Boy flies without ticket from UK to Rome. Why wasn't he detected?

An 11-year-old boy flies without a ticket or passport from Manchester to Rome, managing to elude airport security and airline employees. Fellow passengers finally alerted the crew to the unsuspected runaway.

Alessandra Tarantino/AP
An 11-year-old boy flies from UK to Rome without a ticket or passport, eluding airport security and flight attendants until fellow passengers alerted the crew to the young runaway. Here, an Italian national flag hangs between two buildings in the Garbatella district in Rome. If running away, why not pick Rome?

So, an 11-year-old boy somehow slips onto a Rome-bound plane at Manchester Airport in the UK without a ticket, passport, or parental consent. No terrorist, this little guy was simply running away from home, he reportedly explained, politely, to other passengers.

(And really, if you’re going to run away from home, why not pick Rome?)

The reaction, of course, has been one of outrage. The security breach! The possibility for bad guys to exploit clearly lax passenger vetting! With the Olympics coming, no less!

Airport spokesman Russell Craig tried to assuage flying fears by pointing out that technically, this was not a breach because the boy had cleared security. (I love this.) 

“The boy posed no threat to the aircraft,” Mr. Craig told the BBC. “He went through the security process.”


But what about that old fashioned concept of security measures being in place to actually look after kids? 

Over the past years, we’ve seen little kids being subject to pat downs, random searchers, and even listed on the terrorism no fly list. We’ve had price increases for families wanting to sit together, and police called for toddlers who won’t put on their seat belts.

Now, in all fairness, there have been some changes toward the reasonable. Last year, officials switched rules in the US to allow children 12 and under to keep their shoes on as they go through checkpoints. (Ever try to get a squirming toddler’s shoes back on at the crowded end of that belt?)  They also let parents keep babies in slings as they go through the x-ray – they just test the adult’s hands afterwards for explosives.  (Again, way better than waking a sleeping baby in the chaos of the security check.)

But for the most part, children at the airport are – like the rest of us – suspects.

And sure, there are some good reasons for this. But the story of the 11-year-old globe trotter does make a parent wonder. Wouldn’t it be nice if, among all this fear, we could take a more protective attitude to the traveling tots? 

That’s what the other passengers to Rome did, and alerted the airplane crew to the runaway. He was returned to Manchester and reunited with his family.

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