Police Remove Multiple Stowaways Discovered On Delta Flight From Atlanta To Los Angeles

Last month a stowaway was caught flying Delta Air Lines from Salt Lake City to Austin. They found him after he snapped a photo of a child’s boarding pass and used it to get on the plane and then hid in the lavatory. It turns out it was a full flight so there was no empty seat to sit in, and the plane turned around and went back to the gate. The child’s boarding pass had errored as already having been used, but the gate agent overrode it and let the kid board anyway.

Now another Delta Air Lines flight caught two separate rounds of stowaways, this time on Friday morning’s Atlanta to Los Angeles flight 345.

A passenger sitting at the front of the coach cabin on the Airbus A350 saw a family of 5 seat themselves in the ‘Comfort+’ section. However two of those seats were already occupied. A flight attendant comes in to sort out the ‘duplicate seats’. She asked the two men for their boarding passes however “one of them kept showing her a screenshot and he was also saying his sister booked the ticket for him.” The men were asked to disembark to get things sorted at the gate. It seemed like matters were solved, and the flight departed.

However on arrival in Los Angeles it turns out that there were more stowaways on the plane.

Four+ hours later, we land in LAX and pull up to the gate to which we find ourselves sitting for 5+ minutes, just sitting there waiting for the tone to stand up and prepare to deplane. Pilot comes on eventually and says they have an irregular passenger count and its gonna be a few more minutes – he asks us to remain seated for a few more minutes.

When the aircraft door opens, “4-5 police officers and one guy with FBI on a lanyard (maybe his jacket)” boarded while passengers remained seated.

Lead officer is standing in between First Class and Comfort+ has a tablet and is scrolling / viewing – looking at what I’m guessing are photos of passengers.

They take three guys off who somehow managed to get on the plane (sitting way in the back of the plane)…No drama, no handcuffs, no yelling or arguing – they deplaned without any issues from what I can tell.

The cops and the FBI agent also pulled off the family as well as other passengers who were sitting around these people for questioning

This is hardly the first time that a passenger successfully flew on Delta without a ticket and got caught. And just as in the past it’s unlikely that TSA document checkers will be disciplined for presumably allowing them through security checkpoints without a boarding pass.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Delta is a premium airline for premium passengers, it’s not a surprise that people are willing to sneak on to experience Delta Air Lines

  2. Multiple system failures and MORE than a simple stowaway issue for DL and our government. This is another facet of our national security issue and must be addressed.

  3. Wow Delta is so “premium” that they think nothing of inconveniencing a plane full of people twice over a few hundred dollars. Disgusting.

  4. Trans America Airlines paging Ada Quonsett….Mrs Quonsett. White courtesy phone please.

  5. So unnecessary. Be like my evil aunt who conned a relative to naming her as trustee then stole massive amounts from the estate and trust to pay for overseas vacations. No need to stowaway.

  6. The part about getting past TSA – TSA doesn’t check boarding passes, they just ask for government ID and do the photo recognition thing the last 5 times I flew

  7. With regards to TSA, it’s possible that the stowaways ‘stole’ connecting flights only. That is, they bought cheap tickets to one destination and then when they passed TSA they decided to travel to another destination or May be the they traveled to the destination and then stole the connecting flight. TSA has been pretty solid on not letting people through without a need to be at the terminals.

  8. Test runs for terrorist attacks?

    Or just an opportune learning experience offered to them?

  9. Ditto – I flew Southwest from Houston to LaGuardia last Friday 12th April and passed through security with just my driving license being checked. I thought that odd at the time – then saw this posting! What’s going on? I had my boarding pass ready and was not asked for it.

  10. Some of the comments above make light of that situation about “stowaways.” I would call the breach of security and safety, whether by TSA and/or the airline as an enormous error. If casual persons with a simple plan can get on board an aircraft, why not “experts” who have a well-crafted plan to get on and do horrific damage??? I hope those incidents mentioned in the article are thoroughly investigated and some people, perhaps either forfeit their jobs or face discipline and re-training.

  11. TSA no longer reuires boarding passes, only ID. It’s been a big problem for ticket agents during boarding. Passengers frequently end up at the incorrect terminals all the time.

  12. @Gary Leff

    TSA matches to a manifest, but not necessarily to the manifest of the flight they attempted to board.

  13. @Richard—i agree completely. I am actually shocked that this could happen. This is a serious breach of security. I hope this gets thoroughly investigated.

  14. Too much of a coincidence here. Hope FBI is investigating this as possible probing for weaknesses in the system. Even if they make it thru security into “sterile” area, too many other opportunities to introduce nefarious items by others such as airport employees.

  15. Had an intresting one this week with TSA/Boarding pass.

    We went standbye in Vegas on Tuesday – I cleared and boarded – GA had said PAX had 15/20 minutes to check-in before departure for my wife to clear – I boarded (to grab a seat for us on SW).

    GA said PAX walked up to the counter a few minutes after I boarded and checked-in – after flight departed and was placed back on our orginal I asked GA how they got past TSA without boarding pass – said only needed ID to pass TSA (I guess this only if you have an e-ticket/PNR even if you haven’t checked in).

    But I have noticed on our US flights since Jan we didn’t need boarding pass TSA agent eirher handed it back or didn’t scan
    pass only our IDs.

    But our flights overseas this year sometimes our ID/boarding pass was checked multiple times at airport and prior to being allowed to board jetway.

  16. @YoniPDX

    Your spelling of “standbye” made me laugh. Many years ago I was trying to get on the last flight of the day out of Jackson, WY as a standby passenger. I was a pretty regular passenger there and my work was done sooner than expecded and I was booked on a mid-day flight the following day. The gate lady smiled and said to stand at the window and wave bye to the plane and then she would help me out.

    She took me to her home, made a wonderful dinner for both of us and I didn’t need to get a hotel. 🙂

  17. Every Delta flight is a disease spreading missile. It doesn’t surprise me that vagrants are sneaking on to their flights any more than it surprises when a turd draws flies.

  18. @BJHK I 100% agree with you. This is a security failure and deserves to be taken with the utmost seriousness, humor here should be frowned upon, less we want to have another 9/11 level Incident or worse.

  19. @Donald Mamula says:
    April 14, 2024 at 9:35 am
    Trans America Airlines paging Ada Quonsett

    Trans Global Ailines

  20. Real bad performance of gate agents here!

    And when is DL they going to eliminate paper boarding passes? They are open for this type of fraud, and could be using faces for boarding.

  21. If actually stowaways (yet to be confirmed by law agencies), how did they get by gate agents and scanning of boarding passes??
    Delta and gate agents have egg on their face. Could it be all these new agents lack in-depth knowledge on how to detect and handle issues?? I foresee a new training video for gate agents. Guess what the topic will be??

  22. Gary – as other readers have mentioned, having to actually present a boarding pass at TSA is becoming a rarer and rarer thing in the US. It seems like the ID and photo systems TSA use now should be more secure, but maybe they are not?

  23. TSA still requires a boarding pass even when they don’t check it physically. Your flight number associated with your name pops up on the screen when your driver’s license is scanned.

    I have no idea whether this is how folks did it, but it would’ve been easy for these people to buy a refundable ticket on just about anyone to get through security then cancel it and stowaway on Delta.
    That would be easy do with a printed boarding pass or with the current method at TSA where only your license is scanned.

  24. I can ensure you that your ID is all the TSA needs, like mentioned in here before, your itinerary is in a database. Now, a different but fully known issue, which is unique to the airlines, they do not check ID again when you get on a plane. I can fly on anyone’s ticket to anywhere once I am in the airport. For persons of interest (selectees), they are tracked when they fly but lets say that is me. I might show up at the airport for a flight to LAX and go through security as John Doe with matching ID and that’s me. They might even be waiting for me again at the gate for additional screening. However, I just head to a kiosk and print out a boarding pass for my ghost, Jack Lee, he’s headed to JFK, not LAX. I use that boarding pass because ID is not checked at the gate. John Doe, never gets on his flight, he disappears. Heaven forbid, someone in the airport subdues you in an airport, they can easily get you drunk or slip you a pill and then steal your seat while you are passed out somewhere.

    Similar note, in the airport I used to work at, we had a small crime ring that were stealing macbooks. They would intentionally distract passengers during screening and you would walk away with a broken macbook, not knowing they were walking away with your working one. When caught in the act, “my bad, they all look the same, sorry, I must have gotten it mixed up.” They used refundable tickets so they could come in and out of the checkpoints multiple times in a day, they didn’t travel.

  25. I think you cancel refundable tickets right till the plane leaves the gate. So perhaps one could be onboard, seated, and then cancel the ticket and technically become a stowaway with worrying about someone else claiming their seat.

  26. The newer checkpoints that only scan your ID still check it against a database that matches it to your passenger flight information. If it doesn’t find a match or you have multiple flight reservations for some reason, the agent will ask to see your boarding pass. I once had standby boarding passes for both BUR and LAX during an IRROP and the agent had to ask to visually see my boarding pass since the system found two entries. Another time I had to show my boarding pass because there was an apostrophe missing in my PNR that prevented the ID scan from finding my info.

  27. This is so wrong it’s not even funny – if you don’t have a boarding pass with TSA indicator on it, you’re not getting through TSA boarding area

    >>>>David says:
    >>>>April 14, 2024 at 9:48 am
    >>>>The part about getting past TSA – TSA doesn’t check boarding passes, they just ask for >>>>government ID and do the photo recognition thing the last 5 times I flew

  28. This story is just unbelieveable and shows how careless gate agents have become even though restrictions were supposed to have been imposed since 9/11. As someone who retired 3 years ago the process for allowing someone to board the aircraft used to require a physical ticket not some image on a phone. When did this start? If this continues it will only allow once again for the US to become a victim once again of a terrorist attack. I truly hope and pray the people at the top of all MAJOR US DOMESTIC CARRIERS take note of the danger here and put a stop of digital boarding passes to get on the aircraft. Call me old fashion or out of touch but in my day after 33 years of passenger service I was never called unsafe or careless!

  29. @Kit D

    It’s not about the inconvenience of the other guests, the airlines must know who is on the aircraft period. You can’t be that dumb.

  30. For all of the people asking about TSA not checking boarding passes:

    TSA gets the Secure Flight Info on every passenger who is issued a boarding pass. They already know who is supposed to have a flight departing from the airport in question on a given day and which flight they’re supposed to be on.

    That being said, either before or after they stopped asking for boarding passes, it was and is very easy to circumvent this. All you need to do is book a ticket, check in, go through security, then cancel the ticket before the cutoff time for cancellation. As long as it’s not a ‘Basic Economy’ ticket, most non-ULCC U.S. carriers will give you back the full value of the ticket as a flight voucher now. And, of course, refundable tickets have always been able to be completely refunded this way. There were stories years ago of people buying, then cancelling fully-refundable First Class tickets just to go eat in the lounges.

    I have actually noticed (from personal experience) an additional case where TSA thinks you have a boarding pass for a flight when you actually don’t, but I won’t mention the details of that here since it could be a bit of a security concern (though, really, you can just do what’s mentioned above anyway, so not that much of an additional risk. And, of course, when I noticed it personally, I did have an actual valid boarding pass for a different flight, which I was actually taking.)

    But, yeah, potential stowaways (or people who just want to get airside for shopping or lounges or whatever,) have multiple ways to get through TSA screening, so stowaways being onboard doesn’t necessarily (or even likely) mean they were unscreened.

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