As a huge amount of attention is trained upon travel and security fears over the Olympics, one story came as a surprise to many people this week. 11-year-old Liam Corcoran ran away from his mother, travelled three miles to his local airport and managed – without a passport or ticket – to fly from Manchester to Rome.
Liam told the media: “Getting on the plane was easier than doing my homework. I didn’t have anything on me and no one asked me for anything. They smiled at me when I went through.”
Naturally there was a great deal of concern into how this was happened, and we’re told there are no less than three active investigations into what occurred. Liam’s mother was quoted as saying; “All I read about is how airport security is the highest it has ever been. I’m disgusted and I want answers.”
Manchester Airport and airline Jet2.com were slow to provide any answers on what had gone wrong with their security, and all the relevant media interviews were apparently left to Russell Craig, the airport’s head of communications. He said that while the boy managed to avoid four identity checks, he did at least “go through full security screening, so this isn’t some great loophole that could be exploited in security … he was no threat to passengers, staff or the aircraft.” Perhaps Craig was trying to push the positive angles, but it’s unlikely that many people were worried about the young man being a threat to others on the plane, so much as the woeful lapses that allowed him to be there at all. A number of other “official spokespersons” have added their comments, which have included assurances that a number of staff have now been suspended.
Although the event – which echoes the plot from Home Alone 2 – has ended with Liam returned safely home, it has raised very serious questions about the competency of these two brands. From a media training perspective the airline and airport could have done more to protect their reputation after the event. We should have had more information about what had happened, a clearer apology (not least to the parents), comments from the companies’ bosses and a much more solid statement about what they’re doing to ensure that this never happens again.
Will Edwards is managing director of media training consultancy Bluewood Training