Bomb scare slows JFK flights

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A thwarted Christmas Day attack on a Northwest jetliner has created tighter security at airlines throughout the globe, but despite the increased delays and inconvenience flyers arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport said they were glad the authorities were being safe instead of sorry.

Since Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was subdued and arrested after he tried to blow up an airliner during its approach to Detroit last week, international passengers have been subjected to new flight measures, such as more intensive screenings at security checkpoints in airports and new rules during flights that prevented them from moving during the final leg of their trips.

Although the new procedures added extra time to passengers’ schedules, most of them did not see the added security as a major annoyance.

“A lot of people were frustrated because of the delays, but you got to go with the flow,” said Elaine Ebanks, of Jamaica, Queens, who returned from a 16-day trip from the island of Jamaica Monday.

Abdulmutallab, who allegedly has ties to Al Qaeda, tried to set the NorthWest Airlines plane on fire by igniting a bomb hidden in his underwear, but was stopped by passengers and crew, authorities said. The 23-year-old was flagged on the U.S. terrorist watch list but was not put on a no-fly list, according to President Barack Obama, and was able to board the plane to the United States from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

In response to the attack, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey added additional officers at both JFK and LaGuardia airports over the weekend to enhance the Transportation Security Association’s other measures for international flights, according to a PA spokesman.

Tricia Henry, who arrived at JFK from Jamaica with her family Monday, said she had to have her shoes and bags checked twice before boarding the plane.

“There were a lot of extra checks in the beginning,” the Westchester County resident said.

Irish tourist Kevin Murray, who was flying in to visit a friend in Connecticut, also had similar delays, but said he was not bothered with it. Despite the danger posed by Abdulmutallab, the tourist said he was not afraid of another imminent attack or bothered by the extra inconvenience added to his trip.

“I think the chances of that occurring are so slight,” he said.

But the security changes did not sit well with everyone who had to use the airport this week.

Fredi Lessar, who was waiting at JFK for her two children who were returning from India, said she was fed up with the measures because in the end someone did get by it and attempted to bring down an airline.

“It makes you not want to take a plane at all,” the Manhattan mother said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 10:27 am, October 12, 2011
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