Airline officials are calling a nine-year-old boy who managed to get aboard a flight bound for Las Vegas without a ticket "very street smart," but the mystery of just how he pulled it off remains.
ABC News reports on Sunday that the boy, who was not identified, departed from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Thursday morning after he arrived alone. He was then screened by the TSA and made his way onto an 11:15 a.m. Delta Air Lines flight heading for Las Vegas, all without a ticket.
Delta participates in an unaccompanied minor program, which dictates that children ages five-14 can travel alone, but young travelers must have permission from their parents and be accompanied by an airline representative all the way from check-in to boarding.
"The fact that the child's actions weren't detected until he was in flight is concerning," Minneapolis airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said. "More than 33 million people travel through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport every year, and I don't know of another instance in my 13 years at the airport in which anything similar has happened."
Members of the flight crew grew suspicious of the boy's situation in flight and contacted Las Vegas Metropolitan Police. The boy was taken into police custody and then transferred to local child protective services. Police spokesman Bill Cassell added that the boy was "more worldly than most nine-year-old kids."
Security footage has reportedly been reviewed in Minneapolis and the boy did not appear to have a boarding pass.
"While we are safer in the air, this proves there are still gaping holes," airline travel expert Terry Trippler told Minneapolis-St. Paul NBC affiliate KARE.
TSA and Delta officials have both released statements saying that they are investigating the incident.