It’s quite amazing, isn’t it? That with the Mas Selamat and the 2 escape attempts at the courts, security is still so relaxed at the airport – with a father flying overseas with his son’s passport and realising it only at his destination. The failed fingerprint verification at the checkpoint probably didn’t ring any alarm bells because computer systems are known to give false negatives at times anyway – meaning, there’s always a chance that an error may occur.

Of course, with the blunder now exposed, security checks are now stepped now. However, the action seems to be reactive rather than proactive. No one really knows how many lapses there are each day that goes un-noticed. In the case of the father flying off with his son’s passport, the repercussions of not knowing that he has his son’s passport and remaining in the country of destination may prove to be more devastating than the cost of an air ticket.

With the increase in the number of auxiliary police at the airport now, let’s all hope that they won’t pass the cost back to the passengers.

Yesterday’s report:

IN HIS hurry to catch a flight at Changi Airport’s Budget Terminal yesterday morning, retiree Ang Heng Soon, 61, grabbed the wrong passport and left home.

He took his 39-year-old son’s passport. They had left their passports on the dining table, because the son was also flying from Changi Airport.

The father’s mistake, and how he cleared all security checks at the airport and flew to Vietnam, led to a long day for both.

Even with the wrong passport, Mr Ang first checked in at the Tiger Airways counter for his flight to Ho Chi Minh City, where he was headed for a six-day holiday.

He next got past the security check by Certis Cisco officers at the entrance to the restricted passenger area.

Then he ran into problems, failing repeatedly to scan his fingerprint at the immigration Automated Clearance System.

Noticing his difficulty, an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officer directed him to a lane for manual clearance.

There, an officer cleared him to leave Singapore, and he boarded his plane.

Mr Ang told The Straits Times he realised his mistake only during the flight.

As soon as he arrived at the Ho Chi Minh City airport at 8.15am, he owned up to immigration authorities there and they put him on the same plane back to Singapore.

Around that time at Changi Airport’s Terminal 1, his son Vincent, an electronics company sales and marketing executive, also discovered the mix-up.

He was waiting to check in for his flight to Hong Kong when he realised that he had his father’s passport.

He cancelled his flight and went to Tiger Airways’ office in the Budget Terminal, where he learnt that his father was heading back.

Father and son were reunited at close to noon. Both made fresh arrangements and flew off to their respective destinations later in the day, correct passports in hand.

By then, it was too late for Mr Vincent Ang to make it to his business meeting in Hong Kong.

Speaking to The Straits Times before catching his flight, he said: ‘The question is, how did this happen? From a security point of view, this is pretty shocking.’

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority confirmed that Mr Ang had cleared all the checks at the airport despite showing his son’s passport.

In a statement late last night, it said that the immigration officer who looked at his passport and did the ‘face-to-face verification’ let him through because he bore a resemblance to the photo in the passport.

‘The officer should not have relied only on this but should have checked Mr Ang’s boarding pass with his passport,’ a spokesman said.

‘He should also have conducted a secondary biometric check to ascertain Mr Ang’s identity. The fingerprint scans would have led to the positive identification of Mr Ang and that he was holding his son’s passport.’

The spokesman apologised to Mr Ang for the inconvenience caused and said: ‘ICA takes a serious view of such lapses.

‘We will conduct a thorough investigation into the case. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against the officers responsible for the lapses.’

carolynq@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Prime%2BNews/Story/STIStory_250948.html

Today’s report:

SECURITY checks at Changi Airport’s terminals appear to have been stepped up yesterday, following a wake-up call by Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng.

His stern reminder was a response to a security lapse which resulted in a 61-year-old retiree being let through for a flight to Vietnam on Monday – using his son’s passport.

Travellers at the Budget Terminal yesterday told The Straits Times that an additional officer was stationed before the automated immigration lanes at the terminal.

The officer was checking passengers’ names and faces against their travel documents before they approached the Immigration Automated Clearance System.

Deputy Prime Minister Wong had said in a press statement on Monday night that all heads of department were to take direct charge and step up checks to ensure vigilance on the ground at all levels and leave no room for complacency.

Airlines also said they were taking DPM Wong’s statement seriously, and taking steps to ensure that security checking procedures were followed.

CAROLYN QUEK & EISEN TEO

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Prime%2BNews/Story/STIStory_251272.html

Articles extracted on 25th June 2008



Reader's Comments

  1. ricE | June 25th, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    not a good year for mr. wong. complacency, negligence, and technical error?

  2. Onlooker | June 27th, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Series of blunders and they still haven’t found what they are looking for

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