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Volcanic Eruptions Disrupting Airports

Above picture:  SSP America provided dinner Monday night for passengers stranded at John F. Kennedy International due to the volcano eruption in Iceland.

The U.S. airline community could lose 90,000 enplanements and $80M due to flight cancellations, according to Boyd Group International.

For airports, at this point, the financial ramifications seem less clear. But anecdotally, several around the country are reporting flight cancelations, and hundreds of passengers have been stranded at John F. Kennedy International (JFK) and Newark Liberty International (EWR), some for several days.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is working with NYC & Co., the city’s marketing and tourism organization, to provide travel incentives, hotels and other discounts and benefits for travelers stranded since the volcanic eruptions made air travel to Europe dangerous.

“The port authority is working closely with its airline partners, terminal operators and the Red Cross to ensure we meet the basic needs of all travelers delayed by the Icelandic volcano eruption,” says Christopher Ward, PANYNJ’s executive director, in a statement. “We will continue to coordinate with our partners to help ease crowding and delays at our airports when flights resume.”

About 30 of the canceled flights each day would have left from JFK’s Terminal 4, which has left between 250 and 300 passengers sleeping in the terminal, says Janice Holden, chief commercial officer with JFK IAT LLC.

Holden credited SSP America for hosting a complimentary dinner for passengers Monday night. She says Saveria JFK has also chipped in, providing soft beverages at no charge. PANYNJ also arranged for mobile showers.

“They are as comfortable as possible under the circumstances,” Holden says.

The impact isn’t limited to New York. Gregg Cunningham, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Aviation, says more than 150 flights to and from O’Hare International’s (ORD) European destinations were canceled between April 15 and Monday.

Denver International (DEN) has also had several cancelations, though not nearly as many as JFK and EWR, says Erica Gingerich, spokeswoman.

“We’re not seeing many passengers either having to or choosing to camp out at the airport due to flight cancellations,” she says.

The Boyd Group’s report specifically dealt with airlines, but did note that the entire domestic system will lose 90,000 enplanements.

“Passengers to and from abroad don’t all live and work at international gateway cities,” says Tim Sieber, vice president of Boyd Group International, in the report, adding that each international passenger trip generates about 1.4 domestic enplanements. “That passenger flying from Munich to Atlanta also makes domestic trips within the U.S. What this illuminates is that events in places like Iceland can affect passenger demand in Fresno and Lincoln, too.”