Update 6:20 p.m., April 16
The Menzies Aviation ramp agent has been permanently banned from ever working on any Alaska Airlines flights.
Update 7 p.m., April 13
A ramp employee who fell asleep in the cargo hold of an Alaska Airlines aircraft has been discharged from the hospital. The employee, who works for Alaska contractor Menzies Aviation, passed a drug test this afternoon.
The agent had been on a four-person team loading baggage onto Flight 448, which departed for Los Angeles at 2:39 p.m. The aircraft returned to Seattle after 14 minutes in flight when the captain heard banging beneath the aircraft.
After the landing, the employee, who was in a pressurized, temperature-controlled portion of the cargo hold, walked off the aircraft. He told authorities he had fallen asleep.
The employee started work at 5 a.m. and was scheduled to end his shift at 2:30 p.m. During a pre-departure huddle, the team lead noticed the employee was missing. The team lead called into the cargo hold for the employee and called and texted the employee’s cell phone, but did not receive an answer. His co-workers believed he finished his shift and went home.
All ramp employees have security badges. They undergo full criminal background checks and drug screening prior to being hired. They are also subjected to random drug tests throughout their employment.
There were 170 passengers and six crew members on Flight 448. The aircraft landed in Los Angeles at 6:17 p.m.
Update 4:05 p.m.
Flight 448, bound for Los Angeles, returned to Seattle shortly after departure today after it was discovered that a ramp agent was still in the cargo hold. The aircraft was in the air for 14 minutes.
After landing, the agent, an employee of Menzies Aviation, walked off the aircraft from the front cargo hold, which is pressurized and temperature controlled. Upon exiting, he told authorities he had fallen asleep. The agent was transported to a local hospital as a precaution. We are actively investigating this matter.
Update 3:30 p.m.
Immediately after takeoff, the pilot of Alaska Airlines flight 448, bound for Los Angeles, reported hearing banging from beneath the aircraft. The captain immediately returned to Seattle, declaring an emergency for priority landing. The aircraft was in the air for 14 minutes. After landing, a ramp agent was found inside the front cargo hold, which is pressurized and temperature controlled. The ramp agent appeared OK, and was transported to the hospital as a precaution. We are actively investigating the matter.