GENEVA (AP) — A runaway 7-year-old girl slipped through security checks at Geneva's airport and onto a plane without a ticket before being spotted by a crew member and handed over to police, officials said Wednesday.
Acknowledging an "eminently regrettable" incident that could have ended badly, Geneva Airport spokesman Bertrand Stampfli said authorities were enhancing measures to make sure children are accompanied by adults when passing through security checks.
In the incident on Sunday, the girl, who was not identified, initially slipped away from her parents at Geneva's main railway station and traveled by train to the small airport on the French border.
The child repeatedly "took advantage of her small size" and employed a "ruse" to make it look like she was traveling with adults ahead or behind her, Stampfli said.
After a first attempt failed, she tried again and succeeded — getting aboard an easyJet flight to Corsica. An alert Air France crew member who had spotted the girl trying to board one of the carrier's flights flagged her to the crew of easyJet, which in turn alerted police.
Using video surveillance footage, airport authorities said she was turned away after trying to follow crew members onto a flight. She then quickly blended into the nearby crowd, pretending to join up with her parents, Stampfli said. The second time, she succeeded by slipping through a gap only large enough for a small child.
EasyJet, a low-cost carrier, said in a statement that "an unaccompanied child incorrectly boarded flight EZS1305 from Geneva to Ajaccio," and said an investigation has been launched.
"The crew correctly identified the child should not be onboard and immediately reported it to the police," the statement said.
Silvain Guillaume-Gentil, a spokesman for Geneva police, said the girl's father had repeatedly notified police after losing track of her near the train station - and even ended up riding briefly in a patrol car to try to find her.
He said the family, which was not identified, resided in Geneva. The reason she ran away was not immediately clear.
Geneva airport's Stampfli said representatives of all airport personnel were immediately summoned for a meeting.
"What this shows is that while controls for adults and accompanied children are effective, there are holes to fill when it comes to unaccompanied children," he said.
New measures include confirming that children are accompanied by at least one adult at security checks, he said.
This story has been corrected to show that airport spokesman's first name is Bertrand.