JFK allowed passengers arriving on international flight to exit without going through Customs
Passengers arriving at Kennedy Airport on an international flight were allowed to exit the busy hub without going through Customs — for at least the second time in recent months, the Daily News has learned.
Bumbling airline and security officials let travelers on American Airlines Flight 1223 from Cancun, Mexico, out of the airport on Monday morning without having their passports or bags checked, sources told The News.
The security lapse mirrored a similar incident involving another American Airlines flight in November.
A 34-year-old man who had been in Cancun to attend three Phish concerts told The News he was able to glide from the plane to the baggage claim area without having to endure the usual maze of Customs and Border Protection security checks.
“It’s absolutely absurd,” the business adviser said. “To think that anyone could be walking off of that plane and just get right into the city. It could be terrorists, El Chapo’s henchmen, anyone.”
The jam band fan said he even approached a Transportation Security Administration agent near the exit, but was told he was free to go.
“I told them what happened and asked them what should I do,” the passenger said. “They said to me ‘That’s fine, you’re OK. Go ahead.’ ”
Neither the TSA, which screens passengers before they fly, nor the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security, responded to a request for comment.
It was unclear how many of the passengers from the flight were able to skip the security checkpoints
Several other concertgoers who were on the flight were already outside at the curbside cab line when he exited the airport.
Hours after the plane landed, American Airline officials pleaded with the Manhattan man — and presumably other passengers — to return to Kennedy and complete the customs process.
“I apologize for any inconvenience this may be for you; however it is a Customs requirement that every passenger entering the United States must clear Customs,” the airline wrote in an email sent to passengers.
“You could tell that they knew they screwed up and were desperate to get me to come,” the passenger added.
The oversight sparked fears that terrorists could easily slip into the country without having to pass through any checkpoints.
“New York remains the number one target for terrorists and it just made me think of Paris and how easy it would be for them to get in,” he said. “It’s incompetence like this that could lead to another attack.”
A nearly identical incident involving another American Airlines flight from Cancun unfolded in November, just two days after ISIS released a video threatening New York City with a terrorist attack, The News reported.
American Airlines admitted to the latest security snafu in a statement, but declined to say what they were doing about it.
“We take the safety and security of our customers, employees and operation very seriously,” the company said. “Some passengers on flight 1223 did not complete immigration and customs process upon arrival when they were inadvertently directed to the domestic terminal.”
After the November incident, a Customs spokesman told The News that the agency was “aware of and looking into the incident and is working with our counterparts to resolve it.”
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