Alaska Airlines Ramp Agent Found in Cargo Hold After Banging Alerts Pilot

The plane was in flight for 14 minutes before an emergency landing.

ByDean Schabner
April 13, 2015, 10:14 PM

— -- A Sea-Tac airport worker fell asleep in the hold of an Alaska Airlines flight today and didn't wake up until it took off, but the pilot, hearing banging, turned the plane around, the airline said tonight.

The pilot of Alaska Airlines flight 448, bound for Los Angeles, heard banging after takeoff from beneath the plane, the company said in a statement.

"The captain immediately returned to Seattle, declaring an emergency for priority landing. The aircraft was in the air for 14 minutes," the airline said. "After landing, the ramp agent was found inside the front cargo hold, which is pressurized and temperature controlled. The ramp agent appeared OK, and was transported to the hospital as a precaution. We are actively investigating the matter."

In a blog on its website, the airline said the agent was an employee of Menzies Aviation and had passed a drug test this afternoon.

"Upon exiting, he told authorities he had fallen asleep," the airline said.

"The employee started work at 5 a.m. and was scheduled to end his shift at 2:30 p.m. During a pre-departure huddle, the team lead noticed the employee was missing. The team lead called into the cargo hold for the employee and called and texted the employee’s cell phone, but did not receive an answer. His co-workers believed he finished his shift and went home.

"All ramp employees have security badges. They undergo full criminal background checks and drug screening prior to being hired. They are also subjected to random drug tests throughout their employment. There were 170 passengers and six crew members on Flight 448. The aircraft landed in Los Angeles at 6:17 p.m."

The crew member was treated and released at Highline Medical Center in Burien, Washington, hospital spokesman Scott Thompson said.

One of the passengers on the flight, Marty Collins told ABC affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle that the plane was only off the ground a few minutes when the pilot told them they were turning around.

"We just took off for L.A. regular and then about, oh, about 5 minutes into the flight the captain came on and said we were going back and we'd land within 5-7 minutes, and we did," Collins said. "When we landed was when all the trucks and the police and the fire trucks surrounded the plane."

She told KOMO-TV that passengers seemed to know what had happened from social media posts even before airline officials let them know.

"They just said there was someone in the cargo hold and he's been escorted off and taken away," Collins said.

"Nobody on the plane heard anything like that [banging], nobody knew why we were turning around," she said. "They just said we were fine and we weren't in any danger."

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