Boy, 12, evades security clampdown
Security personnel check bags containing hand luggage at Gatwick.
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LONDON, England -- Despite a high level of alert at British airports, a 12-year-old boy managed to board a plane at Gatwick without a passport, ticket or boarding pass.
The incident has raised concerns over security procedures in the wake of an alleged plot to blow up planes on trans-Atlantic flight.
The boy was detected on Monday by a member of the Monarch Airlines cabin crew only after he was seated and had been given a drink and a snack.
He was removed from the plane by police officers before the flight took off for Portugal.
"The boy had passed through a full security screening process and we are confident there was no threat to passengers, staff or the aircraft at any time," said Stewart McDonald, a spokesman for BAA, which operates Gatwick, Heathrow and five other major UK airports.
BAA has launched an investigation into the incident, McDonald said Wednesday.
The boy had run away from a care home in northwest England and boarded a plane for Lisbon at 6 a.m. on Monday before the other passengers, the UK's Press Association reported.
His mother, who cannot be named because her son is in care, said she was stunned he evaded the security checks.
"My worry is that if you have terrorists in these airports they could be looking round for someone who is vulnerable, and get them to take things on the planes for them," she told the Daily Mail.
"What happened is frightening, especially given the state of alert we are supposed to be on at the moment. I want to know how on Earth he was able to get through to the plane and take his seat."
The boy has now been returned to his care home after being held by police and picked up by social workers, PA reported.
He is understood to have arrived at Gatwick by train -- unaccompanied and without a ticket, which he has apparently done on a number of occasions, the agency said.
Reports of the incident come as airlines struggled to ease a logjam of passengers after the British government raised the terror threat level and heightened airport security following Thursday's arrest of 24 people suspected of planning to explode devices on as many as 10 planes destined for the United States. (Full story)
British Airways canceled more flights Wednesday and attempted to reunite thousands of missing bags with their owners.
While many British airports were getting back to normal, BA canceled 46 flights -- 35 at Heathrow and 11 at Gatwick, PA reported. (Full story)
The airline said it would not be until Friday that its full service could be resumed.
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