Malaysia airlines Flight MH370: There are some slightly less nefarious reasons for flying on a stolen passport

Those who used them may simply have been illegal economic migrants to Europe

Share

Identity misrepresentation is rife among air travellers – yet often the motive is simply to save cash by otherwise law-abiding citizens.

Suppose Traveller A has booked a Gatwick-Glasgow flight weeks ahead for £40, but can no longer fly. Traveller B needs to make the same trip at short notice and faces a far higher fare. They may make a deal, at the expense of the airline.

In the 20th century, as long as they were approximately the same gender, B would simply masquerade as A. Today, it’s only slightly more complicated.

For many flights within the UK, airline staff do not insist on ID. Even when they do, flimsy proof such as a railcard may suffice – as long as the name corresponds to the booking and the photo looks like you. Now, you could today buy a “Two Together” Railcard bearing the names Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel but the pictures of you and a friend, and use it as ID for a domestic flight booked in the name of the Russian President and/or  German Chancellor. So the passenger in the next seat may not be the person named on the ticket.

Rules for international travel are tighter, making identity theft more the preserve of organised crime intent on serious mischief. Stolen passports are at the heart of ID fraud, with voracious demand from drug-traffickers and people-smugglers matched by a reliable supply from petty criminals who rob tourists and business travellers. Criminal craftsmen are adept at replacing photographs beneath the laminate on the personal details page – which is why increased security measures now include a second, embedded, image.

As the MH370 tragedy has shown, intelligence on fake identities is not routinely shared internationally. When I renewed my passport some years ago, the document was “lost” in the post. It later turned up in the possession of an American villain. Ever since, when I arrive at US Immigration I am hauled off to “Secondary” for hours of further investigation. But other countries are uninterested in my apparently nefarious past.

The pair who departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on Saturday using stolen passports took advantage of the lack of international co-operation on ID fraud. But that doesn’t mean they were to blame for downing the plane. They may simply have been illegal economic migrants to Europe, flying to Amsterdam via China simply to get a cheap fare – and therefore not-quite-innocent victims.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory