A Russian man who managed to sneak onboard a plane bound for the United States without anyone noticing has been sentenced to time served following his arrest on November 4, 2023.
Sergey Vladimirovich Ochigava was found guilty last month of being a stowaway on an aircraft and faced the threat of being imprisoned for up to five years.
Ultimately, Ochigava was held in jail for just over three months, although the dual Russian and Israeli citizen does face the possibility of being deported. If sent home, the court also ordered Ochigava not to try to reenter the United States illegally.
Ochigava’s daring bid to get into the U.S. without a visa made international headlines after details of his brazen stowaway exploits were made public.
Last November, the 46-year-old Russian somehow circumvented boarding checks at Copenhagen Airport in Denmark and managed to slip past flight attendants to get onboard an SAS Airlines flight bound for Los Angeles.
During the flight, the flight attendants noticed that Ochigava kept on moving from seat to seat throughout the flight and during the meal service he cheekily asked for two meals. At one point, Ochigava even attempted to eat some chocolate belonging to the cabin crew.
None of the flight attendants saw Ochigava’s boarding pass and they noted that the first seat he took should have been unoccupied, although no one thought to challenge Ochigava.
In fact, flight attendants even conducted head counts of all those onboard, but the numbers were never tallied up, and the crew were primarily concerned about making sure the aircraft was balanced for takeoff.
It was only after Ochigava deplaned in Los Angeles that officials realised something was up. Ochigava told the Customs and Border Protection officer that he had accidentally left his passport onboard the aircraft, but after searching high and low, the airline couldn’t find the missing passport.
The CBP officer attempted to find Ochigava in a central computer system and couldn’t find any record of him in the database. The CBP have a record of everyone expected to arrive on all international flights and can filter that information by specific flight and flight number.
As time went on, the computer system showed that everyone who the CBP was expecting on the SAS flight from Copenhagen had been processed. Ochigava was detained on suspicion of being a stowaway.
With the help of a Russian translator, Ochigava said he “might” have had a plane ticket to get to the United States, but he told the CBP that he couldn’t remember how he got onboard the plane or even what he was doing in Copenhagen.
Along with time served, Ochigava has been ordered to pay just over $2,000 in restitution and $100 as a special assessment to the United States.
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.