34 Passengers Board the Wrong Plane, Fly to Wrong City — on a 50 Seat Regional Jet

Passengers aren’t supposed to be able to board the wrong plane. Boarding passes are scanned at the gate. There’s a manifest — airlines know how many people are supposed to be onboard. When passengers are in the wrong seat, there’s usually another passenger assigned that will say something. But it happens. Occasionally one person, or a couple traveling together, wind up in the same city.

Here are 5 times passengers wound up in Sydney, Nova Scotia instead of Sydney, Australia. If nothing else you’d think boarding an Embraer E-175 for what you expect to be a transpacific flight would be a dead giveaway.

And United sent a French woman to San Francisco even though her boarding pass said Paris, flew an 80 year old blind woman to Denver instead of Raleigh, and sent a puppy on a 24 hour journey after boarding the wrong dog to Minneapolis.

US airlines don’t check your boarding pass in the jetway as you board the aircraft the way foreign airlines usually do. But even that didn’t happen this time on Swedish regional airline Nextjet. (HT: @RenesPoins)

And perhaps for the first time ever a majority of people on the plane were flown to the wrong city. Thirty four passengers wound up on the wrong plane yesterday, flying from Sundsvall to Luleå in Northern Sweden instead of flying south to Gothenburg. That’s 34 people on a 50 seat CRJ-200.

Airline Nextjet afterwards said it had been forced to cancel its flight from Sundsvall to Gothenburg due to bad weather on the west coast…

The only flaw in the plan was that the information was never divulged to the passengers, nor to Sundsvall Airport.

The passengers had only been told their flight had been delayed. So instead of taking off at 5pm, they boarded at 8pm, scanned their boarding cards and flew to Luleå – much to their surprise.

But what about the passengers who were supposed to fly to Luleå? They “were instead left behind in Sundsvall, where they were told their flight had been cancelled.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Wow. This actually almost happened to me on US Airways in 2011. We boarded a CR2 CAE-CLT and as we were texting the captain said the flight time to DCA would be 1 hour and 20 minutes. I rang the flight attendant call Bell and pointed out the captain just said DCA when we were supposed to go to CLT. Flight attendant check with the captain and sure enough we had all boarded the wrong plane and went back to the gate to board the plane to CLT.

  2. It’s happened once to me at O’Hare, and this was post-911! It was out of gate F-10, USairways right before the merger, and I dutifully scanned my boarding pass and boarded the plane.

    It wasn’t until the captain got on the PA and said, “Hey everyone, welcome aboard. Conditions look great for our flight to PITTSBURGH”

    Except I was going to Philadelphia.

    Apparently, the planes changed gates last minute, and my boarding pass was still accepted.

    So I quickly got up, got yelled at for getting up, and said I’m on the wrong plane. They did let me off and told me to talk to the gate agent.

    So I did, explained what happened, showed my correct boarding pass, and….. they couldn’t assign me a new boarding pass for the flight to Philadelphia because I was technically *STILL ON* the plane to Pittsburgh!

    It took multiple managers to clear it up- and all of the time they are swearing under their breath that this should never happen, that the passenger count failed, etc. etc. They finally had to an issue a new ticket altogether, get the super-secret-override-password-from-the-most-senior-manager-there, and I finally got a boarding pass to my actual destination. In 1st class. 🙂


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