Business & Tech

Flight delays rise as Logan Airport rebuilds a runway

A runway at Logan Airport is closed to be fully resurfaced for the first time in 10 years.
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
A runway at Logan Airport is closed to be fully resurfaced for the first time in 10 years.

The number of delayed flights into and out of Logan International Airport has increased substantially in the past week after the airport shut one of its main runways for reconstruction.

Some passengers reported delays of one, two, or even three hours, particularly on in-bound flights to Logan.

Construction began May 15 on the 10,000-foot runway that runs northeast-to-southwest along Logan’s eastern shoreline and on busy days handles half of the flights at the airport.

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The runway is being fully resurfaced for the first time in 10 years, and officials expect to mostly reopen it June 23, with the entire project being completed by November.

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Prior to the closure, about 20 percent of the 1,000 to 1,200 flights at Logan on any given day were delayed by 15 minutes or more. But since construction began, that has risen to an average of 27 percent, with even higher rates on several days this week, according to data from the tracking service FlightAware.

Thomas Glynn, chief executive of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which oversees Logan, said the delays were expected when the construction work began because the airport had little choice.

“Like any other thing in the infrastructure world, it has to be done,” Glynn said. “It’s always, for an airport, a rough period to get through, and passengers have a right to be very angry and annoyed.”

Delays have been particularly common this week, peaking on Monday, when around half of all flights were behind schedule. Glynn said the average delay was about one hour, but some incoming passengers reported waiting far longer.

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Jake Palenske said his flight to Boston this week was delayed in Dallas for 2½ hours. After originally announcing a one-hour delay, American Airlines told passengers that “you can get off the plane if you want because it’s going to be longer than that,” Palenske said.

He said the pilot cited the construction at Logan for the delay. American Airlines, however, blamed unfavorable winds that slowed traffic at Logan.

Boston, MA., 05/24/17, Paving in prociess on runway 22L. Two runways at Logan Airport are closed due to two reasons: repaving of the runway and the rebuilding of a pier which holds the approach lighting system for one of the runways. Globe staff/Suzanne Kreiter
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
Paving was underway at Runway 22L on Wednesday.

In any event, Palenske said, passengers should have been given more warning, because “if a runway’s under construction, that’s something the airlines could know ahead of time.”

Max Grinnell, a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design whose flight home from Seattle was delayed nearly three hours on Tuesday, suggested that Logan’s Web page prominently warn passengers about possible delays.

Glynn acknowledged the website should make it “very easy to spot” such a warning, and Massport spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan said the authority will make it more prominent.

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Logan has six runways, four of which handle most of the passenger traffic. Massport resurfaces only one at a time, in intervals of up to five years, Glynn said.

‘Like any other thing in the infrastructure world, it has to be done.’

Other airports, including John F. Kennedy International in New York and San Francisco International, are also undergoing runway work, prompting complaints about delays and cancellations.

Charles Leocha, chairman of Travelers United, a passenger advocacy group, said it’s common for airlines to see increased delays from construction. Generally, the work is planned far enough in advance that airlines can adjust schedules, but there is “always a difference between the computer-generated outcomes and the actual outcome on the runway,” he said.

Airlines do not seem perturbed by the work at Logan, however. JetBlue, the largest carrier to serve Logan, declined to comment on the construction, but like American noted that windy weather has contributed to the delays this week. Delta Airlines spokesman Anthony Black said the delay rate at Logan was about what the airline had expected.

The $35 million project includes resurfacing the landing strip and replacing a wooden pier at one end. The runway will be mostly open after June 23, and Glynn predicted the frequency of delays should be closer to normal at that point.

The resurfacing had to occur at this time of year to take advantage of warmer weather and to get enough work done to reopen the runway before the summer travel season peaks in July and August.

Massport and airline officials considered resurfacing the runway during weekend shutdowns over several months, but determined a total shutdown over a shorter period was most efficient. Glynn said Massport is sympathetic to passengers who are affected in the meantime.

“It’s the right decision to pull the Band-Aid off all at once,” he said.

“But if I’m a passenger whose flight is delayed, I’m not going to be too happy about the decision.”

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.