How does a man without a ticket and without a passport board a SAS intercontinental flight to the United States, land in Los Angeles, and walk off the plane?
Russian Stowaway On SAS Los Angeles Flight…How Did He Do It?
Over the summer I flew SAS flight 931 from Copenhagen (CPH) to Los Angeles (LAX). It’s an 11-hour flight that departs Copenhagen in the morning. We were connecting from Frankfurt and I recall there being no additional security check, which is a common occurrence on a US-bound flight from Europe. Instead, we just walked to the boarding case, presented our passports (which were checked by an agent), scanned our boarding passes, and boarded the flight. My wife was not asked to present her Green Card, which is often the case at the boarding gate. No crazy American agents either…
Last month, a Russian-Israeli man (maybe?) named Sergey Ochigav somehow managed to proceed through the security checkpoint and passport control at CPH, then board SAS flight 931 to Los Angeles without a ticket or passport. Maybe he had an invisibility cloak?
Onboard, he took seat 36D (when we took this flight, we were in row 48), though he proceeded to move twice during the flight. The flight wasn’t full and the crew thought nothing of it. 36D was on unoccupied seat, but the crew never bothered to check each seat against the manifest (that’s not so common) or do a passenger count to see if it matched the manifest count (that’s much more common).
During the flight he asked for a second meal during the post-departure lunch and again during the pre-arrival snack (a man after my own heart…I do the same thing). SAS does not feed economy class passengers very well, though you can order business class meals which are quite delicious.
The flight landed in LA and Ochigav got off the plane and presented himself at US passport control. He first claimed that he let his passport onboard the aircraft and had a PhD in economics and management, but when his name was not found on the flight manifest (which is submitted to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prior to departure), he claimed he “did not remember” how he got through security or onboard the plane in Copenhagen. DHS turned him over to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
He was searched and the following was found on him:
- Russian identification cards
- An Israeli identification card
- A “partial photograph of a passport”
On his phone, FBI found:
- A picture of the flight board at Copenhagen airport
- Screen grabs from the ‘Maps’ app showing:
- a hostel in Kiel, Germany
- street maps from an unknown foreign city
I have not been able to independently verify any charges against him, but he purportedly has been charged with being a “stowaway” and remains in US custody.
I wonder if his name really is Sergey Ochigav and is really is Israeli…or Russian? My hunch is that he was never actually in Denmark, but instead stepped off a flight in the non-Schengen area at CPH and then navigated himself onto the SAS 931 flight without ever clearing passport control. I cannot imagine him clearing passport control without a passport unless he had a fake passport or some sort of European Union ID card that he ditched.
A mysterious Russian managed to board an SAS flight from Copenhagen to Los Angeles without a ticket, then lied to border officials, them feigned ignorance. It’s a rare but fascinating case. We may never find out what happens to Ochigav, but I can imagine he’ll be persona non grata when it comes to future trips to the USA.
(Hat Tip: View From The Wing)