Here’s an interesting insight into the reality of airport security in the USA: a man who breached a security door at LAX that led onto an airfield ramp was released by airport police. He then boarded his AA flight and attempted to breach the cockpit in-flight. Sort of make you wonder, no?
25-year-old Anil Uskanli, a Turkish national, walked up to the AA ticket counter around midnight to purchase a one-way ticket to Honolulu on a flight leaving about 9 hours later. Ticket in hand, he cleared security to presumably spend the night in the terminal prior to his morning flight.
But the night was not without drama. He was arrested at LAX prior to his American Airlines flight to HNL for trespassing. He went through a door (not clear how he accessed it) at LAX that led to an airfield ramp. An airport contractor noticed him, alerted authorities, and he was promptly detained. Police issued him a misdemeanor trespassing citation, but released him. They determined he was “just” drunk.
Keeping a low profile, Uskanli boarded AA31. Passengers seated around him said the young man was talking to himself. 30 minutes after takeoff, with a towel wrapped around his head, Uskanli slowly walked up the aisle through the economy class cabin and into the first class cabin.
A FA quickly moved a beverage cart in front of the first class galley to block Uskanli from coming any further. He kicked and banged against it. Passengers jumped up to detain him. He was subdued and duct-taped to his seat. Authorities were alerted and two F-22 Raptors were scrambled by U.S. Pacific Command to escort the flight to Honolulu.
More details here.
My Thoughts on the Matter
Once again, passengers saved the day. It is one reason why I do not worry when I fly: people will step up in a time of crisis. It wasn’t TSA, it was not an Air Marshal, it was everyday folks like an off-duty police officer and first class passenger who jumped up, threw the man to the ground, and ensured he was subdued.
I can understand why Uskanli was released at LAX. A drunk man stumbles through a door that should have been secured. He has no weapons on him and so was perhaps reasonable deemed just plastered and not a threat.
But I do believe AA should have been notified. A drunk passenger wandering around the airport in the middle of the night may sober up by morning, but that’s not a chance I would take. He should have at least been interviewed before his flight. That wasn’t the job of police officers, but altering AA would have at least been courteous.
The man’s visa has been revoked and he could face up to 10 years in prison, though I bet he’ll just be placed on a one-way flight back to Istanbul.
The flight was never in danger: he could have banged against the cockpit door all day without it opening. Still, scary stuff and a great illustration that despite well-intentioned efforts, threats will often slip through the cracks.
top image: Alan Wilson / Wikimedia Commons