A major security probe was launched after a British man mysteriously boarded an international flight without a passport or ticket.
"Catch Me If You Can"
On December 23, Craig Sturt reached Britain's busiest airport, London Heathrow, with no passport or confirmed ticket. The 46-year-old jobless man bypassed the check-in desks and headed straight for the security gates in Heathrow's Terminal 5. These security gates are automated, meaning passengers scan their boarding passes at the machines before being allowed to undergo security screening.
Sturt could "tailgate" the passenger in front of him, clearing the gates without scanning any boarding pass. Once through, he passed through the security checks and somehow passport control, again by tailgating the passenger in front of him. Sturt then turned up at the gate for a British Airways flight bound for New York-JFK. According to The Sun, he was at a bus gate, but it is still surprising that he could even get on the bus to the aircraft.
The boarding gate agents will always check the passports and boarding passes for international flights. Once again, Mr. Sturt must have breezed through this formality by tailgating whoever was in front. He then boarded the British Airways flight and found an empty seat. Due to the busy holiday travel season, the flight was due to be overbooked. However, many passengers missed the flight due to issues with connecting flights, meaning a handful of open seats were available.
Mr. Sturt was not scrutinized on the flight in any way, and until he arrived in New York, the flight went by without issue. Once he got off the aircraft and proceeded to the U.S. Customs and Border Control at JFK Airport, problems finally arose. When Sturt could not produce valid travel documents, he was arrested by U.S. immigration officers, who then put him on a flight back to the United Kingdom.
What Happens Next?
Upon arrival back in London, Sturt was arrested upon being suspected of various aviation offenses. However, just recently, on February 9, it was revealed that Sturt was the subject of an "urgent missing person appeal." A warrant has been issued for his arrest, but he has still been on the run as of February 12.
According to The Sun, Sturt has been charged with "obtaining services by deception," "being unlawfully airside", and "boarding an aircraft without permission." He has been remanded to appear at the Uxbridge Magistrates' Court. Lee Smith, Sturt's brother, was perplexed upon hearing of his brother's unusual adventure.
Smith was even more confused about how he could accomplish this in the first place, saying:
"It's ridiculous this could happen. If Craig, with a troubled past, could dodge security then presumably anyone else with sinister motives could do the same. Heads should roll. How has this been allowed to happen?"
In today's day and age, where aviation security is at an all-time high, events such as what Mr. Sturt went through are unheard of and without proper documentation. James Cleverly, the Secretary of State for the U.K.'s Home Department, is reportedly involved in an investigation regarding Mr. Sturt's security breach at Heathrow.
A source reported:
"This is a major embarrassment for Heathrow and Border Force, happening at our [the] flagship airport. It's not a great look for B.A. either - staff have simply been negligent and not done their jobs."
U.S. officials are reportedly furious and demanding answers as to how an individual with no passport or ticket could have flown into their country from abroad. This is not the first time such an incident has occurred in recent history. In December, a Russian man managed to fly on a Scandinavian Airlines flight from Denmark to Los Angeles without a passport or ticket.
This incident involving Mr. Sturt is one of various stowaway flight incidents in recent history. The most recent one in Heathrow involved an individual aboard a Kenya Airways flight. As the 787 was approaching Heathrow, the stowaway, who was hidden in the landing gear compartment, tragically fell to his demise once the aircraft deployed the gear for landing. The investigation involving Mr. Sturt is still ongoing.
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