The ticketing area at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport is crowded with hundreds of passengers shortly after 5:00 Sunday evening after all travelers waiting in concourses are brought back for re-screening after a security breach.
"Obviously there's a lot of police around you, there's traffic," says Atih Seif, a traveler whose flight just arrived.
All outbound passengers are re-screened after a woman bypassed security shortly after 4:00 p.m. Officials say she did it by going into the concourse through the exit only area, and security personnel apparently didn't even notice.
"It was a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) employee that was stationed at the exit lane and that person is there to prevent exactly what transpired today," says Doug Hartmayer, Director of Public Affairs for the NFTA.
The woman headed to the Jet Blue gate to catch a flight to New York City. According to NFTA officials she told a gate employee she had not been screened by security. The employee called airport police, who notified TSA, setting off the process of clearing everyone out of the concourses. "The NFTA police through their canine teams then went about re-establishing the sterile conditions of both the east and west concourses," explains Hartmayer.
Arriving passengers were stuck on the runaways while this went on. "People started using their cell phones to call their relatives to say they're running late and no one knew exactly how long and nobody gave us any time line," says Seif.
Authorities say the entire concourse sweep took about 45 minutes, and they believe the woman didn't mean to breach security and it was an innocent mistake, but it's one that's raising serious questions. "It's a serious breach and it's one I know the TSA is going to take a long hard look at and take any steps necessary to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future," says Hartmayer.
TSA officials could not be reached for comment Sunday night. Hartmayer believes this is an isolated incident and does not know of security being breached in this manner at the Buffalo airport before.