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This Year’s Most Memorable Stowaways

Child hiding inside a red suitcase. Isolated on a white background.

Stowaways in Europe, Indonesia and the United States captured FlyerTalk’s attention in 2015.

Every year, millions of flyers travel across the main cabin to their final destinations without incident. However, a commercial aircraft represents more than a transportation vessel for some flyers. Rather, it symbolizes freedom and the chance to start a new life at all costs. For others, it presents a challenge to see the world without miles and points, but simply with wit and cunning.

In 2015, a string of stowaways around the world captured FlyerTalkers’ attention, as they surmised why these few would attempt to board their flights without the proper passes. Here are the most memorable stowaways that either attempted or completed a flight as a stowaway in the past year.

Wheel well flyers attempt an escape to freedom

Throughout 2015, at least five individuals attempted to fly to freedom not with a ticket on a commercial flight, but from the wheel well instead. One of the most memorable tales was that of 21-year-old Mario Steven Ambarita, who survived his hour-long flight aboard a Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737. Authorities claim Ambarita took ten days to study the aircraft departing from Pekanbaru, Indonesia, before choosing his flight to freedom. Despite exposure to sub-zero temperatures and oxygen deprivation, Ambarita survived his flight and was treated at the Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) clinic.

However, not all stowaways survive. Of the four documented cases of wheel well stowaways in 2015, only two flyers survived, including Ambarita. The dangers were demonstrated on June 19, when two flyers attempted to travel from Johannesburg, South Africa to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) stowed aboard a British Airways 747. While one flyer survived and was ultimately treated at a London hospital for his injuries, the companion was not as lucky and was found dead on the roof of a London building, after falling from the landing gear during approach.

“Secret spies” attempt to board without clearance in Europe

Not all stowaways attempt to fly in the wheel well. Instead, some try to outwit airport security and flight attendants in order to fly in comfort of the main cabin. One European flyer attempted to use spy tactics to board her next flight for free.

In Barcelona, a woman brandished multiple passports in a failed attempt to board a Norwegian Airlines flight to London Gatwick Airport (LGW). Police were ultimately called in to remove the woman from her flight in what was described as a “terrifying” situation. The flyer’s tactics failed and she was ultimately barred from traveling aboard her flight and delaying her fellow passengers by two hours.

The “Serial Stowaway” rides again…and gets grounded

Despite the dangers and risks that come with flying for free, a very narrow minority of attempts are successful. In 2015, America’s favorite stowaway once again captured headlines for the second consecutive year, before having her flying days brought to an end in Chicago.

Marilyn Hartman, also known as the “Serial Stowaway,” claimed she was able to fly from Minnesota to Florida in February before being caught at a Jacksonville-area resort. Three months later, the flyer was caught again in Chicago, where she allegedly attempted to board flights at Chicago Midway Airport (MDW). Despite being charged with trespassing, this didn’t stop Hartman from supposedly attempting to stow away again at both Chicago airports in July.

Chicago NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV reports Hartman spent over four months in an Illinois county jail before pleading guilty to two counts against her, including reckless conduct. As part of her sentence, she will be subject to GPS tracking and will be forced to stay 2,500 feet away from Chicago’s transportation hubs – potentially grounding the “Serial Stowaway” for good.

[Photo: Getty]

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