A passenger managed to board plane with a gun in their hand luggage after being screened by security at an American airport.
Having accidentally packed their firearm, the unnamed traveller managed get on to the Delta Air Lines plane to Tokyo at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on 3 January, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has admitted.
After realising their mistake after the aircraft had taken off, the passenger immediately alerted staff on board, who in turn told the TSA. Japanese authorities met the plane on arrival in Tokyo.
The TSA denied the lapse in security was because of the government shutdown, which has seen its workers go unpaid for weeks and an uptick in employees not turning up to work.
“TSA has determined standard procedures were not followed and a passenger did in fact pass through a standard screening", the agency said in a statement.
The breach came two weeks into the ongoing government shutdown.
The TSA has reportedly seen an increase in staff not turning up for shifts since they began being asked to work without pay.
But the agency insisted: “The perception that this might have occurred as a result of the partial government shutdown would be false." “The national unscheduled absence rate of TSA staff on Thursday January 3 2019 was 4.8% compared to 6.3% last year, Thursday January 4 2018. So in fact, the national call out rate was higher a year ago than this year on that date.”
Nevertheless, the agents who were responsible for the lapse in security would be held “appropriately accountable”, the TSA said.
Last month the TSA released a statement highlighting a case where a passenger accidentally bringing a gun in their luggage to an airport was caught during screening - the 35th handgun discovered by agents at Pittsburgh Airport alone.
The head of the TSA union, Hydrick Thomas, said earlier this month 50 to 100 employees were calling in sick at most airports.
“They are not coming to work because they don’t have the money to get to work. They’re not just taking off. They’re not saying ‘We’re going to shut things down.’ They are the lowest-paid employees in the federal government, and they don’t have the money to get to work.”