Stranded Travelers Camp Out at JFK Airport for Days

By Stephanie Linning and Julie Shapiro  on October 31, 2012 1:49pm

QUEENS — Maryan Olad was only supposed to be at JFK Airport for an hour on Sunday night — but three days later, she's still waiting for a flight home.

Olad, who is eight months pregnant and is traveling with her 14-month-old son, was on her way home to Ohio after visiting relatives in Kenya when Hurricane Sandy trapped her in New York.

Along with dozens of other stranded travelers, Olad has been sleeping on a cot in JFK's freezing Terminal 8, huddled beneath stacks of thin airplane blankets.

"I was crying," Olad said of her reaction when told she couldn't get home Sunday night, and that she could not get her suitcases because they were stuck on a plane. "My baby was tired. We'd traveled for almost two days flying already."

Olad and others said they were grateful to have a place to sleep and free meals in the airport while they wait, but they were upset about the airport's chilly temperature and bright 24-hour lights.

"He's too cold," Olad said of her son. "He's not comfortable. He's confused."

JFK Airport officially reopened early Wednesday morning and was soon inundated with additional travelers. Officials expected 230 arriving flights and 170 departures from the airport on Wednesday.

Simon Ellis, 42, from Bedford, England, arrived at JFK from a water-logged hotel in Red Hook, where he has been staying with no electricity or hot water since the hurricane struck.  

"This holiday has been an absolute nightmare," Ellis said. "At our hotel, the basement was flooded. We couldn't charge our phones…. We've got a dog at home who needs someone to look after him. We're trying to sort that out, too."

At the airport, Ellis was told the earliest he could fly home is Nov. 4, so he started looking for a cheaper hotel — and one with power.

Brett Snape, who works for British Airways in England, decided it would be faster to rent a car, drive to Toronto and fly home from there than to continue waiting in New York.

"It just makes sense," Snape said. "Even if we're stuck [in Toronto] for two nights, it's cheaper than staying here."

But Samantha Furness-Roe, 35, said she was determined to find a flight from JFK back home to London for her and her 16-year-old son Reece Sullivan.

American Airlines initially told her the earliest she could get home was Nov. 7, but then they also placed her on standby for a flight Thursday morning.

"This has been an absolute nightmare," said Furness-Roe, who bought the trip for her son as a 16th birthday present. "I just came [to the airport] this morning and I'm not leaving until I'm going home."

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