This is quite disturbing, though I guess not surprising, since there will always be greedy people out there.
There are quite a few airline employees who use their security clearance to smuggle drugs. It’s only natural that some people would be willing to do this to make extra money. This seems to be especially common with flight attendants and ground agents, as we’ve seen plenty of stories of drugs being transported both domestically and internationally (like this former JetBlue flight attendant, who made a run for it after being caught with 70 pounds of cocaine in her bag at LAX).
To be clear, this still only represents a tiny percentage of the overall airline workforces, so I’m not suggesting most flight attendants and ground agents are smugglers. Hopefully that’s obvious.
While I sort of expect that to be a thing, something much more disturbing has emerged from DFW, about airline employees who were willing to smuggle explosives onto a plane.
Dallas News covers a two year undercover investigation that the FBI has conducted, which saw nine people get arrested. This includes seven Envoy Air employees (a subsidiary of American Airlines), and two Spirit Airlines employees. According to the story:
When one of the defendants, Nelson Pabon, 47, allegedly told undercover officers that he could smuggle C-4 explosives on board a plane for $5,500, agents decided to end their two-year sting operation and make the arrests.
“Nelson Pabon told undercover officers that his organization could smuggle anything onto a commercial airplane, including guns,” the indictment said.
Agents used undercover officers who told the suspects they had methamphetamine that needed to be shipped to other parts of the country, Nealy Cox said. The defendants negotiated shipping prices of between $1,500 and $2,000 per kilogram, she said.
More than 66 kilograms of fake methamphetamine were shipped to Charlotte, N.C., Phoenix and Newark, NJ, from August 2016 to February 2018, she said.
Based on the investigation, it’s said that the defendants weren’t affiliated with any drug gangs, but rather this was purely about the money. Furthermore, no drugs or firearms were actually smuggled onto planes during the operation.
What I find most disturbing here is that I wonder how far they would have been willing to take this. For example, a few years ago a chartered MetroJet flight from Sharm El Sheikh crashed shortly after takeoff due to a bomb that was planted on it. An EgyptAir mechanic is said to have planted that bomb, as his cousin had joined Islamic State in Syria.
In that case it sounds like the reasons may have been more political than financially motivated, though it’s still concerning to think that people are willing to put others’ lives at risk to this degree in exchange for money.
(Tip of the hat to Drew)