Sunday morning soon after the first 2 international flights arrived and we assisted all day with inquiries,” Jane said. “There were usual frustrations as the AirTrain was not operational for 2 days and there were limited taxis, buses and shuttles so passengers were unable to easily get around to the other terminals or out of the airport all together. We had a complete volunteer roster by Tuesday despite the record snowfall amounts and unplowed conditions. “
The airport had limited operations on Saturday evening, said Rachel Friedrich, program manager. “We primarily spent our time in the days leading up to the storm and most of the following week, assisting passengers with rebooking flights, finding hotel rooms, and exploring other transportation options for reaching their destinations.”
If you are stranded while traveling, we have volunteers in 17 airports that can assist you.