At Puerto Rico’s Main Airport, Heavy Hearts and Long Waits

Now they did not know when they were going to get home. Ms. Vergara said she planned to spend the night on the airport floor, in hopes of buying a ticket to the mainland first thing in the morning.

“Whatever it takes,” she said.

The troubles for the airport, where there were more than 4.3 million outbound passengers last year, began after Hurricane Maria “destroyed or disabled” radars and navigational aids, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The F.A.A. said its recovery efforts could only move so quickly: Replacements had to be brought to Puerto Rico by land or by sea, and workers struggled this week to get to a long-range radar site nestled deep inside a national park. Technicians, the F.A.A. said, had found the final miles to the site “impassable” and had to use chain saws to bring in personnel and equipment.

The radar system was operational now, officials said, and additional air traffic frequencies were functioning. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said that air traffic control in Puerto Rico was working at about a 20 percent clip, and two other airports, in Ceiba and Aguadilla, had been opened.

Although the airport in San Juan was accommodating 36 flights per hour — 18 arrivals and 18 departures — on Tuesday, commercial transport was limited because of the many military and relief flights. Federal officials said the total number was a sharp increase from Monday, when about eight flights were operating per hour. Despite the improvements, there were many cancellations.

“We’re very committed to growing the operation as quickly as we can and being back to where we were,” said Jim Butler, an American Airlines executive who is helping to oversee the carrier’s response.


Passengers waited for flights at the airport, where hurricane damage “destroyed or disabled” radars and navigational aids, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

American, Delta, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines were among the carriers operating limited flights, often with larger-than-normal planes. American, Mr. Butler said, was using inbound flights to ferry supplies, and he said that some planes were hauling 50,000 pounds of cargo.

“Every day it gets a little better,” he said. “I was down there on Friday, and we had no power, no connectivity whatsoever. We were…

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