Woman Went Missing for Several Hours After Getting on Wrong Southwest Flight

A woman was set to fly from Chicago-Midway to Birmingham on Southwest Airlines. Except she didn’t. She disappeared. She was traveling with her family, and they started looking for her.

“My sister was bringing my mom here to Birmingham we share care because she has dementia…they had gone to the restroom and my sister and mom went into separate stalls and that’s where they got separated.”

Bygrave says her sister couldn’t find their mother. She got police at the airport involved and filed a missing persons report. She also asked Southwest Airlines employees at the gate to help look for her.

After 7 hours, she was finally found. In Los Angeles.

  • She got on an LAX-bound Southwest flight. Since the plane wasn’t completely full, and Southwest has open seating, no one noticed she was in ‘their seat’.

  • It’s concerning of course that she was able to board without a boarding pass for the flight, and that the passenger count wasn’t done correctly.

  • On arrival in Los Angeles she exited the terminal and that’s when she was ‘found’.

  • She didn’t have an ID but tried to go back through security.

Southwest put her on their next flight back to Chicago. Southwest refunded the family’s tickets, and let them travel at no cost.

People who should know better wind up on wrong flights infrequently but not rarely, the classic example being passengers flying to Sydney, Nova Scotia in Canada rather than Sydney, Australia. (The first clue there ought to be boarding an Embraer ERJ-175 regional jet from Toronto to Sydney or for that matter a Dash-8 from Halifax rather than a widebody jet.)

Here the woman had dementia, her family lost track of her, and Southwest managed to let her board a plane she shouldn’t have been on.

(HT: Le Chic Geek)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. White?

    A brown man would be in prison under terrorism or some other charges.

    Wow. She boarded without a boarding pass. You just let that go? No TSA like rant?

  2. I’m not positive but if I recall correctly, the people who flew to Sydney in Canada actually bought tickets to Sydney in Canada, not Australia, and thus they didn’t board the wrong flight.

  3. It happens.

    I remember years ago waiting to fly SJC-EWR on the old CO, and the staff was a bit rattled because there was a man on the inbound (EWR-SJC) that had to be rebooked on arrival — he was supposed to be on EWR-SJO.

    He didn’t speak English, which made things more difficult, but they accommodated him.

  4. Thank you for bringing this story to our attention and your thought leadership on the issue of people boarding the wrong plane.

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