Updated 06/30/11 – 4:57 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — It appears a man from the Chicago area has been arrested for slipping onto a cross-country flight from New York to Los Angeles, raising major concerns for air travel safety and security.
A Nigerian man is in FBI custody in Los Angeles. What’s troubling federal investigators is that the passenger apparently traveled cross-country even though he was not on a single flight manifest and had a day-old boarding pass that belonged to someone else.
The incident occurred last Friday on a Virgin America flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Los Angeles International Airport. The man, identified as Olajide Noibi, was originally interviewed by authorities and then released.
“After take-off, a crew member asked to see Mr. Noibi’s boarding pass and noted the discrepancy and alerted the captain who immediately notified local authorities from the flight deck, whereupon law enforcement met the aircraft upon arrival,” Virgin America said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “After discovery, the crew kept the subject (who was asleep for much of the flight) under surveillance, but at no time felt there was any threat to the security of the flight.”
The incident is especially troubling to officials because Transportation Security Administration agents are required to match boarding passes with passenger ID’s, like drivers licenses — something that seems not to have occurred in this case.
Northwestern University professor and transportation expert Aaron Gellman said the breach is “a very black mark on TSA’s reputation.”
Gellman said the incident shows the TSA needs another look.
“It’s hard not to wonder when Congress is going to finally wake up and realize the situation in TSA is unacceptable,” Gellman said.
The airline said it is working with the FBI to determine how Noibi passed through airport security and boarded the flight without a proper boarding pass.
Noibi was reportedly arrested in Los Angeles on Wednesday when he was found trying to board another flight, this time bound for Atlanta and again with an invalid boarding pass. He allegedly told FBI agents that he’d lost his U.S. passport.
FBI officials said a search of his bag uncovered more than 10 other boarding passes in various names that were not his. Noibi also told agents he planned to go to Nigeria next month and return to the U.S. on Sept. 9.
Noibi appears to have ties to the Chicago area. Records show Noibi has a Willowbrook address, as well as previous addresses in Ann Arbor, Mich. Law enforcement sources tell CBS he produced an I.D. from the University of Michigan.
No one at the Willowbrook home listed as Noibi’s address had much to say about him on Thursday. But one self-described visitor acknowledged knowing him.
“I know him from friends, yes,” the man said. “He’s been in trouble for some time.”
Sources tell CBS News that Noibi has not been charged with any terrorism- or homeland security-related charges. He apparently told investigators last week that he found an unused boarding pass and managed to sneak aboard the airliner.
–CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole and Dana Kozlov contributed to this report.