KOLKATA: Over 1,000 Air India boarding passes were recovered from a passenger at the Kolkata airport on Friday. The recovery triggered alarm bells in security circles as boarding passes are critical documents that allow passengers access areas usually out of bounds to anyone other than genuine airport users.
The passes were recovered after a SpiceJet security staffer manning a baggage X-ray monitor became suspicious after he discovered a box in Satyendra Verma’s bag that appeared to be full of currency notes.
There is no restriction on carrying money other than during the election time. But the official decided to check the bag, leading to the recovery. The passes were all blank without any details printed at the check-in counter and printed in Mumbai. All the passes appeared to be original.
Verma (42), a Nalanda resident, told his interrogators that his brother-in-law had given him the box and he was clueless about what it contained. “I was asked to carry the box and hand it over to another man at the Port Blair airport,” said Verma. He had arrived from Bihar’s Nalanda district a day earlier to catch a flight to Port Blair. He told his interrogators that he was a farmer and was on his way to Port Blair in search of work. Police are trying to verify the claim.
Air India sources said the passes confiscated were the parts that passengers retain. The airlines tear off the other half at the boarding gate. “Had the boarding cards been intact, it would have been cause for greater worry since it could have been used to access an airport’s security hold area. But since only passenger counterfoils were confiscated, it seems to be part of a financial racket to make spurious LTC claims,” a police officer said
But security agencies are probing how Verma got the boarding passes. “If one portion of the pass has found its way out of a secure zone, the other half may well have slipped out. It is important to trace the conduit so that something like this does not recur,” a security officer said.
All travel documents, including boarding passes, were categorized sensitive after the 9/11 terror attacks in which security loopholes in the aviation sector were used. Fresh security protocols were drawn up for controls at the airport following the strikes.
“Once someone has a boarding pass, he or she can walk into security hold area after frisking and go right up to the departure gate. If there are accomplices, the person can cause mischief. The matter needs to probed and points of leakage identified and sealed,” another security officer said.