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A teenager with autism went missing. She cleared airport security with a stray boarding pass 30 miles away.


(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

A 15-year-old with autism was found at Orlando International Airport over the weekend after being reported missing from her home in Apopka, Fla., nearly 30 miles away. Authorities say Sade Subbs managed to make it through the Transportation Security Administration PreCheck using another passenger’s boarding pass without the knowledge of her parents or any adult supervision.

“She said she wanted to go to Asia to see the Chinese blossoms or something,” her father said in an interview with Fox 35 after her return. “She could have gotten on an airplane. It could have been a lot worse.”

According to the report from the Orlando Police Department, a Southwest Airlines employee found Subbs wandering around the gate area in one of the airport’s terminals and approached her. The employee offered to help Subbs find her gate and asked for her ticket to search for the flight.

When the employee looked up the passenger information, it was discovered the boarding pass belonged to a traveler of a different name on a flight that had already departed.

Suspecting that Subbs could be a missing person, the employee called the police. One of the officers recognized her as the person who had indeed been reported missing by the Apopka Police Department hours earlier.

Subbs told the police she took several buses from Apopka to Orlando International Airport (also known by code MCO) because she wanted to fly on a plane. She found the stranger’s boarding pass — which she mistakenly identified as a drink coupon — on the floor and presented it as she passed through the TSA PreCheck screening, according to what she told the police.

The TSA told The Washington Post that a printed boarding pass remains active in the event that a traveler needs to exit the airport and pass through a security checkpoint again.

In a statement, the TSA said the incident was evidence that several layers of security worked, technically: “The individual presented a valid and current boarding pass. Under the age of 18, passengers are not required to present an ID. She was screened and therefore presented no threat to the aviation system.”

The boarding pass Subbs used was captured electronically and registered as legitimate on TSA equipment, and the screening was recorded on CCTV, according to the agency.

Although she presented someone else’s boarding pass, Subbs passed through the full TSA screening procedures, according to the agency. Southwest Airlines checked Subbs’s pass at the jet-bridge door and prevented her from gaining access to the plane, which led to airline staff and law enforcement eventually reuniting her with family.

This isn’t the first time the Orlando airport has encountered a traveler who made it past security without proper documentation. In October, a woman made it through security and onto a Delta Air Lines flight without an ID or boarding pass.

That incident led to a full security sweep of the plane, a rescreening of all the passengers onboard and prompted investigations from the airport, Delta and law enforcement.

Read more:

Pittsburgh’s airport is latest to create a sensory-friendly space for travelers with autism

Flight crew grounded, airline apologizes after family of passenger with autism complains about treatment

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