The Mysterious Flight That Turned Back to LAX Yesterday – And the Best Source Was a Supermodel

Last night I wrote that supermodel Chrissy Teigen was live tweeting an aviation incident where ANA flight NH175 from Los Angeles to Tokyo was turning around midflight because there was a passenger onboard who wasn’t supposed to be on the plane.

Credit: Chase

Apparently someone on the plane realized they were on the wrong flight and the pilot decided to return to LAX.

The theory here seems to be that having a passenger who wasn’t on the manifest is inherently a security risk. It means they weren’t run against security databases (although presumably they were, since they had a boarding pass for a different flight). And it’s embarrassing for the airline. Although anyone who was an actual security threat wouldn’t have identified themselves as not supposed to be onboard.

Supermodel Teigen is a legit frequent flyer who longs to blog about airline food instead of gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated. And as a first class passenger on the flight she’s been the best source for developing information about this incident.

I find “a passenger boarded the wrong flight” a strange explanation, or rather there’s more to the story about the failures that led this passenger to be onboard and cause the flight to turn around several hours after departure.

  • boarding passes are scanned and checked at the gate
  • Unlike US airlines, ANA checks boarding passes at the aircraft door
  • The flight count would be off (they count number of passengers boarded versus number on the manifest)
  • No one else was supposed to be in the same seat as this extra passenger? Normally the issue would come up when someone boards and finds another passenger in their assigned seat.

After the flight’s return to LAX, everyone was deplaned. Teigen points out that the individual at fault didn’t have to do a ‘walk of shame’ all on their own. Everyone was put into a room with refreshments.

The best thing about the whole incident? We learn that Chrissy Teigen is a legit travel blogger who needs to photograph different food and doesn’t want the same menu — just like the rest of us.

And then there was the Star Wars subplot, and the laviator selfie.

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, 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. I appreciate the civility of her tweets. Some would be angrily throwing off f-bombs right and left, but Ms. Teigen has too much class for that.

  2. Maybe it was a Houston Congresswoman who demanded a seat on ANA with her United boarding pass and was accommodated. Was someone bumped?

  3. @ Grant – that’s what I was thinking. Wouldn’t the ticket be on ANA paper though assuming the passenger checked in at LAX. Maybe they transited off a United flight and had the next leg ticket printed on United paper (if that’s possible)

    Enjoyed her tweets though – she seems like a nice person

  4. Who doesn’t notice that they’re on the wrong flight? Forget all the technology that is supposed to prevent that happening – does the individual in question not hear the many times they announce “ANA flight xyz to Tokyo”?

    There has to be more to this story.

  5. Was the plane with his luggage on it also turned around?
    Anyway, takeoffs and landings are not without risk. Some customers prefer to minimize them, so except for mechanical or weather emergencies, the airline doesn’t just get to decide a do over because of a stowaway or whatever.
    If it had been 6 hours into the flight, do they still turn around? Therefore, that was the wrong solution.
    Finally, when you arrive one minute late to board, do they open the door for you, ever?
    What about diverting to a closer airport? At least get the benefit of less flight time. For whatever reason, they turned around and that is wrong.

  6. This story keeps getting stranger. There has to be a “perfect storm” of events for something like this to happen – 1) Passenger not paying attention that this is not HIS flight, 2) Gate agent accepting wrong boarding pass, and 3) no one sitting in the seat he is ticketed to. It makes more sense that the two brothers wanted to fly together to Tokyo and perpetrated a ruse to get them aboard. It could also be terrorists making a “dry run” to see if they could get on an airplane without a valid boarding pass, or see if their luggage went on the other airplane without them. There is no mention if the luggage was taken off the United flight or if it stayed on. The FAA and the FBI need to do more investigation. Notice they have not released their names.

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