An airport worker who was trapped inside the cargo hold of Alaska Airlines Flight 448 on Monday, forcing the plane into an emergency landing, was barred from all future work with the airline, a company spokeswoman said Thursday. The plane was traveling to Los Angeles from Seattle’s Tacoma International Airport, with 170 people on board.
The worker, an employee of ground services company Menzies Aviation, who has not yet been identified, reportedly took a nap in the plane's cargo hold, and called 911 after waking up to realize the plane had become airborne. At the time, Flight 448 had been in the air for 14 minutes. Airline officials said that the worker was never in any danger because the plane's hold was temperature-controlled and pressurized, Reuters reported.
“The Menzies Aviation ramp agent has been permanently banned from ever working on any Alaska Airlines flights,” the airline said, in a statement, on Thursday.
On the 911 call, the man reportedly said, "I ... can't ... breathe!", adding: "I'm inside a plane. I feel like it's moving in the air." He also provided the details of the flight to the 911 operator, saying: "Flight 448. Can you please tell somebody stop it?"
The operator called him back and managed to get his name before the call disconnected again. She is then heard saying: "I just had this guy call, and he said he was on Alaska Flight 448, and he was screaming at me and saying he couldn't breathe and he was stuck on the flight," NBC News reported.
The plane then made an emergency landing at Tacoma airport where he was released from the hold and taken to a hospital for tests as a precautionary measure before being released.
“Immediately after takeoff, the pilot of Alaska Airlines flight 448, bound for Los Angeles, reported hearing banging from beneath the aircraft. The captain immediately returned to Seattle, declaring an emergency for priority landing. The aircraft was in the air for 14 minutes,” Alaska Airlines said, in a statement, after the incident on Monday.
While the Federal Aviation Administration, the airline and Menzies Aviation investigated the incident, the leader of a baggage-loading crew said that he noticed the worker was missing but concluded that he must have gone home, after he didn’t respond to calls or text messages, according to the Associated Press.
The airline said that the unidentified worker, who had been working for the company for 18 months, had passed all drug tests. The employee is reportedly in his early 20s, Reuters reported, citing a spokesman for the Seattle Port Authority, adding that law enforcement agencies were not investigating the incident because it didn’t involve a security breach or a criminal violation.