Worst Passenger of the Week: Testing the TSA
Every Friday, FlyerTalk looks back at the week’s most charming individuals. While there are always plenty of contenders for our Worst Passenger of the Week award, only one lucky flyer can take home the glory. Here are this week’s winners.
It’s hard to believe that a gun owner would show up at airport security having forgotten that they were carrying a loaded weapon, but it seems to happen almost daily. Last year, the TSA seized a record 3,957 firearms at airports around the U.S. According to officials, the vast majority of those guns were loaded.
This week, a passenger at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) did his best to help make certain 2018 is another record-shattering year. The unnamed passenger arrived at the airport security checkpoint with not one, but two loaded weapons on his person. The man was discovered to be carrying “a .40 caliber handgun that was loaded with 13 bullets and a .38 caliber handgun that was loaded with six bullets.”
The two handguns were the 13th and 14th guns found by IAD screeners this year. Last year, the TSA seized 19 handguns from passengers at the airport.
“TSA officers immediately contacted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police, and when they arrived at the checkpoint, they confiscated the firearms and cited the man, a resident of Reston, Virginia, on state weapons charges,” the Homeland Security agency said in a statement about the incident. “The man claimed that he forgot that he was carrying two loaded handguns with him. Last year, 77 percent of firearms detected at checkpoints belonged to men.”
In a bizarre tale that is surely destined to become the basis for a country western ballad, a Delta Air Lines flight this week bound from Springfield–Branson National Airport (SGF) to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) was forced to divert to Huntsville International Airport (HSV) in Alabama due to a disruptive passenger. According to eyewitnesses on the flight, the allegedly intoxicated flyer “became unruly” and was “making suicidal statements.”
Perhaps more notable than yet another case of an intoxicated passenger causing an unscheduled landing, was the fact that the very sad and drunk man was allowed to board the flight in the first place. It seems gate agents and crew members had a very good reason to deny the disturbed passenger boarding.
“TSA workers noticed a man intoxicated in the airport around 5:30 a.m,” an SGF spokesperson told reporters. “TSA employees escorted the passenger to the Delta counter. Delta employees then allowed the passenger to fly.”
News that TSA officers made a point of warning gate agents about an allegedly drunk passenger in person, long before the costly and potentially dangerous flight diversion occurred, doesn’t appear to sit especially well with Delta Air Lines officials.
“The safety of our customers and crew members is always our top priority,” the airline said in a statement to local media outlets. “Our crew members are trained on applicable regulations and company policy related to the boarding of passengers. We are reviewing this flight with our crew members and the Springfield customer service team to better understand what happened.”
A 15-year-old girl’s struggle with technology led to some tense moments on board a Hawaiian Airlines flight preparing to depart from Oakland international Airport (OAK) to Maui Kahului Airport (OGG). Police say the teenager’s attempt to send a photo to her mother’s phone created concern among other passengers who inadvertently received the image, sent via Bluetooth, on their mobile devices as well. When fellow travelers opened the AirDrop image, they discovered a disturbing photograph of a mock crime scene complete with a face-down mannequin surrounded by police tape and evidence markers.
At least 15 of those passengers found the mysterious image threatening and reported their concerns. The flight returned to the gate, where authorities soon realized that the photograph was apparently part of a harmless inside joke between mother and daughter and was not intended as a threat.
“The young girl was very embarrassed,” Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sergeant Ray Kelly told reporters. “She was upset, we explained to her she was not in trouble, there was no crime that was committed here.”
Unfortunately for them, the mother and daughter still had to answer a few questions and their flight departed without them on board, forcing the pair to wait until the next morning to depart for tropical paradise. Fortunately for them, they were not on the plane when it was forced to declare an emergency before landing because another passenger’s canister of pepper spray accidentally discharged in flight. Unfortunately for them, this means that they were not eligible for the $500 voucher the airline gave passengers as an apology for “the inconveniences aboard Hawaiian Airlines Flight 23.”
This week, a passenger at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), who was on his way to a “training event focused on X-ray detection of explosive devices” in Florida learned a lot about the subject before he ever made it out of the airport. The unidentified passenger was reportedly carrying a “test device” used to train X-ray screeners to identify explosives.
A TSA screener had no problem spotting the item designed to look like an improvised explosive device (IED). After a full-scale emergency response, authorities confirmed that the device was an inert training replica, but not before bomb techs were called to examine the potential explosive device and the passenger carrying the troubling item in his carry-on bag was taken into custody by police.
“Security is no joke,” TSA New Jersey Federal Security Director Tom Carter said in a statement. “Our TSA officer who was staffing the X-ray monitor identified what appeared to be a fully assembled IED and reported it to her supervisor … The item was built to look exactly like an explosive device. The terror threat is real and we do not take chances when it comes to protecting the lives of travelers … The individual who brought this device to the checkpoint knew he had a replica bomb with him and as such, he should have known better than to bring it to an active checkpoint. His foolish actions inconvenienced hundreds of passengers today.”
The TSA points out that the alarming, but fake bomb was discovered less than a week before the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. “To ensure the safety of the passengers who were eager to catch their flights, six checkpoint lanes were temporarily closed and travelers shifted to other available checkpoint lanes to keep them at a safe distance from the device until the bomb technicians were able to verify that the item was a realistic replica bomb and was not harmful,” the agency reported.