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NRT-Bound All Nippon Flight Forced to Head Back to LAX 4 Hours After Departing

A passenger not listed on the flight manifest caused the captain of a transpacific All Nippon flight to turn back for Los Angeles nearly four hours into the journey to Tokyo.

Citing “an administrative mix-up,” All Nippon Airways apologized to unlucky passengers who had the misfortune of boarding a Tuesday flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT). The captain reversed course and headed back to LAX after it was learned that a passenger aboard the plane was, in fact, on the wrong flight. Though the accidental stowaway had been identified by the time the decision to turn around was made, security protocols reportedly required the plane to return to Los Angeles – where it arrived nearly eight hours after originally departing.

“The cabin crew notified the pilot that one of the passengers boarded the incorrect flight, and the pilot in command made the decision to return to the originating airport,” the airline said in a statement to CNN. “We take great pride providing exemplary customer service, and on this flight we failed to do so.”

Authorities are investigating how the passenger in question was apparently able to board the wrong flight without being challenged. According to airline officials, the flight departed LAX for NRT at 11:36 am local time and landed back at LAX again just after 7:30 pm that same day.

Supermodel Chrissy Teigen and husband John Legend were among the 226 passengers on the eight-hour flight to nowhere – helping to garner more attention to the airline’s missteps than All Nippon officials might have preferred. The former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model tweeted details of her unlikely adventure shortly before boarding a second flight that would hopefully take her to Japan.

“A flying first for me: 4 hours into an 11 hour flight and we are turning around because we have a passenger who isn’t supposed to be on this plane,” Teigen wrote in a series of posts for her over 9 million Twitter followers. “Why […] why do we all gotta go back, I do not know. Why did we all get punished for this one person’s mistake? Why not just land in Tokyo and send the other person back? How is this the better idea, you ask? We all have the same questions.”

In the end, the celebrity husband and wife took the whole ordeal in stride. Teigen later joked that the delay may have been worthwhile after all. “I don’t know why I’m not more upset about this,” she wrote in a tweet. “The pleasure I get out of the story is worth more to me than a direct flight to Tokyo.”

While the fact that an A-list power couple was aboard the flight certainly added to the intrigue of the frustrating about-face over the Pacific Ocean, the circumstances are by no means unprecedented (though not quite to this extreme). In August of last year, Hawaiian Airlines Flight 459 was forced to return to Honolulu International Airport (HNL) nearly three hours into a journey to Seoul-Incheon International Airport (ICN). According to eyewitnesses, when passengers on the flight eventually learned that after 6 hours in the air, they were about to land right back where they started, several of those onboard broke down in tears.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

Comments are Closed.
Freebird January 4, 2018

Yes, that's exactly what happened: http://abc13.com/travel/lax-flight-flop-how-unauthorized-passenger-was-allowed-on-plane/2833799/ Looks like this may be previously undiscovered sw flaw? When I took the UA LAX-NRT flight some years back, some folks approached the podium asking about the ANA flight and were being directed to TBIT. This was then the first time someone actually went through the gate at the wrong terminal to board the wrong flight and the system let them despite not having a seat assignment on that flight.

Freebird January 4, 2018

Is it really true that the passenger in question held a code share ticket to NRT but should have been on the UA flight? Must have cost ANA in the mid-5 digits to return and do it all over.

Buzzz January 4, 2018

From what I understand, there were two brothers booked on separate flights who boarded this same flight, and the boarding agent missed the detail. It's unclear as to why a boarding pass scanning error warning didn't alert the agent, though.

Disneymkvii January 4, 2018

Because Hawaii isn't on the way from LAX to NRT. Anchorage would be closer.

RUAMKZ December 31, 2017

Why wasn't this discovered earlier, as in two hours into the flight?