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Human Interest

French Woman’s 7-Hour United Flight Turned Into 28-Hour Nightmare and 3,000 Miles in Wrong Direction

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A French-speaking United passenger quite literally got lost in translation.

Lucie Bahetoukilae, who doesn’t speak any English, was misdirected onto the wrong flight after United Airlines neglected to notify her of her flight’s last-minute gate change, according to her testimony to ABC-TV.

Bahetoukilae explained that she purchased a ticket from New Jersey’s Newark Airport to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle (a 7 ½ hour flight), but ended up flying nearly 3,000 miles in the wrong direction to San Francisco.

Before her Paris flight, she says she went to the gate number that was written on her ticket. After a United representative successfully scanned it, she boarded the plane and headed for her seat, 22C. “When she went to sit someone was sitting there already,” her niece, Diane Miantsoko, told ABC-TV.

Rather than questioning why there were two people booked for the same seat, a flight attendant looked at Bahetoukilae’s boarding pass and sat her somewhere else.

Brandon Sloter via AP Photo

Bahetoukilae had never realized United Airlines made a last-minute gate change, adding that United never made the gate announcement in French or notified her by email. “If they would have made the announcement in French, she would she have moved gates. Of course, because she speaks French she would’ve moved to another gate,” Miantsoko said.

When she landed on the west coast, Bahetoukilae had to wait through an 11-hour layover. She had been traveling for more than 28 hours by the time United was able to reroute her back to France.

In a statement to ABC-TV, United Airlines called the incident “a horrible failure” and admitted to “mistakenly putting [Bahetoukilae] on the wrong flight.” Along with an apology, United also paid for accommodations it hadn’t offered Bahetoukilae, when she was waiting for her return flight in San Francisco, according to ABC-TV.

Last week, United Airlines announced ten policy changes following the Apr. 9 incident when a passenger was dragged off the plane. Also in April, a Mexican man was accused of trafficking his own child on a United Airlines flight, and a Utah couple claimed they were kicked off their United Airlines flight on the way to their wedding.