Stowaway Arrested After Hopping LA-Bound Plane

Woman without a boarding pass bypasses document checkers, successfully flies from Bay Area to Los Angeles

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A woman who tried unsuccessfully several times to stowaway aboard planes at San Francisco International Airport has breached security at another Bay Area airport. This time the plane took off with her on board. Tony Kovaleski reports.

    A woman who tried unsuccessfully several times to stow away aboard planes at San Francisco International Airport has breached security at another Bay Area airport. This time the plane took off with her on board.

    Marilyn Hartman, 62, managed to navigate through security at Mineta San Jose International Airport on Monday night – without a proper boarding pass – and got on Southwest Airlines Flight 3785 to Los Angeles International Airport, NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit has learned. She apparently bypassed a document checker after a couple of failed attempts.

    Hartman, who has previously breached security at SFO, has been trying to board planes bound for Hawaii.

    Her wits are sound, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe previously he told SF Weekly: she is "articulate" and clean. "She just strikes me as a very lonely person," he added.

    Southwest flight attendants noticed something was wrong after the plane landed at LAX. The crew did a head count and realized it did not match their records, according to the airline.

    After being taken into custody by airport police, Hartman was arrested by LA County's Sheriff's deputies at LAX and faces misdemeanor trespassing charges. Bail was set at $500.

    The San Francisco woman has a history of trying to get on flights without a ticket. Three times in February, twice in March and at least once in April she attempted to board flights at SFO. At least twice she was able to breach Transportation Security Administration security and make her way into the boarding area.

    San Mateo County Sheriff's spokeswoman Rebecca Rosenblatt said police at San Francisco's airport are familiar with Hartman.

    “She showed up there several times, indicating that she wanted to go to Hawaii, where it was nice and warm,” Rosenblatt said. “She never actually had a ticket to get on the plane to take her there, but that did not deter her from trying several times.”

    TSA says it has already made minor changes to the document-checking process at SJC. "Following an initial review by TSA at San Jose International Airport, the agency has initiated minor modifications to the layout of the document checking area to prevent another incident like this one," TSA said in a statement.

    In a statement, Southwest said it is “actively investigating” the incident and is cooperating with authorities.

    “Upon arrival in Los Angeles, a Southwest Employee became aware of the un-ticketed passenger and immediately notified local authorities,” the statement said. “Our number one priority remains the Safety and Security of our Customers and Employees. In addition to investigating this internally, Southwest continues our work with all relevant regulatory agencies, including the TSA. To respect the integrity of the investigation, we do not have additional details to share.”

    Monday’s arrest comes about three months after a South Bay teenager hid in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines plane at San Jose International Airport. Officials say he jumped a fence at the airport and hitched a ride on a flight bound for Hawaii back in April. The 15-year-old survived sub-zero temperatures during the five-hour flight.

    The teen is not facing any charges.

    Congressman Eric Swalwell, who is on the Homeland Security committee, is calling this latest stowaway case a "security failure." He released a statement Tuesday afternoon:


    “Passenger safety in the sky relies upon effective security on the ground.  That means only a screened and ticketed passenger should ever be able to board an airplane.  Yesterday's incident, of an unticketed passenger successfully taking a flight from San Jose to Los Angeles, was an apparent failure by both airport security and the airline of protecting passengers from a potential threat to their safety.  Fortunately, this ticketless passenger was harmless.  However, we may not be as lucky next time and must do everything possible to protect the traveling public.”