Port Authority’s new storm rules for Kennedy Airport seek to avoid chaos that greeted passengers in January

The Port Authority released a slew of new regulations for Kennedy Airport on Monday, seeking to avoid the chaos that greeted passengers months ago when a snowstorm stranded travelers on the runways for hours, canceled nearly 100 flights and led to extensive baggage issues.

The new measures address everything from better scheduling for incoming flights, ensuring the terminals can handle baggage services and requiring more high-speed snow removal equipment.

Airlines will have to receive prior permission before even taking off if they are scheduled to land in a specific “storm window,” according to the agency. They will need to receive confirmation from the terminal operator that there is a gate available for them, a step that the Port Authority said was implemented during Winter Storm Skylar on March 13.

“I think their intent is good,” aviation writer Jason Rabinowitz said concerning very long-haul flights. “The forecast can change quite substantially, but I think they’re just trying to play it safe and hope their forecast model pans out.”

Rabinowitz said the new measure is designed to force airlines that may not typically account for snowy weather to play it safe.

“They just don’t want to strand people,” he said. “It seems like they’re actually trying this time.”

Terminals are operated independently. But the new regulations mandate terminal operators to check in with the Port Authority to find alternative gates when planes will be sitting for more than 90 minutes on the tarmac because of backups. The Port Authority can then determine whether disembarking passengers and busing them to a terminal is a more efficient option.

Stephen Sigmund, the executive director of the Global Gateway Alliance, called the steps the Port Authority is taking very necessary and said they go a long way toward ensuring coordinated communication.

“To me that seems a world better than a situation like you had in January,” he said. “I know that it’s certainly smart and necessary steps to some of the criticisms that have been levied.”

The recommendations come after a January storm resulted in a ream of canceled flights, frozen baggage claim machines, two planes that clipped each other, and a water main break that flooded Terminal 4 with three inches of standing water.

Weeks later, the agency outlined several interim measures, including activating the Emergency Operations Center before the arrival of a significant storm and the regulation forcing terminal operators to consult the Port Authority if a plane will have to sit for more than 90 minutes after its scheduled landing.

An independent investigation into last year’s storm failures also is being led by former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and is expected to be released next month, according to the Port Authority.