After being refused an airplane ticket at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Monday, November 1st, a 31-year-old Canadian man stripped naked, sprinted onto the airfield and climbed into the wheel well of a moving jumbo jet, according to LAX officials.
At about 7 p.m. the man, identified later as Neil Melly of Surrey, British Columbia, had arrived at the Qantas Airways ticket counter in Tom Bradley International Terminal to purchase a ticket for Flight 94, to Melbourne, Australia.
Airline agents refused to sell the man a ticket for the flight because he had only a credit card receipt and not an actual credit card, said Tom Winfrey, LAX spokesman.
About four hours later, Melly allegedly stripped off his clothes and scaled an eight-foot fence with barbed wire at the top, to enter the airfield where Qantas Flight 94 was backing away from its gate, Winfrey said.
An airport ramp worker witnessed the naked man running across the airfield after jumping the fence, and immediately notified airport police, Winfrey said.
Other airport workers contacted the flight crew to stop the plane.
Airport police quickly apprehended the naked suspect after he refused several times to come down from the right main landing gear wheel well. Police arrested Melly for trespassing at about 11:35 p.m., Winfrey said.
According to airport police, Melly, who was uninjured during the incident, was unhappy about being denied a ticket and stripped naked to make a statement to the airline, he said.
If Melly had somehow been unseen and remained inside the wheel well, there could have been “great danger to the individual,” Winfrey said.
Melly could have fallen out, been seriously injured when the landing gear was retracted, or frozen to death at 30,000 feet during the long trip to Australia, Winfrey said.
Police say they learned from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that Melly was listed as a missing person, according to LAX officials.
Qantas Flight 94 departed about an hour late Monday night. The fence that Melly scaled meets the specifications and security requirements by the Federal Aviation Administration, Winfrey said.
LAX employees are trained to be observant and aware of the surroundings for possible security problems, such as this incident, he said.
“Any security violation is serious and we have procedures in place for people to be quickly apprehended,” Winfrey said. “This is a textbook example of how someone was immediately observed and apprehended.”