Simon Calder: Rome alone: a prank, not a threat

The man who pays his way

Two things surprised me about an 11‑year-old boy's success this week in evading a series of security checks and flying from Manchester to Rome with no passport and no boarding pass.

 First, the fact that Jet2 cabin crew failed to check the on-board "lavs" before flight LS791 to Rome departed; the talented Liam Corcoran-Fort reportedly hid in one during take-off, breaking the important safety rule that everyone must be strapped in a seat in case of the severe deceleration that accompanies an aborted take-off. Second, the absurd competition between airport, airline and Transport Secretary to see who can get most steamed up about the most trivial travel story this year. This was simply a textbook case of how 11-year-old guile can, with a few lucky breaks, swerve some of the barriers that the aviation business imposes before a passenger jets off.

Stage One: get past the official checking boarding passes at first contact with the security search area. It appears that Liam insinuated himself into a family group, and in the inevitable confusing kerfuffle slipped through.

So what?

This was the only error committed by Manchester airport's staff. The unfortunate official who missed him has probably had a miserable few days since, which is more than enough punishment. Boarding pass or not, Liam went through the metal-detector arch like everyone else. The official histrionics made it seem as though getting into an airport security search area requires about the same amount of preparation, prowess and permission as the priesthood or the IOC. Guess what: it doesn't. I can now reveal a cunning method to place yourself "airside" at any major UK international airport you care to name by lunchtime on Monday. It involves not subterfuge, but a debit card.

Buy the cheapest international flight you can see online for departure that morning. (Don't be tempted to use a made-up name: that starts getting into deeper water.) Print out the boarding pass. Congratulations: you are now entitled to go through an airport security check and get airside. It might be cheaper, though, to buy a ticket to an Olympic event where two countries in which you have no interest compete in a sport you do not understand. The search experience will be much the same, except there's no duty-free shop after you get through the Games search.

Jammy fare-dodger

Stage Two: sneaking through the Jet2 departure gate without a passport and matching boarding card. You can imagine the circumstances: an 11-year-old joins the fringes of a large family group, while a parent wearily explains: "That was him when he was eight – stop doing that, Wayne – and Kylie's had her hair cut since the picture was taken." Ground staff and cabin crew, under pressure to keep to schedule, do not focus on detecting juvenile stowaways. But that is still not a cause for concern.

Malicious travellers can always, as the 9/11 hijackers did, turn up as themselves. Or they can use another name and get a fake EU identity card. (Italy's are the most widely forged.) It need not be an exact replica, because the passport-boarding pass check isn't to prevent acts of air piracy that kill thousands. It is to stop fare-dodging. While easyJet insists its demand for photo ID on domestic flights is an "additional security measure", in reality, it is simply to stop my selling you an unwanted boarding pass for a Luton-Aberdeen hop. Young Liam was a jammy fare-dodger on a grand scale, but that is all.

The only element of the story that gives me any cause for concern is that no attempt was made to reconcile the people on board with the number of passengers listed on the manifest. In the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, a terrorist checked in a bag with a bomb aboard Pan Am's London-New York flight and didn't board. The "head count" is aimed at detecting who isn't travelling, but a handy side effect is to detect stowaways.

Time to move on

Manchester airport officials have launched an investigation into what they absurdly describe as "an extremely serious matter". To save time and effort, I suggest the following verdict: "Even with the best-trained staff and robust procedures, things go wrong. On this occasion our minor oversight at security should have been picked up by the airline. No harm done."

I fear, though, that getting through an airport will become even more tedious, with families facing more regimentation. And by obsessing about a regrettable but trivial series of human errors, the aviation establishment will squander resources on empty threats rather than real risks.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash