New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport devolved into chaos on Monday after a flight attendant noticed two men who she thought were suspicious, causing hundreds to be evacuated on the busy Labor Day holiday. But authorities have insisted there was no actual threat.
An Alaskan Airlines flight attendant first approached the two men at Gate 30 in Terminal A at about 8:30 p.m., asking them a series of questions, a spokeswoman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey told Travel + Leisure in an email. The flight attendant became concerned and then hit an alarm, yelling for people to evacuate.
About 150 to 200 passengers then ran from the terminal to a self-evacuate ramp, according to the spokeswoman. It was not immediately clear what the flight attendant found suspicious, but the two men were released after being questioned by Port Authority police.
Witnesses described the scene as utterly chaotic with images posted of bags left scattered and discarded as well as videos of terrified passengers running through the terminal.
“She started screaming ‘Evacuate! Evacuate! Evacuate!’ Everyone just took off in a mad scramble,” passenger Diane Park told CBS New York. “Everyone was running. People were crying. They left their luggage.”
A fellow passenger described the flight attendant as “frazzled” and said she came off the plane and stopped the boarding process.
"I ran with the crowds, hid under some seats, looked for an exit, headed out to the tarmac,” the passenger told PIX11. “Sounded like [gunshots] but after seeing the damage in this terminal, it’s more likely it was glass being shattered from people jumping. Terrifying."
Shortly after the incident, Newark Airport tweeted that “there was no threat” and that “All passengers and employees are being rescreened as a precaution.”
According to the Port Authority spokeswoman, the flight attendant was also questioned, and the incident is under investigation. The agency said there was no impact on airport operations caused by the incident.