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Worst Passenger of the Week: the Dirty Rat, the Wingman and the Great Pretender

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.

Third Place – “A Rat was Spotted Jumping from the Jetway to Inside the Aircraft”

A stowaway rodent grounded an Alaska Airlines flight from Oakland international Airport (OAK) this week after reportedly jumping onto the aircraft when crew members opened the door for boarding. After being briefly spotted before in the cockpit before going into hiding, the mischievous runaway critter managed to successfully evade all pursuers. With the uninvited and un-ticketed pest unaccounted for, the aircraft was not able to continue on the journey to Portland International Airport (PDX).

Airport officials initially downplayed the unsavory details of the incident. An OAK spokesperson indicated that the flight was canceled “due to reports of a mouse in the cockpit of the aircraft,” but eyewitnesses’ accounts and a much more forthcoming statement from the airline, left stranded passengers smelling a rat.

“That’s when a rat was spotted jumping from the jetway to inside the aircraft,” Alaska Airlines officials confirmed. “Any passengers onboard the aircraft were deplaned. The plane is currently out of service. It will be returned to operations once it’s certified rodent-free by a professional exterminator. The aircraft will also be thoroughly inspected to ensure no damage has been done.”

Passengers scheduled to fly to PDX seemed to take the unlikely circumstances in stride. A few of the delayed flyers even live tweeted tongue-in-cheek play-by-plays of the unlikely saga.

“Chose Oakland airport to evade @KarlTheFog at SFO but now delayed because a rat hijacked our plane,” one marooned passenger posted on Twitter, adding, “Departure time: unknown #truestory.”

When it became clear that many of the affected passengers wouldn’t reach their destination until the following day, things took a decidedly darker turn.

“Plane still hasn’t moved, man is yelling at woman at ticket counter,” the same passenger later wrote. “2 hours after original departure, and theoretically should be in Portland, the mood has turned hostile. the jokes have stopped. it’s getting real.”

The Runner-up – “I’m Going via the Wing”

After waiting nearly a half an hour on the tarmac to disembark after arriving on a New Year’s Day flight at Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport (AGP), one Ryanair passenger was clearly out of patience. Fellow passengers captured video that appears to show the frustrated 57-year-old flyer exiting the plane and waiting on the wing of the aircraft until an opportunity to enter the terminal presented itself.

“This man decided he wasn’t going to wait any longer,” one eyewitness on the flight told reporters. “He activated the emergency door and left, saying: ‘I’m going via the wing.’ It was surreal. He was sat on the wing for quite a while until the crew managed to get him back inside.”

Crew members did eventually manage to convince the maverick passenger, who was waiting on the wing of the aircraft with his carry-on bag, to come back inside, but he might have been better off staying on the wing indefinitely. Upon reentering the cabin, the fed-up flyer was then held aboard the aircraft until law enforcement arrived to further detain the already aggravated passenger.

An hour-long delay prior to takeoff from London Stansted Airport (STN) may have helped spark the meltdown on arrival in Spain, though Ryanair made no mention of the string of delays in a statement confirming the bizarre incident.

“This airport security breach occurred after landing in Malaga Airport on 1 January,” the Dublin-based airline reported. “Malaga Airport Police immediately arrested the passenger in question and since this was a breach of Spanish safety and security regulations, it is being dealt with by the Spanish authorities.”

For his part, the disgruntled passenger reportedly claimed that he just needed some fresh air. The problem-solving flyer went as far as to blame crew members for his drastic actions – claiming that flight attendants failed to take his complaint that he was having breathing problems seriously.

The Winner – “A Suspicious Person Attempting to Gain Unauthorized Access to Aircraft”

A TSA be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) notice from July of this year finally paid off when Ahmed O. Salau was apprehended at Gwinnett County Airport at Briscoe Field (LZU) this week. Salau was arrested after airport workers recognized him from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security alert.

“TSA is aware of numerous incidents involving a suspicious person attempting to gain unauthorized access to aircraft and facilities at primarily Fixed Based Operators (FBOs),” the TSA BOLO, which was first issued on July 10, 2017, warns. “The individual identified as Ahmed O SALAU aka SALAN has reportedly visited several FBOs falsely presenting himself as either a passenger or crew member with the intent to gain unauthorized access to aircraft and/or facilities. TSA is also aware that the same individual may have also telephonically contacted FBOs in an attempt to gather passenger and aircraft data.”

His arrest comes just days after Salau was issued a trespass warning at Athens Ben Epps Airport (AHN). When he was challenged by law enforcement at LZU, Salau reportedly told officers that he had accessed airport offices as a function of his job as a charity worker. When pressed, police say he could not produce any evidence supporting this claim or explain why a charity worker needed access to restricted airport areas.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that in addition to the alias Amed Salan, Salau has used a number of false identities in his attempts to infiltrate secure areas of airports and access aircraft. According to the TSA, the persistent trespasser has posed as a charter pilot, a limo driver, a missionary and used various forms of fake identification during dozens of failed and a few successful incursions into restricted areas at more than 20 airports across the country, including Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) and George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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CaliforniaSteve January 6, 2018

Anyone who tweets or otherwise mentions "Karl the Fog" is not to be listened to.