The stories about a 63-year-old serial stowaway could be comical – in a 1980s movie. However, in today’s era of supposedly tightened airport security, the fact that a serial stowaway, Marilyn Hartman, repeatedly managed to give TSA officials the slip and fly the friendly skies for free is scary. Yes, she has been arrested at times too, notably twice this weekend, but the woman has found far too many loopholes in TSA diligence and procedures.
Hartman has successfully boarded airplanes at several airports in the U.S. She has also been arrested several times – including twice this week in Chicago.
On Thursday, the woman was released from the Cook County Jail in Chicago, where she served two months for misdemeanor criminal trespassing for one stowaway attempt earlier this year. At that time, Hartman told reporters after leaving custody that she was through with stowaway attempts and only go to the airport if she had a ticket.
Then, on Friday, the 63-year-old was detained by airport security at Midway International Airport. Hartman reportedly had a valid ticket for a flight, but caused such a disturbance getting on the plane and was escorted off and arrested.
Yesterday, Hartman was arrested again. This time she was ticketless and trying to get through security at O’Hare International Airport. They detained her and she was charged with criminal trespassing and with violating terms of her release on Thursday.
This tale would seem to validate that security measures are working. Except, Hartman does success at times, too. Earlier this year, she boarded a flight from Minnesota to Jacksonville, Fl. without a ticket.
She has been thwarted at least seven times from boarding airplanes at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). But, undeterred, she went to nearby San Jose Airport, slipped by an agent checking a family’s boarding passes, went through the carry-on security screening, got past the agent at the gate, and successfully took a flight to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where she was arrested on arrival. At that time, Hartman told reporters, “It was clearly wrong on my part and I certainly don’t want to do it again.” Her travels at that time got her banned from SFO and LAX, however, unless she has a valid boarding pass.
Surprisingly, the TSA at San Jose maintained Harman’s behavior was not an official security breach since she was screened for weapons and such. She only sneaked past the places where they check if people have valid boarding documents. Huh? They did say they would make modifications in their check area to prevent a similar incident.
Hartman has been a serial stowaway for years. She has been arrested in or lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, Maui and other places in between bouts of homelessness. When she was stopped at one airport last year, she claimed that she had cancer and merely wanted to travel someplace warm. Authorities subsequently determined that she did have cancer – years ago.
In February 2014, she attempted to board planes to Hawaii without a ticket three times. Once, she even managed to board a Hawaii-bound plane, but was booted when a paying passenger told the flight crew that Hartman was in her seat.
Hartman admits to struggles with mental illness, and that she feels safer in airports than on the street. But, her story clearly shows that airport safety is an oxymoron.
The 2001 Aviation and Transportation Act, and birth of the Department of Homeland Security, heralded in a new era in airport and airline security. Goodbyes are curbside now versus at boarding gates, since TSA supposedly will only let ticketed passengers head toward gates. However, the story of serial stowaway Hartman, who has repeatedly managed to give the TSA the slip and fly for free, illustrates that the system is not working.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
Chicago Tribune: Woman known as ‘serial stowaway’ arrested again
NBC Chicago: Bond Court Judge to Serial Stowaway: ‘I’m Trying to Help You. Jail Is Not Where You Belong.’
Boston Globe: Frequent plane stowaway leaves jail
USA Today: Arrested again: How does this serial stowaway keep doing it?
SFist: Serial Stowaway Marilyn Hartman Has A Blog, Seems Thrilled With The Attention