A few years ago, Delta Airlines ran an ad campaign with the theme “Keep Climbing.” That’s exactly what a nine year old boy did when he managed to sneak aboard a plane at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport Thursday and fly to Las Vegas. He had no ticket or boarding pass when he walked by airport security and boarded the Delta Airlines flight. The boy has not been identified but officials say his parents are cooperating. During the flight the flight crew did think it was suspicious that the boy was traveling alone and didn’t have a seat assignment and reported it to authorities.
Paul Hogan, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport said this was a “Delta and TSA issue” and not the fault of the airport. Both Delta and the TSA released similar statements saying they are investigating the incident and cooperating with authorities. A spokesman at the airport said this “is a rare incident.”
There are no records which show how many people have boarded flights without tickets or boarding passes. Whether this is because they don’t keep records or the stowaways don’t get caught is not known. The big question in this case is how did this boy get through at least three layers of security at the airport? There are three levels of security he would need to have passed through. The first checkpoint is the screening by the TSA, including metal detectors. Then he would have had to get by the Delta Airlines gate agents before boarding the plane. The last level of security would be the flight crew themselves who should have questioned why the boy had no boarding pass before the plane took off.
It has also been reported that the boy arrived at the airport on Wednesday, taking a bag from an incoming flight then entering a restaurant. While in the restaurant he asked one of the servers to watch his bag while he went to use the bathroom which was located in the concourse. He never returned. It is not clear when he left the airport on Wednesday but security footage shows him returning to the airport on Thursday by light rail. He is also seen talking to the Delta gate agent and when the agent was busy he walked down the jet way and onto the plane. He is believed to be a runaway but it is unclear if he intended to go to Las Vegas or just board the first plane he could.
People stowing away in a plane’s wheel wells is not so rare. According to a report released in 2012 by the FAA there have been 96 people who have tried to hitch rides on airplanes since 1947. In all cases they have tried to get into the wheel wells on 85 different flights. Only 14% of these have survived which considering the risks involved and the harsh conditions this is no surprise. Some of these risks include tinnitus, deafness, hypothermia, hypoxia, frostbite and acidosis. There is no heat or oxygen in an aircraft’s wheel wells. There is also the chance that the person will fall when trying to climb into the wheel well and if he makes it he could get mangled by the landing gear. There is also a risk of falling out when the landing gear is lowered. Interestingly enough the youngest recorded survivor was nine years old.
According to Consumerwarningnetwork.com Delta Airlines is second to only Southwest in being the safest airline to fly. If they want to keep climbing they will have some explaining to do.
Written by Paul Roy