An American Airlines Airbus A321 enroute to Cancun diverted after a former employee bypassed security screening by entering the secure side of the airport through an employee-only entrance, then boarded the aircraft.
American Airlines A321 Diverts After Passenger Skips Security Screening
Most active airline employees who work operationally at airports or onboard are able to bypass security after undergoing a background check and obtaining a Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge. It isn’t clear if this ex-employee had one or perhaps even an unexpired badge that he failed to surrender after leaving Piedmont Airlines, a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines.
In any case, he was observed entering the secure side of Charlotte Douglas International Airport by an employee, who quickly reported him to the TSA.
The TSA began a manhunt, eventually using CCTV to track him to AA881, which had just taken off for Cancun. The captain was notified and turned the plane around, telling passengers onboard it was due to a flap problem.
A passenger on this plane says Wilson sat in first class and the crew was doing beverage service when a flight attendant got a call. Then, the captain got the intercom and told everyone to sit down, the passenger says. The plane then started circling until landing back at CLT
— Hunter Sáenz (@Hunt_Saenz) June 8, 2021
The ex-employee was sitting in first class and likely unaware that the diversion was due to his actions. Police met the aircraft upon landing, escorted the passenger off, then searched the aircraft using police dogs.
An American Airlines spokesperson noted:
American Airlines flight 881 returned to Charlotte shortly after takeoff following reports of a potential security concern. Upon arrival, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) met the flight and escorted one customer off the aircraft. The flight departed for Cancun at 10:40 a.m. with all other customers following a precautionary maintenance inspection and security sweep.
Meanwhile, Charlotte police explained:
Earlier today, a former airline employee was observed by a badged employee bypassing the security process and gaining illegal entry to the secure side of the airport. Airport security responded and began a search for an individual. The individual boarded an aircraft with a valid boarding pass. The airline was notified and the aircraft returned to CLT where the person was taken into custody. CLT is working with our law enforcement and airline partners as the investigation continues.
After the search, the flight took off again for Cancun, eventually arriving three hours late.
Even active employees are not permitted to bypass security screenings for leisure trips. Whether a diversion was warranted requires more facts (was his badge expired, did he undergo an extensive background check), but even if he did pass a background check with flying colors, he likely will not any longer…This incident is a reminder that it pays to play by the rules. If you want to bypass security, fly private.
(H/T: View From The Wing // image: American Airlines)