Thursday, October 17, 2013

9-year-old boy flies to Vegas without a ticket. System error or human error?

Last week, a 9-year-old boy managed to fly from Minneapolis to Las Vegas by himself without a ticket on Delta Airlines.

According to a CNN report, Delta is reviewing its "policies and procedures to make sure something like this does not happen again." This is the predictable response by most organizations when a screw-up occurs.

Do you think this was a system error or a human error?

I favor the latter. And the errors weren't confined only to Delta employees.

How many people had to have not followed established procedures for the child to have pulled this off?

At most airports, you can't even enter the security line without showing your boarding pass and ID. Children under 18 are not required to carry identification, but someone from the TSA had to have overlooked the fact that the boy had no boarding pass to scribble on.

Another possible check might have occurred as he passed through the metal detector by himself.

At the gate when boarding starts, an agent either marks each boarding pass or scans its bar code to tally the number of passengers on board. Obviously, the boy didn't have a pass so that did not happen.

Once he got on the plane, he had to have picked a seat at random. He would not have known which seats were unassigned. It is highly likely that he had to change seats at least once or twice. Again no one noticed that he didn't have a boarding pass.

The story says the flight crew became suspicious when the plane was in the air. They eventually noticed that he was an accompanied minor that they had not been made aware of.

What happened to the head count prior to closing the door? Most flights I've been on do not leave the gate until the flight attendants have walked through the cabin and counted the number of seated passengers.

Rather than a review of policies and procedures, the airline and the TSA should "counsel" the personnel involved in this event.

For other examples of human errors being thought of as system errors, type "system errors" in the search field of this blog.


Anonymous said...

Obviously, there were systemic failures down the line. But, from various media stories, I have to conclude that this 9-year old boy is a classic sociopath. He acted well enough to fool multiple adults.

Since there is no cure for sociopathy, I think he should be tracked for the rest of his life. Or, he should run for Congress.

Anonymous said...

i think he might be as white as hell...

considering that tsa and almost everyone else is so preoccupied with the colored races,,, :P

Skeptical Scalpel said...

First anon, you have a point. The child is really a handful. I didn't want the post to be about him though. I disagree about system failures. There are perfectly good systems in place. The people in place did not execute well. That's a funny comment about Congress.

Second anon, the child's race is irrelevant.

Ryan - OMS1 said...

When I think of all the hassles the airline's systems have caused me I get a little irate.

I'm a systems guy by nature and training. They have a pretty solid system already in place, and beyond putting sensors in the seats to count passengers....Oh wait. I just fixed this.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Ryan, great idea. Of course, it could still be defeated by a careless person who neglected to check the sensor's count.

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