A French-speaking woman flew more than 4,800-km in the wrong direction in the US after United Airlines failed to notify her of her flight's last-minute gate change, according to media reports.
Lucie Bahetoukilae, who does not speak English, was supposed to go to Paris from Newark on April 24 but was horrified when she landed in San Francisco. Three thousand miles (4,828 km) later, Bahetoukilae disembarked at San Francisco International Airport, where she waited an additional 11 hours before boarding a flight back to Paris. In total, she claims to have been travelling for 28 hours, WABC TV reported.
The airline called the incident, which it just settled in a confidential lawsuit, "a horrible failure," it said.
Bahetoukilae's boarding pass read "Newark to Charles de Gaulle." She went to the gate stamped on it and said a United representative scanned it. So she boarded the plane and headed for her seat, 22C.
"When she went to sit someone was sitting there already," her niece Diane Miantsoko said.
She said the flight attendant looked at her boarding pass and instead of questioning it, sat her somewhere else. Bahetoukilae never realised United Airlines made a last-minute gate change. She said United never made the gate announcement in French or notified her by email, the report said.
"If they would have made the announcement in French, she would she have moved gates," Miantsoko said.
More than the inconvenience, the family's main concern is the apparent security lapse by United. "They didn't pay attention. My aunt could have been anyone. She could have been a terrorist and killed people on that flight and they didn't know they didn't catch it," her niece said.
"This is not about money, this is about United getting serious with their employees," Miantsoko said. United Airlines later apologised and also paid for accommodations it had not offered Bahetoukilae, when she was waiting for her return flight in San Francisco.
An airline representative said United is working with their team in Newark to prevent this from happening again.