Officials with PSE&G said about 20,000 customers lost power, including the airport, at 2:30 p.m.
The outage had a major impact at the airport. FAA reported Terminals A, B and C were without power and the control tower was placed on backup power.
Residual delays were expected into the evening as a result of the outage, which also affected 20,000 customers in neighboring towns. The Federal Aviation Administration was reporting one-hour arrival delays, and the monorail that moves among the airport's three terminals was not working shortly after 5 p.m., about an hour after power was restored.
Flights were allowed to land during the outage, but security checkpoints had to close, said Ron Marsico, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport.
"It was a little disorienting, but it wasn't that bad," said passenger Sy Carruthers, of Dorset, England, who was waiting for a flight to Iceland. "It's just one of those things."
It was also much better than the last time he flew to the United States. That was Dec. 27, when he said a storm kept his plane on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City for 10 hours.
Two Air Trains carrying a total of 22 passengers were stranded between stations at one point. All passengers were safely removed from the trains.
Traffic on roads leading to the airport and on airport grounds was snarled Monday evening because traffic lights had been knocked out. They were gradually being reset and turned back on.
Work crews were in the process of upgrading a Public Service Electric and Gas switching station in Elizabeth at 2:30 p.m. when an electrical failure knocked out power to customers in Hillside, Elizabeth, Union, Newark, Roselle, Linden, Kenilworth and Irvington, as well as the airport, said Bonnie Sheppard, a PSE&G spokeswoman. Power was restored around 4 p.m., she said.
The work was being done in order to prepare the station for peak summer power loads.
Also affected were the Anheuser Busch brewery in Newark, where much of the Budweiser beer consumed in the New York metropolitan area is brewed; the Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth; and the Tuscan Dairy in Union Township.
The cause of the equipment failure is under investigation.
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