Pilots appalled convicted criminal allowed on flight despite refusing to walk through body scanning machine

Pilots say they're appalled a high-profile convicted criminal was able to avoid the body scan at Wellington Airport but allowed to board his flight anyway without the knowledge of the flight's captain or crew. 

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has been unable to explain why it was allowed to happen but said it's investigating. 

At Wellington Airport on December 29, the man refused screening, telling staff to "f**k off".

"Our understanding was that he was a very dangerous criminal that should not have been allowed to bypass security at any airport," said Captain Andrew Ridling, president of the Airline Pilots' Association.

The man, who Newshub's decided not to name, is a convicted rapist with gang links. After abusing staff and ignoring screening, he boarded his flight to Auckland without intervention and without the pilot's knowledge. 

"That aircraft should never have been allowed to depart Wellington," Ridling said.

The CAA told Newshub its process is to make contact with the airline regarding such incidents and the pilot was not contacted "as the pilot is an employee of the airline".

But the airline involved, Air New Zealand, told Newshub it was only notified of the incident after the plane had departed. 

"I think that's far too late [to be notified]," Ridling said.

Airport police did speak to the man on arrival in Auckland. They won't say if he was charged with anything. 

Aviation security (AVSEC) searched the plane but said no one was rescreened either in Wellington or Auckland. 

Cath O'Brien, executive director of the Board of Airline Representatives NZ, advocates on behalf of airlines and said rescreening should have occurred for all passengers, but it didn't.

"Just to prevent that opportunity for someone to pass something to someone else or hidden something in another part of the terminal," she said. "So that is a bit of a usual process. I'm surprised that didn't occur."

She said if rules are ignored, it puts others at risk. 

"I think it's really serious if anybody skips airport screening or is poorly screened," she said.

But the CAA said it's reviewed CCTV of the incident and believes the threat of the man concealing that could pose a threat was low. 

However, the agency has also confirmed it's considering taking action against the man under the Crimes Act or the Civil Aviation Act. 

"This can't happen again," said the National Party's transport spokesperson, Simeon Brown. "No one is above the law. And everyone needs to ensure that processes are followed to keep people flying safe."

Newshub revealed in October an international audit found significant issues with security at all our international airports, with contractors and visitors not being screened for weapons or explosives. 

"This incident highlights again that AVSEC is failing its duty to the travelling public and to the New Zealand Government," Ridling said.

It's a failure AVSEC is now investigating, saying the way the Wellington incident played out may lead to changes.