ASAP 16786: The Importance of Verifying Passenger Accepted for Movement Against the Manifest


In August 2021, a passenger-manifest conflict occurred. An Airman, trying to get home, jumped on an available flight without the required paperwork. In this day and age, overlooking this regulation can result in serious risk to crews. This incident is a lesson in how to prevent a potentially dangerous situation because not everyone may be who they claim to be. This event prompted Mr. R.R. Rizzo Jr., Air Terminal Manager in the 721st Aerial Port Squadron (APS), Ramstein Air Base (AB), Germany, to submit an Airman Safety Action Program (ASAP) submission.

The aircraft flew from Al Udeid AB, Qatar, to Ramstein AB, Germany.

According to Rizzo, the crew conducted their morning ops brief and discovered four people on the aircraft, although the manifest listed only three. Rizzo said, “It sounded like the individual had met up with the crew somewhere at Al Udeid, saying that he needed a ride home. They told him to show up to the terminal, but not understanding that he didn’t understand the process himself regarding how to get on the mission. So, he basically found his way to the aircraft and was dropped off by another person that was in his unit who had access to the flightline.”

The problem was that, according to the ASAP submission, “Only three of the four individuals were manifested and processed through Qatari Immigrations. The three members verified this [information] by producing the stamps on their Orders, indicating they were properly processed through Immigration Agents. The fourth individual, [a] USAF SSgt, was unable to produce any sort of documentation to 721 APS members and claimed he ‘just boarded the aircraft prior to departure.’ Consequently, ATOC [Air Terminal Operations Center] contacted 86 SFS [Security Forces Squadron] to detain the stowaway and determine further action. The three remaining passengers were released for onward movement.”

According to Rizzo, a person who is not on the manifest is a stowaway. “In today’s environment, a stowaway is a stowaway, and you just don’t know who it is.”

“He had commercial tickets, and he was trying to find a way home by any available resource. He happened to stumble across that crew, and that was his ticket home. If anybody wanted to track that guy, they would have never been able to find him, so there was a huge gap in his travel,” said Rizzo.

The ASAP submission also stated that “Although the three remaining passengers were released for onward movement, upon SFS arrival, the stowaway finally produced a copy of DD1610 [Defense Travel System] orders indicating authorizations to use military travel. Although Ramstein wasn’t listed on the itinerary, the member had variations authorized on the travel order. Therefore, the member was released for follow-on commercial travel out of Frankfurt International Airport, Germany. The 379 AEW/ PERSCO [Air Expeditionary Wing/ Personnel Support for Contingency Operations] and Host Nation Coordination Cell was notified the individual was no longer at Al Udeid.”

The recommended corrective action listed on the ASAP submission included that Rizzo should speak with the aircraft commander on the severity of not verifying a passenger accepted for movement against the manifest. According to Rizzo, a young captain was in charge, and he probably had never experienced or been reprimanded for this type of situation.

Rizzo’s advice to crews who encounter the same situation is, “Don’t be afraid to question.”

When the passenger agent informs the aircraft commander that there are 20 people on the manifest, the commander should confirm there are 20 people on it; if there is a discrepancy, settle it at the aircraft. The crew’s mindset is usually “Do what you need to do to get it done,” said Rizzo. Although he understands that rationale, he also emphasized that it is still essential to follow the rules at the end of the day.

Rizzo said that he has been in the aerial port for 30 years, and, although you never want these kinds of things to happen, if you let your guard down and bend the rules, it will eventually happen to you. His advice is, “So, becoming that soft target makes it very easy. Just do what you know, what you are supposed to do.” No shortcuts, because, one day, shortcuts may land you in a bad situation.

Many thanks go to R.R. Rizzo Jr., at the 721st Aerial Port Squadron for taking the time to submit an ASAP. Please keep in mind that ASAPs can be submitted anonymously and are taken very seriously to help improve safety for all Airmen.