United Airlines apologises after sending passenger 8,000km in wrong direction

The French-speaking passenger had her ticket to Paris scanned by United staff, but ended up in San Francisco

United Airlines apologises after sending passenger 8,000km in wrong direction


United Airlines turbulent record on customer service of late has hit another patch of rough air after a passenger, believing she was headed home to Paris, wound up flying nearly 8,000km in the opposite direction.

Lucie Bahetoukilae, who only speaks French, was at Newark Airport in New Jersey, waiting to board her direct flight to Charles De Gaulle Airport. Following the information printed on her ticket, Bahetoukilae made her way to the gate, but ended up on a flight destined for San Francisco after the airline changed the departure gate.

As other passengers started to board the plane, Bahetoukilae handed her boarding pass to a United Airlines agent, who scanned her ticket and ushered her on. Onboard, after discovering someone else sitting in her assigned seat number, Bahetoukilae handed her ticket to a flight attendant, who moved her to another seat and also failed to see her ticket was for a flight to Paris.

United Airlines sent francophone passenger Lucie Bahetoukilae to San Francisco instead of Paris [WABC-TV]

After landing in California, Bahetoukilae had to wait 11 hours before she could board another flight to France, extending her seven-hour trip to 28 hours in transit. To add insult to injury, United Airlines also reportedly lost her luggage on the trip back to Paris.

“We deeply apologise to Ms Bahetoukilae for this unacceptable experience,” a United Airlines spokesperson said.

“When she arrived in San Francisco we ensured she got on the next flight to Paris and refunded her ticket. Our customer care team has reached out to her directly to ensure we make this right. We are also working with our team in Newark to prevent this from happening again.”

This blunder comes as United Airlines attempts to smooth over the controversial forcible removal of Dr David Dao, a 69-year-old man, from a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, last month.

On April 9th, viral footage was widely shared of an unconscious Dao being dragged off the plane by Chicago Aviation police officers. The doctor had refused to disembark from a flight overbooked by the airline to make way for their own staff, saying he needed to get back to Louisville to treat patients.

The ensuing PR fiasco saw United Airlines widely condemned for its poor handling of the situation on the plane, with the company’s CEO appearing before a US House Committee to answer questions on how United would improve their customer service.

For more travel news on Newstalk.com, please click here.