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Officials downplay security breach by Southwest Airlines stowaway

San Jose airport officials downplay stowaway's security risk; LAX police say her actions were 'big deal'
Officials plan to look into new round of charges against Southwest stowaway

San Jose airport officials are downplaying a security breach that occurred earlier this week when a 62-year-old woman with a history of trespassing bypassed checkpoints and boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles without a ticket.

John Aitken, the Mineta San Jose International Airport acting assistant director of aviation, told the San Jose Mercury News that Marilyn Hartman was screened like every other passenger that entered the airport and "was as safe as any other."

The paper reported that Hartman tried to bypass a ticket checkpoint three times and attempted to board an Alaskan Airlines flight but was rejected.

But Hartman was eventually able to sneak past a boarding checkpoint Monday and onto the Southwest flight, going undetected until she arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, where she was arrested for trespassing.

The incident has raised new questions about security procedures at the San Jose airport, where in April a teenage boy hopped a fence and stowed away in a jetliner’s wheel well and survived a 5 1/2-hour flight to Hawaii.

This week, two San Jose City Council members called for a public hearing on airport security to address what's being done in response to the breaches.

In a statement after Hartman's arrest was made public, San Jose airport officials said that their security procedures were not a factor in the breach and that public safety was “never compromised.”

After an initial review, the federal Transportation Security Administration said it had initiated "minor modifications to the layout of the document checking area.”

Hartman, who admitted to trespassing on Wednesday and was ordered to serve 24 months' summary probation, has a history of stowaway attempts at San Francisco International Airport. She was arrested at LAX again on Thursday for allegedly violating a judge's order to stay away from the airport unless she has a ticket.

“She is clever and she is very persistent. ... She is fixated on flying,” LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon told The Times.

“It’s a big deal when anyone tries to avoid security, be it a 62-year-old grandmother or a 24-year-old terrorist,” Gannon said.

In a statement to The Times on Wednesday, Southwest Airlines said it was “actively investigating” the case.

“Our No. 1 priority remains the safety and security of our customers and employees," the airline said.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and throughout California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA. She can be reached at veronica.rocha@latimes.com

 

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