Air traffic control shuts down in Jamaica, stranding passengers

 Air traffic control shuts down in Jamaica, stranding passengers

(CNN) – Air traffic control came to a halt for parts of Thursday morning and afternoon in Jamaica, forcing a flight cancellation 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 Montego Bay resort destination, confirmed in a CNN news report that flights were canceled on Thursday morning “due to the suspension of air traffic services. “

The airport’s arrivals board began showing cancellations around 9:30 a.m. local time on May 12th.

Flights to American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United were canceled, among others.

It was a similar story at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, the capital city. Arrivals began to be canceled around 11:30 a.m., and departures were canceled starting at 12:19 p.m.

Kurt Solomon, president of the Jamaica Air Traffic Controllers Association, told CNN that flights will resume at 5 p.m. local time on May 12.

Robert Nesta Morgan, the no-portfolio minister with responsibility for information in the Prime Minister’s Office, posted a news release on his Twitter account confirming that the trips were continuing.

“The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) would like to inform the public that, as the dialogue continues between the Authority and its key stakeholders, particularly the Jamaica Air Traffic Controllers Association (JATCA), the traffic services of air is now restored, ” the release said.

Since then, Sangster has shown a departure, Delta Flight DL1987 at 5:07 pm Manley has shown an arrival, British Airways Flight BA2263 at 4:43 pm

Limited staff

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

The JCAA then decided to suspend air traffic services and trips, according to Hislop.

Kingston’s air traffic control center controls operations at 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 on Thursday afternoon but did not receive a response as of 8 pm ET.

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

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


There are 32 scheduled commercial trips today at the Montego Bay international airport, according to Hislop. Before 10 a.m., only four of the flights were in operation and 28 flights were canceled, he said.

Hislop estimates that there will be nearly 100 passengers per trip affected by the suspension of services.

Airport stores are scheduled to remain open until late at night because some passengers are expected to stay in Sangster overnight, Hislop told CNN.

Local media referred to the situation as a strike, though no officials contacted by CNN confirmed that was the case.

“That’s what we’ve heard, but we’re not sure,” Hislop said when asked if a strike by air traffic controllers led to limited staff that led to the suspension of flights.

Solomon said “a contingency team” working Thursday morning at the Kingston Air Traffic Control Center could not continue and that team stopped. Solomon could not say why they stopped working.

The contingency team is comprised of management personnel for air traffic controllers.

Solomon also told CNN that there have been frequent equipment issues at the Kingston Air Traffic Control Center, and this has continued for many years.

Disappointments of passengers

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

Novak said the pilots said nothing except that they were forced to turn around.

“It was a tense homecoming. Mixed reactions but most appeared to be angry,” Novak said.

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

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

Erin Fletcher Langen also hit problems on Thursday as she flew from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Jamaica for work.

He was on a layover in Atlanta when problems started. His flight was delayed, then canceled and there was hope when officials told them that Sangster (MBJ) had reopened. Then it was officially canceled again.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions. When they said MBJ was opening, everyone was happy and applauded. When they said it was canceled (again), people didn’t have to be angry, but was sad. The people wept. ” Fletcher Langen said.

He said the people at the airport talked about how they hadn’t traveled in a long time and a lot of people were traveling for weddings.

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

Waivers are offered

American Airlines, which has more flights affected by Sangster than any other airline, has issued a waiver for change fees to affected passengers.

“Due to air traffic service disruptions affecting air travel in Jamaica, Delta has issued a travel waiver for those whose travel may be affected between May 12-13,” it said on the website in the news of it.

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

You should check with your carrier if your flight is disrupted.

Top image: An overview of Norman Manley International Airport from 2016. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

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