Wednesday 29 January, 2020

ON SPOT: J'can tells of his experience as travel chaos reigns in USA

Photo: Group of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals wait in line at JFK airport on Friday.

Photo: Group of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals wait in line at JFK airport on Friday.

Frustrating and chaotic.

That is how one Jamaican man has described his trip on Friday as he was forced to wait for close to four hours in a line at one of the major airports in the United States.

The man who is from Kingston was among the scores of travellers who ran into long lines at major airports nationwide because of a temporary computer outage that affected the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

He spoke to Loop News in a telephone interview while at the John F Kennedy Airport, New York. 

“It was one of the most frustrating experiences I have had in recent times,” said the man who asked not to be named for fear he would be targetted by customs officials the next time he travelled.

“I went to the airport at about 1:00 a.m. and had to stand in a line for about four hours waiting to be processed. At one point the situation got so chaotic I did not know what to do,” said the Kingston resident, who was the spokesman for several Jamaicans and other Caribbean national at the airport.

On Friday airports warned travellers — both Americans returning home and foreign visitors — of delays, and some travellers tweeted photos and videos of huge lines.

A CBP spokeswoman said the systems were running again by early evening on the East Coast.

The agency didn't precisely describe the breakdown, but the spokeswoman said there was "no indication of any nefarious activity." She said officers were able to access security-related databases and maintain security standards while screening people manually.

Rebekah Tromble, an associate professor at George Washington University, tweeted a video clip in which she panned over the arrival hall at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia. She estimated there were at least 5,000 people packed into the hall.

Tromble was asked if she could see whether customs agents were screening people manually.

"It's not clear from my vantage point. I'm still too far back in line," she answered.

Airports in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, New York and elsewhere notified travellers of potential delays at the beginning of one of the last weekends of the summer vacation season.

The port authority that operates New York's JFK Airport and the airport in Newark, New Jersey, said the additional staff and police officers monitored the situation and helped where needed. Los Angeles International Airport said it sent staffers to CBP areas to help direct travellers.

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