Airline delays, cancellations put strain on Ogdensburg police

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 4:27 PM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - Flight cancellations at the Ogdensburg International Airport have not only been a problem for travelers, but they’re also putting a strain on the city police department.

This winter has been turbulent at the airport with Contour Airlines delaying and canceling numerous flights.

That has caused Ogdensburg police officers to spend more time at the airport and not on city streets.

That’s because the police force provides security. When a plane comes or goes, an officer has to be at the airport. Many times it’s an off-duty officer.

If there’s a long delay, and then a cancellation, the police chief says it results in the officer sitting around at the airport.

“The airline itself has been the worst airline we’ve ever worked with out there. They delay, delay, delay for hours and hours and hours and so that officer I have on overtime is sitting there doing nothing,” said Ogdensburg Police Chief Mark Kearns.

That overtime is mostly paid for by the Ogdensburg Bridge & Port Authority. But Kearns says it still increases the workload on his department - one that just recently had its dispatcher jobs cut.

“It’s tough on the employees; they are already feeling that burnout. At this point, the lieutenant is going to employees’ doors and knocking on their doors to force them into work. Frankly, they don’t want to answer their phone because they know what it is. They are forced into work - need to work a shift. Work the airport. They aren’t answering their phone. Now I have a lieutenant out chasing employees to come to work,” said Kearns.

Authority Director Steve Lawrence hopes as a team things can get better at the airport and subsequently at the police department.

“All the issues they have with manpower and part of that was related to manpower supplying security out at the airport. With that, they made comments about the performance of the airlines that were unnecessary. We’re all partners trying to do the best we can,” he said.

Lawrence says that the reason for the delays and canceled flights has been because of a streak of bad weather as well as a few mechanical failures with some of the planes.

“Relatively up until the first part of January, we had six months of uninterrupted travel and some of that bad weather snuck up on us and it caused the trouble with weather-related cancellations,” he said.

To address these issues, Lawrence and authority board chairman Sam Burns traveled to Tennessee where Contour Airlines is based for a meeting with CEO Matt Chaifetz.

Lawrence feels after that meeting, and the improving weather, many things will get better at the airport.

Meanwhile, Chaifetz tells 7 News he understands the frustrations of Chief Kearns and passengers but says that if everyone points fingers at each other over a flight that can be delayed for a number of reasons, nothing gets solved.