I expected a short delay on last night’s flight from New York to Munich. JFK was still cleaning up from the prior night’s snow and the inbound was slightly behind schedule. About 30 minutes after the original departure time the pilot announced that the doors were closing and the all too familiar “cross-check” request came over the PA. Which was strange as the jet bridge was still attached to the plane.
Another 30 minutes later the flight attendants were chatting with a group of passengers on the far side of the cabin. I heard on ask if another passenger had a similar name. I assumed it was because they traded seats between cabins. I was very wrong.
The boarding door was reopened and I eventually saw a man walking up the jetbridge carrying a suitcase and a duty free bag. Getting booted from the flight for swapping seats is unusual and was not the scenario here. It turns out that two passengers with the same name managed to get on the plane using only one ticket. It was caught at the last minute when the flight attendants did their final count and came up one off. Once he was found out he was escorted off the aircraft and we all got to wait an extra hour or so while they found his checked bag and pulled it off the plane.
Seems we had 2 pax w same name try to both board using one ticket. Got caught. And screwed the rest of us. https://t.co/Z8CayWxeMi
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) March 16, 2017
I’m not certain the details from there but my assumption is that they checked the manifest for seats that shouldn’t be occupied and found an “empty” holding a passenger. And I think he squatted in business class as I don’t remember him walking forward to be evicted. Given that the ticketed passenger was also in business class I guess they figured they’d get away with just pretending they took an empty to sit near friends (and it seemed to be a group of 40+ traveling together where this happened).
Getting past security isn’t so hard in such a scheme. The name on the boarding pass matches the name on the ID so no problems there. Getting on board is slightly more surprising as the gate scanner should reject the second passenger. Presumably someone processed an override there. And they probably should have noticed in when he checked a bag as that requires ID match; alas, my guess is that the airline rep checked only the name and not the bate of birth. The on-board count is hardest to fake. Either someone hides in a lav or otherwise manages to avoid the FAs during that part of the trip. It didn’t work for this guy. Much as I hate the TSA’s “we have layers of security” mantra this is a scenario where the multiple checks eventually worked correctly.
Perhaps most surprising to me is that the way these guys behaved suggests to me (and to the FAs) that this is not the first time they’ve tried this stunt. No surprise, no outrage, no indignation on board. And one of the two got to stick around for the trip.
UPDATE: Another angle that was suggested to me is that it was not malicious and just two guys with the same name and a screw up by the agents. That might also explain why he was squatting in whatever empty J seat he could find. But still crazy that he got on board given the checks that should have happened along the way.
Completely bizarre, especially considering that I’m pretty sure there was an onward connection after Munich, though I didn’t stick around to find out.
n.b. My airfare this week is being covered by Lufthansa Technik as part of a media event.
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