LONDON — The 11-year-old boy didn't have a passport, didn't have a ticket, didn't have a boarding pass, and got all the way from England to Italy on his own.
For him, the 1,000-mile journey was a great adventure — and his excitement led to his discovery.
"He was chatting away about being off by himself," and passengers alerted the cabin crew, Russell Craig, a spokesman for Manchester Airport, said Wednesday.
The boy, who is known to be fascinated by transport and has a history of catching free rides on trains and buses, was sent back to Manchester on the return flight, Craig said.
For the airport, airline Jet2.com and the British government, Tuesday's incident was an embarrassing breach of security days before the start of the Olympics.
Ben Vogel, editor of HIS Jane's Airport Review, said he wasn't familiar with all the details of the Manchester incident but said it's a fundamental security principle that people aren't allowed aboard an aircraft if they have no right to be there — whether or not they passed through a security scanner.
"It's not good, is it?" he said. "It is a security breach, if a non-threatening security breach."
An undisclosed number of security staff employed by the airport and airline employees have been suspended while authorities investigate.
Airport manager Craig, however, said "it's not technically a breach of security" because the boy did go through the normal security scan.
"The boy was no threat to the aircraft," he said. But he admitted the boy passed through five security checks before boarding the plane.
Manchester Airport is the third busiest in the United Kingdom after London Heathrow and London Gatwick. The security staff is hired and managed by airport officials.