Security under fire at UK's Birmingham International Airport

Dec. 30, 2008
Man reportedly allowed to board plane using his sister's passport

BUNGLING airport security staff allowed a Midland traveller to fly to Pakistan using his SISTER's passport.

Businessman Kasim Raja, aged 26, from Moseley, went through three security checks unchallenged at Birmingham International Airport before boarding a Pakistan International Airlines flight to Islamabad last weekend.

It wasn't until he arrived in the Pakistani capital that border control staff noticed he was carrying his sister's passport. They bustled Mr Raja on to a flight back to Birmingham, despite his pleas that he had made a simple mistake.

"I was in a bit of a rush and grabbed what I thought was my passport as I was leaving," the real estate developer told the Sunday Mercury.

"I handed it over at the desk, they checked it and everything was fine. When we got to the boarding gate they checked it again and waved me straight through.

"I was planning to stay in Pakistan for ten days, and was travelling with my father to visit friends and family. Now I've lost pounds 1,000 on this trip, had to pay again and reschedule my flight.

"I could have been anyone - it doesn't say much for airport security."

Last night, a spokesman for Swissport, which handles checkin procedures for Pakistan International Airlines at Birmingham, said: "We will be investigating this matter. Obviously it is being taken very seriously and we will look into it."


Mr Raja, who flies to Pakistan twice a year, said the error was unforgivable, and could have led to a major security breach.

"There's a lot of difference in the pictures," he said. "I don't look anything like my sister. I could have been a fugitive but they put me on a plane at Birmingham.

"As soon as I got to Islamabad the Pakistani officials took one look at my passport and sent me straight back. I asked them to get in touch with the British embassy to see if we could sort the whole thing out but, because I didn't have a valid passport to hand, they had to deport me.

"I flew for seven and a half hours, was on the ground for two hours, and then had to fly home again.

"I'm angry with Swissport, who did the check-in. I spoke to their duty manager as soon as I got back but they have refused to give me a refund. I live only ten minutes from the airport. If they had spotted the error like they are supposed to, I could have gone home, got my passport and still made the flight."

A spokeswoman for Birmingham International Airport said: "Although the airport company is speaking to Mr Raja and investigating the matter, embarkation controls are the responsibility of airlines, handling agents and the Border Control Agency."

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