An alarming breach of security at Dhaka airport
The US-Bangla Dash-8 was taxiing towards the runway at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport for its domestic flight to Chittagong when the cabin crew discovered something odd. The plane has 72 seats and there had been 71 boarding cards issued, yet all the seats were occupied.
Minutes before the take off, around 8:00pm on Tuesday, the aircraft halted on the tarmac and they asked all the passengers to hold their boarding cards up high.
All but one complied.
Samia Islam, a 22-year-old student of computer science of East West University, claimed to have lost her boarding pass.
The discovery baffled the cabin crew and passengers of flight BS-109. How could she manage to get on board without a boarding pass?
Samia managed to dodge all the formalities at the domestic terminal of the airport, when each of the other passengers, including Pulak Kanti Barua, had their boarding passes checked four times before they could board the aircraft.
"My ticket was checked and bag scanned when I entered the domestic terminal. After taking the boarding pass at the counter and while moving into the security area, I went through a complete body scan and a seal was stamped on my boarding pass," Pulak said.
"Then before boarding the bus that took us near the aircraft, US Bangla Airlines officials checked my boarding pass and tore off one portion. They checked our pass once more when we got down from the bus and finally the steward who welcomed us inside the aircraft looked at our pass and told us where our seats were," he said.
"How can the young woman pass through all these stages without showing a boarding pass?" he said.
Pulak said even after detecting a passenger without a ticket and boarding pass, the airlines did not carry out a full security check until other passengers, concerned about security, raised a hue and cry.
"Only when we protested did they take steps to check the cabin and the cargo hold," he said.
Samia did not have any carry-on. Her luggage did not have any tags, which frightened the passengers even more, Pulak said.
The authorities found nothing other than some papers containing boutique designs and drawings of people, note sheets and a hand bag. They handed Samia over to the Armed Police Battalion (APBn).
Kamrul Islam, public relations officer of US Bangla Airlines, said, “It is CAAB [Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh] that is responsible for checking passengers from the entrance to the flight.”
The airline's security-affairs officer Shafayet Jalal also told the BBC Bangla service, "The thing is she went inside dodging the eyes of the civil aviation security and then she got into our bus somehow and into the aircraft where we found her."
When asked how the woman got into the airline bus without a ticket and boarding pass, Jalal said they would look into the matter.
APBn Senior Assistant Superintendent Alamgir Hossain, who was on-duty then, told The Daily Star that he had talked to US Bangla Airlines authorities and “they said there were four flights taking off or landing. So, the domestic terminal was very busy. Somehow the girl managed to dodge the security checks”.
Alamgir said, “During our interrogation, Samia told us that she had left her Khilkhet home after a fight with her mother over studies.”
He contacted Samia's mother who went to the airport and told the authorities that Samia has had psychological issues for a year.
“We handed Samia over to her mother,” Alamgir Hossain said.
Rozina Islam, Samia's mother, told The Daily Star over phone that Samia had been suffering from psychiatric problems since she was in college and that she had received treatment at a number of hospitals.
"We got her admitted to a hospital in Mirpur today [Wednesday]," she said.
No case was filed in this connection.