A close protection officer for the UK’s Foreign Secretary has been suspended after leaving a loaded handgun onboard a United Airlines flight from Washington DC to London’s Heathrow Airport. The incident comes just seven months after another armed bodyguard employed by the elite close protection squad of the Metropolitan Police left his service weapon in a lavatory onboard a British Airways flight which was packed with passengers.
Dominic Raab and his team arrived in London after an overnight red-eye aboard United Airlines flight UA918 at around 6:30 am on Friday. A cleaner is reported to have found the loaded Glock 19 pistol in its holster on a seat after all of the passengers and crew had disembarked.
It’s not clear why the bodyguard removed the gun or whether the officer was even aware it had gone missing before the alarm was raised by United’s cleaning team.
“We are aware of the incident on a flight into the UK on Friday 18 September and we are taking this matter extremely seriously,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Service said in an emailed statement.
“The officer involved has since been removed from operational duties whilst an internal investigation into the circumstances is taking place,” the statement continued.
A spokesperson for United Airlines was not immediately available to comment on the incident.
While handguns and other weapons are strictly prohibited onboard aircraft, many countries have reciprocal agreements in place that allow bodyguards to keep hold of their service weapons even on a foreign carrier.
An anonymous source quoted by British tabloid The Sun claimed the officer was sorting out passports and other documentation for Dominic Raab and for some reason took off the gun and placed it on the seat.
“The officer then went off with the Foreign Secretary, leaving the gun behind. The cleaners came on and one of them found the gun in its holster,” the source was quoted as saying. “She was understandably shocked and called for help and police were called.”
In February, a bodyguard for former British Prime Minister David Cameron left his gun in the toilet of a British Airways flight readying for departure from New York JFK to London Heathrow. Another passenger found the weapon, along with the passports of both the officer and David Cameron, and handed them to shocked cabin crew.
At the time, a British Airways spokesperson said crew dealt with the incident quickly and the flight continued as planned.
Back in 2008, one of Tony Blair’s bodyguards left her gun in the restroom of a central London branch of Starbucks. Again, the missing sidearm was discovered by a member of the public before being handed into the authorities without incident.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.