44 TSA workers at Newark Liberty International Airport face firing or suspension

NEWARK, N.J. — The Transportation Security Administration on Friday moved to fire 25 employees at Newark Liberty International Airport and suspend 19 others for what it said was improper screening of checked luggage, the latest in a series of problems at one of the country's busiest airports. The alleged screening failures were uncovered late last year after surveillance cameras were installed in one of the airport's 25 screening rooms to check for possible thefts, the TSA said. Eight employees were fired in June in the investigation. The latest action raises to 52 the number of TSA employees at Newark caught up in the investigation, making it the biggest single disciplinary action taken by the TSA at a U.S. airport. MIKE DERER/AP The alleged screening failures were uncovered late last year after surveillance cameras were installed in one of the airport's 25 screening rooms to check for possible thefts, the TSA said. An official of a union that represents some of the Newark employees said Friday it's likely the union will seek to have the employees reinstated. The union has seven days to answer the TSA's proposal. "The charges right now seem to be improper screening of bags, which we don't feel is correct," said Stacy Dodtmann, regional vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees. "We feel they performed their jobs to what they were trained to do." The latest group cited includes screeners, as well as managers accused of failing to effectively supervise their employees. Among the allegations is that screeners failed to open up and physically check bags that had been flagged by X-ray machines. Sapone, Patti/SL The TSA has more than 1,400 employees at Newark, one of the New York area's three major airports. All the screeners cited for failing to follow procedures were removed from their jobs in November and December and given non-screening duties pending completion of the investigation, the TSA said. The TSA Continue Reading

NYC airports open, but thousands of travelers still stranded and at least 500 flights canceled today

New York airports were open for business on Tuesday, but thousands of travelers were still stranded from the blizzard that grounded nearly 5,000 flights. Planes were taking off and landing again at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports and runways were cleared of snow and ice. Still, 500 more flights were canceled Tuesday alone and airlines said it will take till the end of the week to get things back on track. "If you're still at the airport, you could be looking at another couple of days," said Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman. For some, the nightmare only got worse once they arrived in New York. Passengers on a Cathay Pacific flight from Vancouver waited 12 hours on the tarmac after landing at 1 a.m. Tuesday before being allowed off at 1 p.m. "I was thinking its got to get better and it only got worse," said Lia Dodge, 51. "I'm still shocked." Even once the plane reached a gate, passengers arrived at the wrong terminal and were forced to walk in the freezing cold to get their luggage. "Every two hours they came on the intercom with a different excuse," said Geoff Gotto, 32, of the upper East Side. "It was terrible." Officials warned there are two days worth of arriving and departing passengers still have to get to where they are going, and airports were still operating at below usual capacity. That's way too long for enraged travelers who have already spent 48 hours camped out in chilly airport terminals with no end in sight. "It's totally unacceptable," said Claude Cassagnol, 56, of Queens. "They are treating us like animals, worse than animals." Cassagnol and hundreds of others were actually on board their Air France flight to Paris Sunday afternoon when they were forced back to the gate. Since then, they've been sleeping on the floor, living off junk food bought with $7 food vouchers, and waiting. Worst of all, no one could tell them when they might fly out. "No one is giving us any answers," said Cassagnol, who was Continue Reading

Security guard faces serious discipline after mystery trespasser shuts down Newark Airport

An airport security guard faces discipline after he left his post - or his senses - and let a mystery man into a secure area at Newark Airport, delaying flights worldwide for some seven hours.The latest airport security blunder comes as President Obama plans to grill his anti-terror team today about recent failings.The unnamed federal Transportation Security Administration guard either abandoned his station or failed to spot the man walking the wrong way into the exit lane at the airport's bustling Terminal C about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, agency officials said.It prompted an evacuation of the terminal and flight delays that stretched into yesterday."There was an officer assigned to the exit," TSA spokeswoman Anne Davis said, adding the guard has been booted from his screening duties as an investigation continues.Davis insisted it's no longer a question of whether the guard will be disciplined. "It's more at what level of discipline," she said.Obama, returning from an 11-day holiday in Hawaii, huddled with CIA officials to discuss the botched Christmas Day attack by 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.The radical boarded a plane in Amsterdam with explosives in his underwear - and in spite of his father's warning to U.S. officials his son could pose a threat.Obama has ordered national security officials to the White House today for a broader meeting about the attack, which was foiled, mostly by passengers.The President has demanded accountability from his team, and there has been speculation heads could roll as a result of the near catastrophe.The Newark snafu did little to ease concerns about the nation's air safety. What's known about the lapse in Newark - based on a review of security video - is that the wrong-way walker left the same Terminal C through another exit about 20 minutes later.TSA officials said the agency only learned of the breach after a sharp-eyed bystander noticed the man walk into the secure area.The man remains unidentified, officials Continue Reading

Inside the LaGuardia control tower – and why you’re always delayed

The following is excerpted from the feature story "Traffic" now appearing at GQ.com , in which magazine correspondent Jeanne Marie Laskas shares her inside view of the air control tower at LaGuardia and the people who make it work. At any given moment, on any given morning, there are roughly 6,000 planes on their way to somewhere, from somewhere, over American airspace. Getting them safely down to the ground will depend upon the efforts of a small group of controllers who, nearly without fail, get the job done despite long hours, grim working conditions, and ancient technology. Get a view from the tower at LaGuardia Airport to see how it all happens.  Full story at GQ.com To get to the air-traffic-control tower at New York's LaGuardia Airport, you have to walk through Concourse D in the Central Terminal, past the shiny shops and fat pretzels and premium brews, into and back out of streams of travelers yammering wirelessly at wives, lovers, brokers. You come to a thick steel battleship-gray door, shove it open with your hip. Step inside. You are now in…Leningrad? Bucharest? Cinder-block walls washed in dingy fluorescent light, a cramped elevator, slow and rickety, up to the tenth floor. This is the center of the universe, a tower serving 23 million passengers a year as they fly in and out of the most congested airspace in the world, and yeah, this tower, built in 1962, one of the oldest in America, is a dump. The FAA promises a new tower next year. You can see it emerging next to the parking garage. It's right there. Some LaGuardia controllers remember hearing about a-new-tower-next-year as far back as 1984. "Next year." "Next year." "Why fix up the old tower when a new tower is coming next year?" A quarter of a century of no next-years is enough to make any worker with a spare shirt in his locker in case of a toilet explosion feel…skeptical. WHY YOU'RE DELAYED LaGuardia Airport is tiny compared to its sleek modern Continue Reading

Airports brace for rain delays

Rain and fog could throw a monkey wrench into holiday getaway plans Sunday.Some delays are expected at area airports as carriers scramble to cope with one of the busiest travel days of the year - and sections of the Midwest dig out from a windy snowstorm. The delays have been eased somewhat by the federal government's decision to open some military air space to commercial flights. "Every little bit helps in a congested air-space situation," said American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith, noting that flights between New York and Florida have been using the routes. There were some scattered delays Saturday at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports, mostly spawned by two- and three-hour waits at Chicago's O'Hare and other Midwest hubs. A record 4.5 million travelers are expected to pass through the metro area's three major airports during the holiday week. Traffic on highways and bridges will also be much worse than usual as long-distance travelers jostle with last-minute shoppers. At least New Yorkers won't have to deal with ice or snow. Unseasonably mild air will push the mercury into the 50s today, with rain - heavy at times - forecast in the afternoon.   Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Flying today? Expect delays almost anywhere in the East

Fliers faced headaches across large swaths of the East on Thursday as stormy weather hit the region.Nationwide, more than 2,385 flights had been canceled and nearly 10,000 delayed as of 7:20 p.m. ET, according to flight-tracking service FlightStats.FLIGHT TRACKER: Is your flight on time?Among the hardest hit airports: Atlanta and Chicago O’Hare, two of the USA’s busiest. But storm-related delays and cancellations were roiling airports across the East by mid-afternoon, knocking fliers off schedule at major airports in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Baltimore, Charlotte and Detroit, among others.In Atlanta, more than 700 flights had been canceled and nearly 1,600 delayed, according to FlightStats. Atlanta is the world’s busiest airport and is a major hub for Delta Air Lines.Thursday’s problems marked the second consecutive day of storm-related disruptions there. More than 1,000 flights were canceled and another 2,000 delays in Atlanta on Wednesday, creating problems for fliers that have persisted into Thursday. (WXIA TV of Atlanta: Passengers stranded at Atlanta Airport after severe weather)The Atlanta problems dealt a particularly big blow to the operations of Delta, which operates the vast majority of flights there.  Overall on Thursday, Delta canceled more than 650 "mainline" flights and hundreds of others on its regional affiliates.Meanwhile, airlines at Chicago O’Hare tried to get back on track after a system moved through there Thursday morning. More than 390 flights had been canceled at that airport as of 7:20 p.m. ET while an additional 745 were running late, according to FlightStats.Both American and United operate busy connecting hubs at O’Hare. Disruptions were less severe across town at Chicago’s Midway Airport, where there were only about 15 cancellations and 90 delays.In New York City, hundreds of flights had been canceled at the metro area’s three major airports: JFK, Continue Reading

NEW FEARS BRING AIRPORT MAYHEM. Security crackdown hikes anxiety, delays at JFK, LaG, Newark

CARRYING NO baggage but harboring plenty of jitters, passengers on the first flight from London to New York after yesterday's terror warning burst into raucous applause upon landing safely. American Airlines Flight 115 touched down at 12:51 p.m. at Kennedy Airport, where thousands of travelers were confronted with the new world of air travel - one with even more stringent security restrictions than those imposed after 9/11. "This is kind of my worst fear. I didn't really want to get on the plane, but my dad said with all the security, it was safe," said Maya Bodinson, 12, of West Hartford, Conn., who saw several people wipe away tears before boarding the plane. "It got really scary halfway through the flight. That's when the bombs were supposed to go off," she said. Area airports were plunged into chaos yesterday morning as news of the terror plot to bomb transatlantic flights spread. Lines at metal detectors snaked through the terminals at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports, while new security procedures were put into effect. All liquids - including shampoo, drinks and suntan lotion - were banned from carry-on bags, forcing passengers either to throw out the items or store them in checked luggage. Even stricter measures went into effect at London's Heathrow Airport. By late yesterday, carry-on bags were banned from all flights between the U.S. and Britain. Officials pledged even tighter security at U.S. airports today. The Transportation Security Administration said in a statement on its Web site that there will be more hand searches of bags at security checkpoints and a bag check at the gate immediately before passengers board the aircraft. At least three flights from Europe to Newark were held for up to five hours on the New Jersey tarmac yesterday as a bomb squad inspected checked baggage and even used a robot to detonate one piece of luggage. It was not clear what was in the bag or why it drew suspicion. "Given the seriousness of the Continue Reading

Former Obama Pilot: The TSA has proven itself utterly inept at catching bombs, weapons at airport security

The fact that we haven’t had a Sept. 11-type terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the 15 years since that unforgettable act of aggression would seem to be a product of luck, much more than anything so clever as planning and design. Aviation security changed dramatically after the attacks. The government formed the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration under the guise of heading off future attacks. The federal budget to manage these agencies has ballooned to more than $41 billion, but are we getting our money’s worth? After the latest exposé on the TSA’s lack of effectiveness at catching weapons and bombs at airport security checkpoints, I’d have to say no. CAPTAIN ANDY: THUNDERSTORMS AS DANGEROUS AS HURRICANES TSA procedures, no matter how ineffective, are almost always reactionary and are not designed to stop something new; instead, they’ve always been a reponse to past security lapses or oversights. But the terrorists are always up to something new. A 2006 plot to blow up 10 planes by carrying liquid explosives in carry-on bags resulted in the carry-on restrictions that we still have today — you know, the ones that limit the size of your toothpaste tubes and deodorant sticks. Frankly, you could probably still do a lot of damage with the legal 3.4 ounces of carry-on liquids if they were flammable. (And what would happen if you had four or five terrorists working together and all boarded the same flight, each with their 3.4 ounces of flammable liquids?) A legally small travel-size can of aerosol hairspray is a blow torch, and perfectly legal. And you could easily light it with your legal book of matches or cigarette lighter that can be in your pants pocket. Since you can’t smoke on planes why is it even legal to carry matches on board? Then, there’s the bloated no-fly list consisting of about 21,000 names. It Continue Reading

Airport workers upset LGA renovation plan moves forward while promised benefits package stays on pause

Airport workers flew into a rage Thursday as the Port Authority moved forward with a plan to renovate LaGuardia Airport while a promised benefits package remains grounded. “How can they modernize the airport while maintaining outdated working conditions?” Newark Airport cabin cleaner Gertrudes Contreras, 60, fumed to Port Authority board members. HECTOR FIGUERIA: LAGUARDIA AIRPORT'S OTHER SHAME The area’s roughly 20,000 porters, cleaners and guards are now making $10.10 an hour — after a pay raise fueled by the Daily News’ Fight for Fair Pay campaign. But eight months after its own deadline, the Port Authority still hasn’t unveiled its plan laying out future pay raises and expanded medical benefits. “In the 21st century, we still have 19th-century wages," Kennedy Airport cleaner Luis Sanchez, 57, told board members. Sanchez spoke before the Port Authority formally selected a team to rebuild LaGuardia Airport’s decrepit central terminal. The airport — which Vice President Biden famously likened to a Third World country — is set to undergo a $3.6 billion renovation. The project to expand and modernize the facility known as Terminal B will be carried out by a group led by the Skanska construction firm and the Vantage Airport Group, with the backing of Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. The newfangled terminal will be nearly twice as large and boast far more restaurants and retail shops than the old space. Passengers are going to “have an experience like they have in a 21st-century airport anyplace around the country or around the world,” Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye said. Foye was less effusive on the subject of the airport workers. He suggested the benefits package is delayed in part because of Obamacare. Asked to elaborate during a press conference, Foye dodged the question. “It’s a matter of great Continue Reading