NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There was a potential security breach at Newark Liberty International Airport.
A group of passengers from Paris nearly walked right out of the airport without going through customs.
So how could something like that happen?
James Harris spent a whirlwind five days touring Paris, seeing some of the city’s most famous sights.
But when he landed back home — at Newark Liberty — he saw something he called very troubling.
“For the simple fact that I could walk off an international flight, straight into the streets of the U.S., is very worrisome to me,” Harris told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes on Monday.
He said dozens of passengers, including himself, mistakenly ended up bypassing customs after they got off the plane. And the only reason he didn’t walk right out of the airport is because he stopped first to pick up checked luggage.
Harris, a CBS employee, flew home on Monday, June 17 on X-L Airways Flight 10. He said they were screened in Paris before they got on the flight. When they touched down in Newark around midnight, Harris said it was mass confusion.
“There was a lack of airport staff there that could direct us to the proper exits and because of that, you had half the flight go one way, the other half go the other way and so I was kind of caught in between of where do I go?” Harris said.
He said he picked up his luggage and handed his international flier slip to the Transportation Security Administration agent in order to exit the airport. The agent noticed the slip wasn’t stamped at customs.
“One of the TSA agents had expressed to me, it’s like, ‘Oh no, ya know, this is a big mix-up. This wasn’t supposed to have happened,'” Harris said.
Customs and Border Protection confirmed that passengers were mistakenly led to a wrong door leading outside their inspection area. A spokesperson said the agency took immediate action to redirect the passengers and it was corrected “without consequence.” But CBS2 asked if all those passengers were accounted for? Who led them to the wrong door? Will anyone be disciplined? What’s being done to ensure this doesn’t happen again? In response, a customs spokesperson said she had no additional information.
“Without having to pick up any type of luggage, I could’ve easily went straight to the street from a flight from Paris without having to go through any kind of customs or screening,” Harris said.
A scary thought, he said, in our post-9/11 world.
Late Monday afternoon, the Port Authority told CBS2 the airline was fined for its error. The agency added there was no security breach, since the passengers were immediately redirected to customs.