Alaska Air­lines flight 448 em­ployee fired af­ter cargo-nap in­ci­dent

Em­ployee passed drug test in in­ci­dent that caused pi­lot to make un­sched­uled land­ing

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

Acon­tract bag­gage han­dler who be­came trapped in the belly of an Alaska Air­lines jet on take­off from Seat­tle af­ter fall­ing asleep in the plane’s cargo hold this week has been banned from all fu­ture work at the air­line, a com­pany spokes­woman said on Thurs­day.

The em­ployee of Men­zies Avi­a­tion, which is con­tracted to pro­vide ground ser­vices for Alaska Air­lines, made news on Mon­day as an un­in­tended stowaway on flight 448 when he woke up from a nap in­side the sealed bag­gage hold to re­al­ize the plane was al­ready air­borne.

The pi­lot of the Los An­ge­les-bound flight turned the jet around to make a safe but un­sched­uled emer­gency land­ing back at Seat­tle-Ta­coma In­ter­na­tional Air­port af­ter the crew and pas­sen­gers heard bang­ing from be­low the cabin and flight deck.

Emerg­ing un­hurt from the plane, the way­ward bag­gage han­dler told au­thor­i­ties he had dozed off in­side the front por­tion of the cargo hold be­fore take-off.

He later passed a drug test and was re­leased from a hos­pi­tal where he was taken for eval­u­a­tion, the air­line said. The worker, who has not been pub­licly iden­ti­fied, was never in any im­me­di­ate dan­ger be­cause the cargo com­part­ment where he was trapped was pres­sur­ized and tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled, air­line of­fi­cials said.

But in a pan­icky 911-emer­gency call placed af­ter awak­ing in­side the belly of the plane, the worker pleaded with the op­er­a­tor for help, scream­ing, “I can’t breathe,” be­fore the con­nec­tion was lost, ac­cord­ing to a record­ing re­leased by air­port au­thor­i­ties on Thurs­day.

Also on Thurs­day, a spokesman for Men­zies Avi­a­tion, a sub­sidiary of UK-based John Men­zies, said the worker re­mained em­ployed for the time be­ing, pending the out­come of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But an Alaska Air­lines spokes­woman, Bob­bie Egan, told Reuters: “The em­ployee has been per­ma­nently banned from ever work­ing again on an Alaska Air­lines op­er­a­tion.”

She did not elab­o­rate but said work­ers are not per­mit­ted to sleep on the job. She said co-work­ers had no­ticed he was miss­ing be­fore the jet took off and tried call­ing his cell phone with­out suc­cess, then “fig­ured he had left his shift.”

The Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion is still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­ci­dent, a spokesman for the agency said.

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