Questions in Stowaway Case

Stowaway Has Canada and Hong Kong Scrambling



The story of the Asian man in his 20s who stowed away aboard a Hong Kong-to-Vancouver flight continues to play prominently in newspapers and TV news broadcasts as well. And it has captivated a public puzzled over how screening staff at airports would fail to halt a person who wore a silicone mask disguised to be significantly older than his actual age of a different race.

“It is hard to tell by the photos, they are blurry, but the mask seems quite real,” said Gracy Hon, a Hong Kong makeup artist. Quick to point out that she is not an expert in special-effects makeup, Ms. Hon said it was conceivable with masks to deceive people who are rushed and not paying attention. “It did fool airline staff, after all,” she said.

On Sunday, a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong government said that the Immigration and Security authorities were still investigating how the young man managed to board an Air Canada jetliner on Oct. 29 in Hong Kong under disguise. No additional government statements would be made until the review was complete, she said.

What is known is that the man boarded the plane wearing the disguise and presenting a U.S. passport of a Caucasian man born in 1955. The aging face contrasted with the traveler’s “young-looking hands,” according to a Canadian Border Service bulletin issued over the case. Sometime during the flight the man removed his disguise, further alerting airplane staff who notified the Canadian authorities. Border officers met the man as he arrived in Vancouver.


Passengers are usually required to present their passports and boarding passes multiple times before boarding a plane — to guards before entering a departures hall, at metal-detection checkpoints and then to an immigration official. The final check of boarding passes and passport identification comes at the plane’s boarding gate, staffed by airline personnel.

The security checks, however, may be reduced or even useless if a passenger first arrives at the airport with his own identification, and then, once in a secure area, puts on a disguise and uses different identification.

Comment: Previous post: Airport Security Follies. I was born in '49 and I don't look that old (at least I don't think so!)

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