An on-duty flight attendant was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) on September 15, 2023, for attempting to pass through security with a loaded .380 caliber handgun, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said.
The flight attendant, identified as an Arizona resident, was stopped at the Terminal C checkpoint when a TSA agent flagged her luggage for further inspection. A Ruger semiautomatic handgun loaded with six bullets was discovered in her purse.
Police detained the flight attendant, and she is now facing a federal financial penalty for carrying a weapon to a checkpoint.
“We are always on the alert for any possible insider threats,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s federal security director for the airport in a statement released on September 18, 2023. “Flight attendants and workers inside the terminal have insider knowledge and access to areas of the airport and aircraft that could pose a serious security threat.”
As part of the Known Crew Member (KCM) initiative, aircrew can frequently bypass most security screening at US airports. However, following incidents where pilots and flight attendants have attempted to smuggle prohibited items, the TSA has increased random additional checks.
“It is well known publicly that passengers are not permitted to carry their firearms through our security checkpoints,” said Christine Assili, TSA’s deputy federal security director for the airport, in the same statement on September 18, 2023. “But it is equally important that the public is aware that individuals who work at the airport also are not permitted to be in possession of a gun.”
“We are equally focused on screening employees as well as travelers,” Assili added.
According to the TSA, individuals found with a loaded firearm at an airport security checkpoint or on board a flight face a federal financial penalty of up to $10,700, in addition to criminal referral.
Just a day after the incident, on September 16, 2023, TSA officers at PHL also detained a man who was carrying a loaded handgun. He faces a financial civil penalty from the Federal government.
So far in 2023, 31 firearms have been intercepted at PHL security checkpoints.