Update: Southwest clarifies that the passenger had a boarding pass but that it didn’t scan properly so they showed as not having boarded – and the airline cleared a standby, ending up “with more Customers on the aircraft than we had seats.” The deplaned passenger was moved to the next flight to New Orleans.
A woman boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to New Orleans without a ticket trying to see a Beyonce’ on tour.
The flight’s manifest has one fewer passenger on it than there were on the plane. According to one report the flight was sold out and there were more people on the plane than seats. It took 40 minutes to figure out who didn’t belong, because the stowaway wasn’t fessing up.
The airline asked for help from the cabin to resolve this, but the stowaway kept quite. Since Southwest Airlines doesn’t have assigned seats it’s not as simple as identifying what seat is supposed to be empty but isn’t, or in the case of a full flight checking the boarding pass of the person still standing against the boarding pass of the person in that assigned seat to see who really belongs.
Everyone on board went through a process of showing their IDs that took 40 minutes before they found the woman in the back of the plane that was traveling but wasn’t supposed to be on the plane.
@SouthwestAir I am so mortified that someone was able to sneak on our flight today without actually having a ticket.. How many other times has this happened? This is a security issue that needs to be addressed… Is there some compensation that you can provide? pic.twitter.com/Fi8Pz3bUUS
— Uncle Johnny's Sewing Machine (@Cee_dot_Moody) September 27, 2023
It’s not clear how she got past the security checkpoint at the airport. She’d have had to show TSA an ID, at least, and if her travel wasn’t in their system she would have had to show a boarding pass. Perhaps she was scheduled to take a different flight? She might have refunded that ticket?
But once through security she also managed to board the Southwest Airlines plane without a boarding pass for the flight. You should your boarding pass, have it scanned, and the system is supposed to validate that you’re on the flight. This woman must have boarded while blending in with passengers that had been scanned.
It seems like it would be hard to stow away in the cabin of a commercial aircraft. And yet one woman, Marilyn Hartman ‘the serial stowaway’, did it over and over for 20 years. She says she’s taken over 30 flights that way, both domestically and internationally. She’s been caught, warned, and kept doing it again. Her picture was even posted at TSA checkpoints and she still got through without a ticket just by following other passengers through and because she looks unobtrusive and unthreatening. No one, either working for TSA or an airline, has ever been known to have been disciplined for the lapses that allowed her to fly without a ticket.