NEW YORK (AP)—A busy terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport was evacuated Saturday after a passenger opened a restricted door and set off an alarm, officials said.
The incident delayed dozens of flights and caused headaches for hundreds of travelers who had to exit the terminal, wait for police to sweep through the building, and then return for a second security screening.
"I just hope I'm not late for my flight," said Victor Medina, looking frustrated after waiting 2 1/2 hours to be re-screened for a connection from Mexico to London.
The security breach apparently involved a passenger who arrived on a flight from Orlando, Fla., and, while exiting Kennedy's Terminal 8, opened a door that was supposed to be used only by airport workers.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Steve Coleman said security cameras recorded the incident just before 3:30 p.m. It was the second such incident at a New York-area airport this month; a security breach at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on Jan. 3 also forced passengers to be re-screened.
Authorities were initially unsure Saturday whether the person had been coming or going from the JFK terminal and evacuated the secure areas of the building while they investigated. The Transportation Security Administration said its agents and Port Authority police were searching for the person who walked through the door. It was not immediately clear whether the passenger would face charges.
"They have such big signs, I don't know how you can miss that," said Teijo Niemela of Lambertville, N.J., waiting in a security line for his delayed flight to Helsinki. "That makes me angry about the whole system. We pay a lot of money because of someone's mistakes."
Judy Erickson, a hairdresser who was waiting to get on a flight to Los Angeles, said it was shocking that the passenger was able to get through a restricted door.
"All those doors that you're not supposed to go through should have a guard or security," she said.
Terminal 8 handles both domestic and international flights for American Airlines.
A spokesman for the airline, Charley Wilson, said some flights were being delayed, and some planes were waiting on the tarmac for permission to proceed to their gates. He said the airline had estimated flights would be delayed two to three hours.
Security officials began to let passengers back in around 6 p.m. but weren't sure how long it would take for everyone to pass through security checkpoints.
Inside the terminal, hundreds of people waited in a long line outside the security gate. Dozens of people sat on the floor with their bags.
"The rest of us are made to suffer," said Meganne Harvey, 22, who was trying to fly home to San Diego after a trip to Paris.
The incident is the third evacuation in five months at airports that serve New York City.
A Rutgers University graduate student from China, Haisong Jiang, 28, was charged last week with trespassing in the security breach at the Newark airport. Flights were grounded for hours and passengers were re-screened while air safety officials searched for a man who had walked through the exit of a security checkpoint.
Jiang's arraignment is set for Jan. 28 in Newark.
In August, a terminal at LaGuardia airport was evacuated after police tackled a disturbed man who was carrying a device that looked like a bomb but turned out to be harmless.