A passenger flying from Cancun into New York’s busy Kennedy Airport told local media the security at the facility was so lax that an untold number of passengers – himself included – were allowed to leave without having to pass through Customs for baggage and passport checks.
As the New York Daily News reported: “Bumbling airline and security officials let travelers on American Airlines Flight 1223 from Cancun, Mexico, out of the airport … without having their passports or bags checked.”
The newspaper said other sources confirmed the lackadaisical security process. But one source in particular, a 34-year-old businessman who traveled to Cancun for Phish concerts, pointed to the threat the whole country now faced from Kennedy’s actions.
“It’s absolutely absurd,” he told the New York Daily News. “To think that anyone could be walking off of that plane and just get right into the city. It could be terrorists, [drug lord] El Chapo’s henchmen, anyone.”
The man, who didn’t want to be cited by name, said he even alerted Transportation Security Administration officials to the wave-through, but was told to keep walking.
“I told them what happened and asked them what should I do,” he said. “They said to me, ‘That’s fine, you’re OK. Go ahead.'”
The newspaper said it wasn’t clear how many passengers were actually allowed to bypass the usual lengthy Customs and Border Protection security check. But the airline later requested the passengers return to the airport to undergo the Customs inspection.
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The airline wrote, in an email to passengers, the New York Daily News reported: “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.”
American Airlines also sent out a statement acknowledging its failure that read: “We take the safety and security of our customers, employees and operation very seriously. Some passengers on Flight 1223 did not complete Immigration and Customs process upon arrival when they were inadvertently directed to the domestic terminal.”
And the businessman’s response to that email alert?
“You could tell that they knew they screwed up and were desperate to get me to come [back],” he said, to the newspaper. “New York remains the No. 1 target for terrorists and it just made me think of Paris and how easy it would be for them to get it. It’s incompetence like that that could lead to another attack.”
The New York Daily News reported a similar incident occurred at the same airport, with another flight from Cancun, in November.