An Autistic Teenager, Reported Missing, Got Through Security At Orlando’s Airport With A Drink Coupon, No ID

The teenager 'just wanted to fly on an airplane,' she told investigators.

passengers go through airport security
EoRdE6 / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0 Cropped, resized.)

The teenager 'just wanted to fly on an airplane,' she told investigators.

Authorities in Orlando, Florida are looking for answers after a teenager on the autism spectrum — who had been reported missing — managed to make her way through airport security with neither a photo I.D. nor a boarding pass for any flight, armed instead with only a drink coupon. The young lady had found the drink coupon on the floor.

As Orlando’s WOFL-TV reports, last Friday 15-year-old Sade Subbs, who is on the autism spectrum — meaning that she may have difficulty with communication and sensory integration — was reported missing by her family. Fortunately, the teen was found safe and sound a few hours later and returned home without incident.

Now, however, authorities are piecing together what happened in those few hours and it seems that the security apparatus at Orlando International Airport failed as Subbs came through the facility.

Authorities say that Subbs took a series of buses from her home in Apopka to the city’s international airport. She then found a Southwest Airlines drink coupon on the floor. With that coupon — and not a boarding pass or a photo I.D. — the teen managed to make her way past Transportation Security Administration (TSA) pre-check and into the departure area.

“Subbs stated she found the drink coupon on the floor, utilizing it, as she passed through TSA PreCheck,” reads a police report from the Orlando Police Department.

a southwest airlines aircraft
  skeeze / Pixabay

A Southwest Airlines employee recognized the teen wandering aimlessly around Gate 128. The employee asked a confused Subbs if she could help the teen, wherein the teenager produced the drink coupon that had gotten her past security. The agent ran the coupon and found that it had been used on an earlier flight.

The agent then called the police.

Fortunately, one of the officers who responded recognized the teenager as the missing Apopka teen and she was soon reunited with her caregivers.

The teenager later admitted that she had ridden the buses to the airport and faked her way past security simply because she “wanted to fly on an airplane.”

A reporter from WOFL-TV contacted the TSA to ask how a teenager with neither a photo I.D. nor a boarding pass could somehow make her way past security with an expired drink coupon. The agency did not respond to the station’s requests for comment.

Though the teen was not able to board an aircraft, a similar lapse in security at Orlando International Airport resulted in a woman actually getting on a flight without a boarding pass or a photo I.D. That incident, which took place in October 2019 and was reported by WOFL-TV at the time, resulted in everyone onboard the aircraft being de-planed while police, Delta Airlines, and the TSA tried to sort things out.