Nantucket Airport Crowds Prompt Public Safety Response

With crowds swelling in the departure area of the terminal, the Nantucket Fire Department was called to Nantucket Memorial Airport Saturday afternoon to help “assure safe use and occupancy of the terminal” according to fire chief Steve Murphy.

“When I arrived the building was not over capacity but was certainly very busy,” Murphy said. “We took steps to assure areas were kept safe and organized.”

Airport passenger Tara Moss shared a video of the crowds on her Instagram page, and later told the Current this week “In 30 years I’ve never seen the airport that busy – but the Delta and JetBlue gate agents were amazingly friendly and hardworking.”

Assistant Airport Manager Noah Karberg said there was indeed a “weather-related capacity issue” last Saturday, but that it was not totally out of the ordinary for the summer months. Last Saturday “was fogged in until 11:00 (a.m.) after which all aircraft arrived at once, and congested the airport with simultaneous departures and arrivals,” Karberg said. “This is not an element ACK controls, it is the result of bad weather, airline operating decisions, and regional FAA ATC limitations.”

He added, “Screening delays associated with weather-derived issues do occur. I don’t keep a specific list, but believe this type of event recurs two to four times in an average summer.”

Meanwhile, Karberg acknowledged that the airport had received some criticism over the sense that the island has been overcrowded with people this summer.

“Some people believe the airport is responsible for bringing in ‘too many people this year’ leading to ‘chaos and congestion’,” Karberg wrote in an e-mail to the Current. “For both the season and the year, (Nantucket) passenger traffic is below 2019 levels.  From Jan. 1 to July 20 2019, (Nantucket) saw 46,613 TSA-screened enplaned (passengers). For 2021, this number was 44,776 (a decrease of 4%).  For the summer period (5/1 to 7/20), the same passenger counts are 42,123 for 2019 and 42,060 for 2021.”

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