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Flight Risk

Flight Risk

An Upper West Side man who flew Continental Airlines from Newark to Tel Aviv last month is alleging that the carrier failed to divulge its decision to reduce pre-boarding security.Jonathan Gould, 48, is suing the airline for the cost of his flight. Last week he filed a claim against Continental Airlines requesting damages of $978.65 plus expenditures for “non-disclosure of significant decrease in pre-boarding security due to cost-cutting measures.

”The airline denied trimming security on the route.Gould said that when he flew Continental from Newark Liberty International Airport to Ben Gurion Airport in November 2003, he was subjected to a pre-boarding interview like those customary on the Israeli carrier El Al and asked to provide digital finger scans to authenticate his identity.Impressed by the airline’s stringent security procedures, Gould booked another Continental flight from Newark to Tel Aviv 14 months later. He said he was alarmed when he arrived at the airport and realized that the pre-boarding interview and electronic fingerprinting had been scrapped.“I was nervous,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect.

”On the New York area to Tel Aviv routes, which are considered more at risk to terrorist attacks, Gould said he feels like he’s paying for security as much as a seat and a couple of meals.“I’m not going to say I was traumatized throughout the 12-hour flight, but I was pretty concerned,” Gould said. “This is all about cost cutting.”The airline, responding to a Jewish Week inquiry about its security practices, issued this statement:“Although some customers may have noticed changes in security procedures for our flights between Newark and Tel Aviv, there has been no reduction in the level of security for these flights. Safety and security are our absolute priority. While we will not discuss details publicly, for obvious reasons, we continue to work with the appropriate authorities in both the U.S. and Israel to re-evaluate procedures and ensure the highest levels of security on these flights.”

Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Authority, the government body that oversees airport security, said the TSA does not require airlines to conduct pre-boarding interviews, even on the routes considered most vulnerable to attack.Davis added that the government sponsors an electronic fingerprinting pilot program, but that the Newark airport is not one of the five sites where it was being used.Lou Martinez, a public information officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said the airline, not the airport, would have implemented any digital fingerprinting at Newark Liberty.Continental Airlines confirmed that Gould is suing the company, but provided no further comment.According to paperwork Gould filed Feb. 14 with the Civil Court of the City of New York, Small Claims/Commercial Claims Part, his case will be heard March 23.Continental and El Al are the only airlines that offer nonstop service to Tel Aviv from New York-area airports. Israir Airlines is scheduled to launch nonstop service from Kennedy Airport next month.

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