Model Chrissy Teigen was one of more than 200 passengers on an All Nippon Airways flight that left Los Angeles at 11:36 Tuesday morning and arrived (safely!) at 7:33 p.m. — in Los Angeles.
The Tokyo-bound flight, NH175, was interrupted on behalf of a single mixed-up passenger, who had boarded the incorrect flight.
“As part of the airline’s security procedure, the pilot in command decided to return to the originating airport, where the passenger was disembarked,” the airline said in a statement.
It may seem outrageous, but it is surprisingly common for planes to return to their point of origin midway through a flight, analysts said.
“It happens more often than people think,” said Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for the global flight-tracking service Flightradar.
In the last 24 hours, Flightradar found that 10 flights (of about 150,000) had returned to their origin, for reasons including mechanical issues, weather, a disabled aircraft at the destination airport and, of course, a confused passenger.
ABC reported that the man in question was one of two brothers who had planned to fly to Japan, and that he had booked a flight with United. All Nippon Airways said that it was working to figure out how the mistaken passenger had made it onto the plane and apologized to the others on board.
Teigen, who commands a Twitter following of more than 9 million thanks partly to her irreverent sense of humor, narrated the ordeal she experienced along with her husband, R&B singer John Legend, and hundreds of other passengers.
“They keep saying the person had a United ticket. We are on ANA. So basically the boarding pass scanner is just a beedoop machine that makes beedoop noises that register to nowhere,” Teigen wrote on Twitter.
Teigen said that she was not as upset by the decision to turn around as might be expected. But she did raise some obvious points: “Why did we all get punished for this one person’s mistake? Why not just land in Tokyo and send the other person back? How is this the better idea, you ask? We all have the same questions.”
Bad weather and mechanical and medical problems are the main reasons that planes turn around. Petchenik said that airlines were increasingly citing unruly passengers to justify flights being diverted as well. But he did not recall another instance in which a passenger had boarded the wrong plane and was not discovered until after takeoff.
Asked whether he had any other thoughts on the matter, Petchenik paused a moment.
“No — just that you know, poor guy,” he said. “And poor however many other people there were on the flight. But they’re on their way now, so that’s good.”