Flights behind schedule but security backlog over at NJ airport after breach at checkpoint

By Kim Gamel, AP
Monday, January 4, 2010

Flights behind schedule after NJ security breach

NEWARK, N.J. — Security lines at Newark Liberty International Airport were moving normally Monday, but flights were still running behind schedule a day after a man walked through a screening checkpoint exit to enter a terminal.

The breach caused major delays and grounded flights for six hours Sunday at the airport, one of the busiest in the nation.

Transportation Security Administration officials made passengers leave the terminal and be rescreened after the man walked in the wrong way around 5:30 p.m. The man wasn’t found, but the TSA said its re-screening effort ensured every passenger was fully screened.

Lines were moving normally by 7 a.m. Monday, airport spokesman John Kelly said.

TSA investigators will continue studying a video of the breach to try to determine who went through the exit, TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said Monday.

Terminal C, where the security breach occurred, is used mostly by Continental Airlines. Airline spokesman Susannah Thurston said the airline still had delays, particularly with flights that originated at Newark and are now running behind schedule at other airports.

At Oslo’s Gardermoen airport, a Contentinal flight to Newark that was scheduled to leave at 11 a.m. local time was delayed at least six hours. Passengers sat on suitcases and chatted among themselves as they waited in a check-in line that barely moved for one-and-a-half hours.

Ragnhild Belbo, 26, of Trondheim, Norway, was traveling to St. Paul, Minn., with her 82-year-old grandmother to visit her brother, a student at St. Olaf College. She was disappointed to learn they would likely have to spend the night in Newark.

“It’s a bit hard to lose one day when you have one week only, and there could also be more delays,” Belbo said.

Kristian Hoynes, 19, of Floro, Norway, worried about missing his second anniversary dinner with his girlfriend of two years, who was staying with her parents in Warrenton, Va.

“We’d sort of planned a dinner,” said Hoynes, a sophomore at the University of Charleston, W.V. “We’re kind of cheap, so we were going to go to an Applebee’s, maybe an Outback, and we were hoping to catch a movie. But now I don’t know.”

Still, he said, if he gets stranded in Newark, “You know college. I have friends everywhere. I can make a few phone calls and crash somewhere.”

Also Sunday, the TSA announced that passengers flying to the U.S. from nations regarded as state sponsors of terrorism and countries of interest would be subject to enhanced screening.

Associated Press writers Maria Sanminiatelli in Oslo and Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, N.J., contributed to this report.

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