Man sneaks on Delta flight and hides in plane bathroom — then he gets caught, feds say

A Delta Air Lines flight crew discovered a man without a ticket was hiding in the bathroom of a plane preparing to leave Utah, according to federal prosecutors.

He had taken photos of several unsuspecting passengers’ phones and boarding passes, sneaked on the plane — then used his own phone to board, a review of Salt Lake City International Airport surveillance footage from March 17 showed, court documents state.

The 26-year-old resident of Leander, Texas, has been indicted on charges of being a stowaway on an aircraft and access device fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah announced April 18.

A federal public defender appointed to represent the man didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from McClatchy News on April 19.

“Delta is pleased with the swift action of the U.S. Department of Justice,” an airline spokesperson told McClatchy News on April 19.

“We have zero tolerance for unlawful conduct on flights and at airports and we will always cooperate fully with law enforcement to that end,” the spokesperson said.

What happened after he got on the flight?

Shortly after the man boarded the plane bound for Austin, Texas, prosecutors said a flight attendant noticed him opening the aircraft’s emergency equipment storage door.

The flight attendant then guided him to a bathroom at the front of the plane, according to prosecutors.

A federal task force officer with the Salt Lake City Police Department wrote in an affidavit that the man “spent a significant amount of time in the lavatory while others were boarding, and he did not lock the door while occupying the lavatory.”

After all passengers boarded, the man is accused of heading to the back of the plane and going inside another bathroom.

When the man stepped out of this bathroom, he caught the attention of a flight attendant, who realized all of the plane’s seats were full, prosecutors said.

The man tried to claim an occupied seat as his own — but the flight attendant confirmed that the seat belonged to the person sitting there, according to prosecutors.

By this point, the plane had left the gate and was headed toward the runway, prosecutors said.

Flight attendants couldn’t find the man’s name or a valid ticket for him when searching the plane’s list of travelers — resulting in the plane returning to the gate, according to prosecutors.

In an interview with law enforcement, the man said he “needed to get home to see his family,” the affidavit says.

He told authorities, according to the affidavit, that a friend had given him a Southwest Airlines non-revenue guest pass so he could fly home on March 16, the day before, but the flight was full.

A Southwest Airlines Guest Pass allows passengers to travel on standby when space is available on a flight.

The man told law enforcement that he was rebooked for a new flight, but that one turned out to be overbooked, the affidavit says.

“(He) admitted he had made a mistake and was only trying (to) get home,” the affidavit states.

Court records show the man was arrested on March 21.

He is due in court to appear for the indictment, the U.S. attorney’s office said. His upcoming court date wasn’t specified.

Leander is about a 25-mile drive northwest from Austin.

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