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Passengers Stuck In JetBlue Flight For Over 5 Hours As Dominican Airports Struggle With Delays

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Tourists traveling abroad this summer have had to confront chaotic scenes at airports, with long delays and flight cancellations reported across the U.S. Visitors in the Dominican Republic have also gotten their fair share of travel mayhem as over half of flights to the country’s capital were delayed in July. On Tuesday, a JetBlue flight bound to the Dominican Republic from LaGuardia was suddenly canceled after passengers had spent more than five hours grounded at the airport, and is the latest addition to a long list of cancellations affecting that airline. 

Countless passengers have reported similar incidents over the summer, with travel demand skyrocketing compounded with widespread staff shortages. The problem has been especially pronounced on low-cost carrier JetBlue, the most important U.S-based airline operating to and from the Dominican Republic. Although the airline is promising to alleviate the issue by adding more staff at the country’s main airports, flight cancellations and delays remain a big issue for the airline’s passengers.

Tuesday’s incident is just one of many affecting the airline, which is dealing with high numbers of cancellations, putting a stop to tourists’ summer vacation plans. Many are taking matters into their own hands, and have filed complaints over the airline’s growing travel blunders. 

According to passenger reports, for more than five hours, no explanation was offered by the crew or ground staff over Tuesday’s sudden cancellation. It wasn’t until 3 AM that an airline staff member updated passengers on the flight’s situation. A video was then posted online by one of the upset passengers detailing the ordeal. 

Staffing shortages and long delays are also being reported in several Dominican Republic airports, with the capital’s Las Américas International Airport currently reporting the highest number of disruptions. According to recently-published statistics, more than half of all flights originating from that airport were delayed. Of the 1738 departures scheduled for July, over 900 missed their departure time. However, only 10% of all delays were attributed to the airport, indicating that airlines, and not airports, are to blame for the growing number of delays.

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Cancellations, such as on Tuesday’s JetBlue flight – are especially affecting U.S destinations, including New York, Miami, and Philadelphia. JetBlue, the most affected airline and the largest operating in Santo Domingo, says it is adding more staff to help cut down long passenger lines. Moreover, the airline said it has added more electronic kiosks to improve the check-in experience, with more to come in the short-term future. 

“We are adjusting our flight network to the demands of the current situation, which will help boost operative trust and improve timeliness so we can get out clients where they need to go”, the airline said in a statement. 

Many U.S-based airlines are grappling with acute staff shortages – especially pilots – due to pent-up travel demand during the pandemic. With borders once again open, airlines are finding it difficult to meet demand, and not enough pilots are available for hire. 

Meanwhile, flights to and from other major European, South American, and Caribbean destinations are also reporting delays from Las Américas International Airport. The country’s other major international airport in Punta Cana is also seeing passenger traffic skyrocket over the summer. The airport just reported its highest-ever travel figures with over 800,000 passengers walking through the airport’s gates in July.

Another factor behind delays in recent months has to do with Dominican Republic authorities, who have stepped up anti-drug measures at airports around the country, and passengers have reported rigorous bag checks by the National Agency for Drug Control (DNCD).

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