Last updated: 01:56 PM ET, Tue August 30 2016

ASTA Demands Investigation into False Reports at JFK Airport

Travel Agent | Donald Wood | August 30, 2016

ASTA Demands Investigation into False Reports at JFK Airport

Photo Credit: ASTA

As a result of false reports of gunshots fired at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in August, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is asking government officials to open up an independent investigation into the incident.

The incident took place on Aug. 14 when reports of gunshots caused the evacuation of several terminals inside the New York City airport. The cause of the noises is believed to be a celebration for Jamaican track athlete Usain Bolt's Olympic victory, but it was the lack of communication following the noises that resulted in the ensuing chaos.

In response, the ASTA sent a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asking them to assess what went wrong during the incident and what led to the mass panic, stampedes and other unsafe and unacceptable conditions at the airport that day.

The ASTA letter was from presidents Jerry Mack (Long Island), Ralph Vasami (New York City) and Jack Hirleman (New Jersey), and asked government officials to use this opportunity to learn from its mistakes and help plan for better responses in the future.

“We believe this episode revealed how poorly trained our Port Authority, Transportation Security Administration and airline staff are in dealing with these types of situations,” the ASTA letter read. “Travelers reported no communication at all, for hours, from anyone in a position of authority; some airline staff reacted inappropriately by abandoning their posts; panicked security guards with no walkie talkies or other means to know what was going on; and other unprofessional responses. Many of our members have signed up for and regularly receive instant Port Authority updates regarding potential delays at JFK. Amazingly, none were sent out Sunday night!”

Following the incident and the sending of the letter, ASTA officials representing a large contingent of travel agents spoke out against what happened and how airport officials and everyone involved dropped the ball.

“The way this was reported and what we saw on social media, it felt like a catastrophic event at one of the nation’s largest airports,” Visami said in a statement to TravelPulse. “To see that this was just a monumental meltdown in communication, this simply can not happen.”

“We are here for our clients, we are telling them they can’t succumb to a threat and here we are creating false threats,” Hirleman said. “This kind of event and the hoax in Los Angeles today, it just creates unnecessary fear. We expect better from airport and TSA officials in the future.”


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