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How a man boarded a plane from Heathrow to JFK without any documents (in five concerning steps)



Step two: security checks

Providing they are not travelling with any unauthorised items, passengers can proceed through security without any hurdles or documentation checks. A Heathrow Airport spokesperson said: “All people who go airside are subject to security screening, including the individual involved in this case. We are supporting the authorities with their ongoing investigation.”

Step three: departure lounge

The only time that a passenger might have a boarding pass checked while in the departure lounge is while shopping for items in the duty free section. Some other retailers may ask to scan your boarding pass, although contrary to common belief the passenger is not legally obliged to show their ticket at this point.

Step four: checks at the gate

After proceeding to the gate, passengers’ passports and boarding passes will typically be checked by a member of staff from the airline. Nobody should be able to proceed past this point without a valid ticket. A spokesperson for British Airways told Telegraph Travel: “We are assisting the authorities with their investigation.”

Step five: taking your seat

When boarding a flight, passengers might sometimes be asked to show their ticket to a member of the cabin crew – though this is only to help identify their seat and is not obligatory. Many airlines will take an additional headcount once boarding is completed. A Wizz Air spokesperson said: “On each flight, Wizz Air conducts a headcount to ensure the passenger numbers match the passenger manifest.” Ryanair confirmed it also conducts headcounts on all flights.

But this is not always the case. Kristina Galvydyte, a former flight attendant for a UK airline, told Telegraph Travel: “A headcount is only necessary in select situations or if requested by ground staff, as that would be ground staff responsibilities, not cabin crew.” Telegraph Travel awaits a response from British Airways on this matter.


On arrival, passengers go through further passport checks at border control – either at automated e-gate scanners (as are now common across UK airports) or at a manned passport control desk. In some countries, your visa may also be checked at this point, and – as is common in the United States – you may be asked questions about your visit. It was at this stage that Sturt was found to have travelled without any documentation, detained for further questioning and ultimately put on a plane back to the UK.

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