It’s the question model Chrissy Teigen – and anyone else who heard the tragicomical story of her 8-hour “flight to nowhere,” is still asking: Why did the plane turn around four hours into its journey and return to Los Angeles after the crew learned just one passenger had boarded the wrong flight?
All Nippon Airways (ANA), the operator of the flight, did not say what specifically prompted the pilot to return to Los Angeles International Airport, but said it was “the correct decision.”
But one airline security expert says the real reason the plane, with 230 people aboard, aborted its route to Tokyo could be no laughing matter.
“It’s almost unheard of to turn back unless there’s some security or safety-related reason for it. I think in this case there’s got to be a security-related link,” Jeffrey Price, a professor in the Aviation Department at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, tells Travel & Leisure.
The situation gained international attention on Tuesday after Teigen, who has more than 9 million Twitter followers, began live-tweeting her experience on the “flight to nowhere.”
“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,” she wrote.
ANA told the Los Angeles Times in a statement: “At the time during the flight, the pilot in command was presented with information about the discrepancy in the passenger manifest. Based on the available information in flight, he made the correct decision to return to LAX. ANA supports the decision of the pilot, out of the abundance of caution and safety for the passengers and crew onboard.”
Travel and Leisure also reached out to ANA for a comment, but did not receive an immediate reply.
“They don’t do that just for somebody being on the wrong flight unless there’s some other reason,” Price said.
He added: “If you’re on the wrong plane, and somehow they figure that out halfway through or you figure it out, well you’re going to wherever that plane is going to land. And then they’re going to rebook you once you get there,”
The passenger reportedly boarded the flight with his brother and had a ticket from Los Angeles to Tokyo but for a United Airlines flight, a Transportation Security Administration spokesperson told the Times. The passenger’s brother, however, had the correct ticket.
Price also noted that the passenger could have boarded the flight if he somehow swapped boarding passes with his brother.
However, United Airlines does not operate out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, where ANA flies. The Los Angeles Times also reported that the FBI interviewed the two brothers, along with several other passengers, but no arrests have been made.
Teigen alerted her Twitter followers at around 4:30 that she did eventually arrive in Tokyo, in spite of the delays.