Connecting Flights: How PA Airports Get Stranded Flyers Home

By Cheryl Albiez, Media Relations Staff

Amidst international travel restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic, travelers from various parts of the world who have found themselves stranded across the region can now go home through repatriation flights organized by airlines operating through Newark Liberty and John F. Kennedy International airports. 

At Newark Liberty, the Terminal B operations team has played a key support role for these repatriation efforts. Nearly 1,800 passengers have been able to fly back to their home countries on Ethiopian, Air India and Pakistan International Airlines. 

One of the most involved efforts has been the Vande Bharat mission – India’s massive repatriation operation after the country suspended all international travel in March before going into lock down to curb Covid-19 infections. Earlier this month, the repatriation effort from Newark began the process of returning hundreds of Indian citizens to their homeland. 

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Port Authority Terminal B Operations staff were on site to assist Air India with the repatriation flights

Arranging repatriation flights to countries where flying has been restricted has its own set of complexities. But it was the airport community’s strong partnership that made managing these challenges possible.

Unlike commercial flights, repatriation flights are planned in only a few short days, or even hours. U.S. and foreign government and embassy officials both at home and abroad work with Newark’s Terminal B operations staff, Port Authority Police (PAPD), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in helping the airlines ensure citizens are able to get home.

“The airport is operating under compelling circumstances,” said Tom Bock, Newark Liberty’s Operations Manager. “Those involved have specific roles which have to be closely coordinated with other partners in both front and back-end logistics.”

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Flight plans are established and coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration and Customs & Border Protection to operate these unscheduled flights. The airlines not only have to secure necessary approvals amid the current international restrictions, but manage crew scheduling, particularly with the new screening protocols for flight crews eligible to work on these flights.   

Terminal B staff worked with the respective airlines to secure gates and provide staff to support planning and execution, as well as coordinate the customer experience aspects of the operation.   

In the latest wave of repatriation flights, the Newark Liberty Airport community worked seamlessly to repatriate over 600 citizens to India this month on two B777 aircraft. The mission began May 7 and is ongoing, with an additional flight departing on June 7.

“Working together was critical to ensuring the success of these repatriation flights”, said Brian Rohlf, Terminal B’s International Operations Manager. “With strong communication from the airlines and a proactive approach to meet a short planning timeline, it all came together with very happy Indian citizens flying back home.” 

With health and safety on the top of mind, Terminal B staff and PAPD were onsite to assist passengers with social distancing. For the Air India flights, representatives of the Consulate of India and an onsite physician were present to assist Indian citizens and take temperature readings of all those traveling home. Only asymptomatic passengers are permitted to board the flights. 

TSA coordinated with the airline regarding the number of passengers to ensure adequate staffing for screening lanes and baggage processing. CBP arrived in full protective gear to medically process arriving passengers safely and quickly while maintaining social distancing protocols. Several other repatriation flights are scheduled at both Newark and JFK through other airlines.

Travelers seeking information regarding repatriation flights are encouraged to register for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. For additional information regarding potential flights home can be found through the Department of State

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Who Ya Gonna Call? PATH Workers in Futuristic Backpacks Keep System Clean

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

The masked men and women walking through PATH trains with futuristic backpacks and spray hoses aren’t Bill Murray and his pals vanquishing evil spirits and gelatinous blobs of green ooze, Ghostbusters-style, to keep New York City safe.

No, these protectors are part of the PATH unit entrusted with a different mission, one more important than anything could have been imagined just a few months ago: keeping cars, trains and facilities disinfected and operational, to get essential workers to and from their destinations to combat a different kind of attack from COVID-19.

They are using state-of-the-art equipment to disinfect the PATH fleet faster and more efficiently than before. One such piece of equipment is an electrostatic sprayer, a 29-pound backpack filled with CDC-recommended disinfectant that is used to zap germs and viruses on poles, seats, windows, and everything in between.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of employees on every shift, PATH’s 350-car passenger fleet is disinfected every 24 hours, in addition to regular hand-cleaning cycles every 72 hours. It comes on top of around-the-clock cleaning at PATH’s “Car Wash/Running Repair” facility in Jersey City, where general maintainers address a range of service issues, including removing trash and mopping.

“The Car Wash is a hub of activity year-round, not just during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Pete Harris, superintendent of the Car Equipment Division. “Between regular cleanings and repairs, and the additional manual cleaning and disinfecting due to coronavirus, my team takes their jobs very seriously. They understand that our customers deserve clean and safe rides, and we’re all grateful for their dedication.”

Harris added that the team has already shared positive feedback on the sprayers. “They are easy to use, reliable, and can effectively disinfect a train car in a matter of minutes,” Harris said.

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As customer expectations are evolving during the pandemic, so too are PATH’s cleaning operations, with greater reliance on more innovative methods to accomplish them. Working with the Port Authority’s Operations Services Department, PATH is continually evaluating and adjusting the equipment and procedures as needed.

“We are continually doing research and pushing ideas forward,” said Joy Chiu, PATH’s superintendent of Structures & Facilities. “Most importantly, we will continue to choose procedures that keep our employees and the public safe.”

So, don’t expect to see any evil spirits or green blobs on PATH trains anytime soon.

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For This Essential Worker, Her Favorite Role is ‘Mom’

By Cheryl Albiez, Media Relations Staff

Like thousands of essential employees, Keivett Francis-Harrison plays a critical role in ensuring that travelers and cargo at Newark Liberty International Airport arrive safely at their destinations.
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Francis-Harrison, an Operations Services Supervisor working from the airport’s Terminal B, is working long shifts during the pandemic, coordinating with the airport community and the Port Authority Police Department to maintain safe, secure and efficient operations and respond to any emergency situations that may arise.

But, despite being deemed an essential employee, the role she cherishes most is “mom.”

Keivett Francis-Harrison, the mother of daughters ages 23 and 19, values her time with her family more than ever during this extraordinary period. “I would not trade spending these moments with them for anything,” she said.

For Francis-Harrison and so many other mothers who are essential members of the Port Authority family, this Mother’s Day is unique. Many of them will be able to spend Sunday with their children and families, while others will be staffing agency facilities, continuing their commitment to helping the public get through the pandemic.

“I can have a positive impact on someone who may not be having the best day, or even having a hard time dealing with the intricacies of being in the airport as empty as it is,” she said.

For the bodyAir travel, pre-pandemic, was already stressful enough for customers, and the pandemic has made many people more uneasy. For Francis-Harrison, if she can just help ease someone’s anxiety, answer questions, or “just offer some human interaction, comradery and conversation,” she’s happy to be there. But for now, it will have to have to six feet apart and wearing personal protective equipment.

Keeping her family happy, healthy and safe also is a priority, especially since she is out on the frontlines. Her daughters – one an IT supervisor and budding actress, the other a college student – are living with her at home and are committed, as so many Port Authority families are, to keeping busy and making the days meaningful.

“More than before, I am trying to ensure that our daily diet is well-balanced. We have dusted off the treadmill and it is back in use,” she said. “I have also come up with my own homemade, all-natural immune booster. It doesn’t taste good at all, but it has benefits.”

This year, Mother’s Day will not be a day just for her. It means “being safe and ensuring that I stay healthy so that I can be there for my children, my colleagues and those that are depending on me to be there to be of assistance to them during this time.


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