July 26, 2012
An 11-year-old schoolboy flew from one of Britain's busiest airports to Europe on his own without a passport, ticket or boarding pass.
Liam Corcoran slipped away from his mother at a shopping centre three miles from Manchester Airport before catching Flight LS791 to Rome after a series of blunders by staff. He passed through several security checkpoints before boarding the Jet2.com flight.
The extra passenger was only detected when holidaymakers raised concerns about the boy during the two-hour flight. The captain radioed back to Manchester, where police told his mother that he was safe and well but on a plane to Italy.
Crew accompanied Liam on a return flight to Britain later that day.
A spokesman for the airline said that because the plane was connected directly to the airport by an air bridge, a head count had not been required on board.
"However, head counts have immediately been put in place across each of our flights from all airports, including those where air bridges are in use," she said. We are reviewing all our procedures and three members of staff have been suspended pending the investigation."
Liam's father, Aaron Fort, 34, said his son had "been a bit petrified by the enormity of it all".
"If he had got off the plane as easy as he got on, Lord knows what would have happened to him," he said. Mr Fort said his son had been swimming earlier in the day and got into difficulties, which had caused him to panic. He said: "The lifeguard had to throw Liam a rope to get him out. That sort of incident would have worried him. He must have got changed and given his mother the slip and then walked from the baths in Wythenshawe to the airport.
"He has never had a passport and never been abroad. When we all lived in Blackpool we would go down to the front and ride on a tram - that's about it."
Three separate investigations are now being held to establish how Liam was able to evade three security checkpoints. Several airport workers have also been suspended over the security breach.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We are reviewing urgently with the airport and relevant airline how this occurred and identifying any actions needed to prevent a repetition."
Liam was reported missing to police at lunchtime on Tuesday. He is thought to have run away from his mother, Mary, 29, while at Wythenshawe Civic Centre, about a mile from their home at Newall Green, Wythenshawe, Manchester. It is unclear whether he walked to the airport or caught a bus.
It is understood that Liam followed a family when he got to the packed Terminal 1 and that security staff scanned him but failed to realise he was on his own, despite having no boarding card.
An airport spokesman said: "He was with a large group of other children, he appeared to be in a family group - for whatever reason he wasn't checked."
He added: "The boy went through full security screening, so the safety of passengers was never compromised. It was our responsibility - we have to answer for that. This was a young lad on an adventure."