The woman who sneaked onto a Southwest Airlines jet without a ticket in San Jose, only to be arrested as a stowaway roughly an hour later when the flight landed in Los Angeles, may have simply been seeking companionship from fellow passengers, authorities say.
Marilyn Hartman, 62, was banned from San Francisco International Airport earlier this year after reportedly making at least three attempts to board without a ticket, but was caught each time before the plane departed.
The San Jose incident on Monday may be the first time Hartman achieved success and made it off the tarmac, but authorities stressed that at no point did she pose a threat to public safety. Instead, officials in San Mateo told a Bay Area news station that her repeated stowaway attempts may just be a sign of loneliness.
In April, after her sixth visit to SFO -- where she's prohibited from being without a ticket -- San Mateo County Dist. Atty. Steve Wagstaffe told the SF Weekly that she just strikes him “as a very lonely person” and speculated she may just like being around people.
According to authorities, on Monday, Hartman somehow got past the boarding pass checkpoint at Mineta San Jose International Airport before passengers go through the Transportation Security Administration screening. She then allegedly went through the screening like everyone else.
From there, she allegedly got onto Southwest Flight 3785 that departed San Jose about 7:15 p.m. and, about an hour later, landed at Los Angeles International Airport, where she was arrested after Southwest employees realized she wasn’t supposed to be on the flight during a passenger count.
In a statement to The Times on Wednesday, Southwest Airlines said it was “actively investigating” the breach.
“Our No. 1 priority remains the safety and security of our customers and employees," the airline said.
The airline declined to release more details about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation but did acknowledge its employees are the final barrier before a person boards a plane.
Federal officials said airline workers check passengers’ boarding passes against the plane’s manifest in case a tragedy occurs and authorities can’t accurately determine who was on the airliner.
According to the Transportation Safety Adminstration, Hartman was screened along with the rest of the airport’s passengers "to ensure that she was not a security threat to the aircraft."
An official with the agency told The Times the woman managed to sneak past the initial boarding pass checkpoint when a TSA agent was distracted.
San Jose airport officials said in a statement that its security check processes were not a factor in the breach and that public safety was “never compromised.”
After an initial review, the TSA said it has initiated "minor modifications to the layout of the document checking area."
Southwest could face regulatory fines in connection with Monday’s incident, a TSA official said.
Hartman was arrested at LAX on suspicion of trespassing and was jailed in lieu of $500 bail, officials said.
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