United flies Paris-bound passenger to San Francisco by accident

A passenger who boarded her United Airlines flight from New York's airport, Newark, was heading for Paris but ended up in San Francisco.

United Airlines Airbus A319-132
United Airlines (c) Aero Icarus
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When Lucie Bahetoukilae, a French woman who speaks no English, boarded her United Airlines flight, she fully expected to end up in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France.

Instead, she ended up in San Francisco. She said she was not informed of a last-minute gate change at the New York Airport.

Amazingly, staff didn’t notice that her boarding card was clearly marked “Newark to Charles de Gaulle,” and noted nothing untoward when the boarding card was scanned at the gate.

Neither did they suspect anything was wrong when Ms Bahetoukilae found someone else sitting in her seat. The crew who apparently did check the boarding card, simply directed her to another seat on the plane.

Once in San Francisco, Ms Bahetoukilae had to wait 11 hours to board another flight which would, this time, take her to Paris. This meant that a simple 7-hour flight ended up lasting an exhausting 28 hours but aside from this, the incident begs the security question as to how the passenger could simply walk onto the wrong plane.

One could argue that the passenger should have double-checked her flight details as gates and flight times can and often do change at the last minute. However, this doesn’t bode well for United Airlines who appear to have lax security.

And it doesn’t help that this has come on the heels of the company’s recent bad press about passenger David Dao being violently dragged from an overbooked flight. The incident was filmed and went viral on social media.

United has since issued a refunded and sent her a voucher for another flight to Paris and said:

We deeply apologize to Ms. Bahetoukilae for this unacceptable experience. When she arrived in San Francisco we ensured she got on the next flight to Paris and refunded her ticket. Our customer care team has reached out to her directly to ensure we make this right. We are also working with our team in Newark to prevent this from happening again.

United said the airline was working with its team in Newark to ensure the incident isn’t repeated.