Southwest Flight Diverts When a Human Heart Was Discovered On the Aircraft

The symbol of Southwest Airlines is a heart. This has been a theme of the airline’s since the beginning. They launched at Dallas Love field. Their flight attendants wore pink hot pants (designed by founding airline President Lamar Muse’s first wife). Automated ticket machines were called “Quickies.” Peanuts at Southwest were once known as ‘Love Bites.’ Their New York Stock Exchange ticker symbol remains LUV.

On Sunday, though, it took on a whole new meaning because one of their planes had to turn around because a human heart was left on board.

The plane was traveling from Seattle to Dallas. The aircraft had come in from Sacramento and was carrying a human heart meant for transport at a Seattle hospital. Only the heart was never taken off the aircraft.

So Southwest flight WN3606 from Seattle to Dallas took off. And only once they were in the air was the error discovered. They turned the plane around and headed back for Seattle because the heart has only a limited amount of time it will remain viable for transplant.

It landed back in Seattle at 5:56 p.m. local time — 5 hours and 20 minutes after the plane had taken off from Sacramento. There’s no word on whether the organ was still useful. Seattle-area hospitals deny involvement and say they generally only ship organs private.

Once they landed back in Seattle passengers, already weary from the extra flying, had to deplane because the Boeing 737 went mechanical.

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. Quite honestly, this is really irresponsible and careless of someone. Being on a donor list for a heart transplant or any organ for that matter is a serious thing. Someone was counting on that heart to possibly save their life. It would also be a real travesty if the organ became useless for a transplant. Just ask Oscar Munoz where he would be today without his heart transplant.

  2. How much of a moron do you have to be to forget such a thing when tasked with transporting it? Amazing. The intended recipient should hire a lawyer and go for the jugular.

  3. At least three people must be responsible for this error. The person accompanying the priceless cargo. The person that was suppose to receive it. And the person that was responsible for making sure the other two people did what they were suppose to do.
    If you want to add a fourth person, probably a good idea. But this is not the fault of one or two people.

  4. This is bizarre. Kidneys sometime fly commercial, but they can tolerate at least 24 hours ex vivo. Hearts on the other hand are the LEAST delay-tolerant organ. I have never heard of a heart flying commercial. But if it spent 5.5 hours on the plane, plus ground time, I can’t imagine it being viable.

    Something really weird about this story.

  5. Ah. Further googling shows it was going to a tissue bank for recovery of the valves. That makes more sense.

  6. The plane went mechanical because it no longer had a heart!

    Thank you, thank you…I’ll be here all week…

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