American Airlines Says Man Wasn’t on the Flight to San Jose. Then How Did He Get There?

A man claims to have flown from Los Angeles to San Jose on Friday. But when he arrived American Airlines cancelled his return to LAX. They said he no showed his flight, so they cancelled the rest of the itinerary.

That means he’d have to buy a new ticket home. Only he had “video he took on board the fight, showing the takeoff and landing.”

He says he used the American Airlines app to board with an electronic boarding pass. But the airline has no record of him taking the flight.

After being contacted by media, the airline is picking up the cost of his new ticket home,

An American Airlines spokesman admits there is no record of Homen on that flight and added that a mix-up like this is extremely rare. But he insisted that there was never any security issue since every passenger had to pass through TSA screening.

The airline is also refunding the extra $200 Homen had to pay for a new flight home.

So what happened? Presumably he was un-checked in or offloaded by the gate agent in error. This happens occasionally, most often during irregular operations when there may be multiple flights in a booking (backup options). A customer shows up for their return flight only to find they have no reservation. The airline says “you didn’t take the flight” and the customer says, “then how did I get here?”

It takes a bit of time to sort out, so that may mean taking a later flight home. It may even mean purchasing a new flight home and getting reimbursed later — if not from the airline than from the credit card company since travel was purchased, terms were adhered to, but the trip wasn’t delivered. It’s rare it gets to that.

This isn’t an American Airlines issue per se. It isn’t a safety issue, though in the rare event of an accident it’s inconvenient for an airline not to know who was onboard. The biggest problem, besides getting home, is getting mileage credit when the flight doesn’t post to your miles account.

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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Comments

  1. This almost happened to me on delta. I purchased Miami to JFK to BCN
    I gave the agent 2 boarding passes. She scanned one and we both walked through. Then she handed both back to me. I said wait the other one and she scanned it too
    Had I not insístete the BCN and return would auto cancel
    Now she did get distracted with another customer when she was scanning them. It happens !!!

  2. Call me a dinosaur but this is one of three reasons why I always get a paper BP at the airport kiosk. 1) So I have documentation in case FF miles don’t post – yes this actually still happens on rare occasions. 2) So the airline knows I’m at the airport – printing a BP from kiosk will note a different type of checkin so the agents know you’re actually at the airport 3) So I’m not the d-bag holding up boarding because his-her phone ready with the E-BP.

  3. “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” Was the man Burt Bacharach?

    Or maybe the man was from an alternate reality only slightly different from ours, and mid-flight warped into our reality? We may never know!

  4. This happened to me some years ago. Flew DCA-JFK in the morning for a meeting and then when I checked in for my return flight that evening, AA said I hadn’t taken the flight that I had taken earlier. I had tossed my boarding pass as well, but a few keystrokes later and the agent reinstated everything. I had to jump through some hoops to claim the miles too.

  5. This happened to me on AA last year. I had a connecting flight at DFW. When I got off the plane at DFW, my boarding pass was gone from the app. They got me on standby. I got the last seat…which, I’m guessing, they gave me a high priority when they added/bumped me to standby.

  6. I have had that happen with BA and with American several years ago. The agents were able to fix it. However, with American taking authority away from agents (to save a penny I guess), I wonder if they could fix it now.

  7. In fact, fear of tickets being cancelled is why I like paper tickets. A ticket with TSA scribbling on it is pretty good evidence that I flew.

    Also, I usually watch screen to make sure my name comes up. When they add me in by hand, I worry a little (very little, don’t sweat the small stuff until it becomes big stuff).

  8. The American Airline’s spokesman statement that “mix-up like this is extremely rare” is absurd. Has the spokesman ever looked at the zoo which is the boarding process on American.

  9. Just once it would be nice to see this end with “ok, the fare I bought was fully refundable with no pre departure cancellation requirement. If you really think you didn’t fly me here please refund my entire journey. “

  10. I had the exact opposite happening to me in 2015.

    Checking in at LAX for AUS and the agent said I had boarded an earlier flight hours ago, except I didn’t. The agent talked to supervisor talked to system for a hour & cannot figure anything out. Missed the flight and rebooked.

    Next day 2 identical set of miles for the segment posted to my account.

    Emailed AA about the incident: “Unfortunately, however, it seems that all these measures didn’t prevent the problems you described and we apologize for any worry or inconvenience this has caused you. We have alerted our General Manager. We’ll examine our current procedures to prevent a recurrence.” They put 7500 miles for ” a gesture of goodwill”

  11. In the early 1990’s, I redeemed a British Midland award on United for 10,000 miles. I had to speak with a person. They got confused and forgot to deduct 10,000 miles. However, there were about 3 flights that I never got credit, which total almost 10,000 miles. We’re even.

    British Midland is long dead (now BA). The airline that used the BMI name just died a few days ago. Instead of mainline jets, they used Embraer 145 jets or similar.

  12. Happened to me about a year ago. Arrived in JFK from EZE on Latam. Even though I have Gloal Entry, US Passport and am US citizen, my landing card printed with a big X across the face. Was escorted by armed officer to a bleak CBP office where after some time, was interviewed about my reason for coming to the USA. Finally was permitted to enter USA. The problem: LATAM hadn’t listed my na,e on the passenger manifest. Finally, after a total wait of 2 ½ hours I picked up my bags and headed for customs. There, the agent yelled at me: “Come on guy,hurry up. You’re the last one.”

  13. Happened to me last week, return PHX to NYC on AA. Easy fix, AA Service desk called CRC who (essentially) toggled a switch that showed I flew to PHX from JFK. Whole process took ten minutes. Seems like (shocking not shocking) your experience just depends on the AA employee you’re in front of…remember to smile and laugh.

  14. “Always listen for the beep” is good advice. I’ve twice had unmotivated gate agents just wave my ticket over the scanner on AA. I just trusted them, only to find out I received no mileage credit. It never affected any flights home. And luckily resolving the mileage credit issue after the fact wasn’t difficult either time.

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