Help! JetBlue Let Me Get On The Wrong Plane!

All our lives we’d been walking around with the mistaken impression that when they scanned your boarding pass at the gate, they were making sure you were getting on the right plane. We assumed this for two reasons: 1) Because an airport isn’t like a movie theater, where you can buy a ticket for a G-rated movie and go see “Killer Naked Women From Planet Sex And Violence.” 2) To prevent people from accidentally ending up in New York when they were trying to get to Long Beach, CA.

Our friend, travel expert Christopher Elliott has opened our eyes this morning with the story of Wendy Watkins. She was scheduled to fly from Oakland to Southern California, but accidentally boarded an nearly identical-looking flight to New York. Her flight was scheduled to leave a 1:00 pm from Gate 9, the New York flight left at 1:00 pm from Gate 9a.

How could this happen? How could JetBlue scan Wendy’s boarding pass and not notice that she was on the wrong flight?


I went to what I thought was my gate, and waited for them to call my boarding class. When the line died down I walked up to the ticketing area, gave them my ticket, they ’scanned’ it, and gave me back my half.

I then got on the plane and off we went. About a half hour into the flight I looked down at the landscape and thought it looked a little odd. I took my ticket out and the lady next to me looked at it and said, “That’s not good, this flight it going to New York.”

I couldn’t believe it! How was I able to get on this flight? They took my ticket and supposedly scanned it but still let me on the flight.

I guess where I got confused was the fact that there was a gate 9 and 9a and they were both leaving at 1 p.m. I didn’t even think twice about it. Also, the ladies next to me said that it was weird how they never mentioned that we were taking off to New York, like they usually do. It was a string of unfortunate events.

JetBlue flew her back, but is unwilling to offer additional compensation because it was “human error.” Wendy also says the supervisor she spoke to was condescending and rude. Hey JetBlue, can’t you do a little bit better? Yes, she made a mistake, but in this case, human error was a two-way street.

“The worst travel experience I’ve ever had” [Elliott]


Edit Your Comment

  1. choinski says:

    This happened to me once, pre- 9/11. The airline had two Seattle-Boston flights departing 15 apart. I got on the wrong plane and only realized it when the real passenger showed up for the seat. I had to race off the plane (upstream for boarding passengers), and race to the other gate (which was the earlier flight) and barely got aboard on time. And those were the days where at least 4 people physically looked at and handled my ticket.

  2. ForrestWhitakersLazyEye says:

    Every time I’ve boarded a plane, they seem to always make an announcement stating where the plane is going, and if you’re on the wrong plane, get up, and get on the right one. JetBlue especially seems to make a point of doing this.

  3. choinski says:

    er… 15 minutes apart

  4. Hawk07 says:

    Unfortunate story, but I agree with what a previous poster said. Every flight I’ve ever been on, they always say where they’re going at the start of the flight.

  5. jtkooch says:

    What more do you want them to do? They made up for their mistake by flying her back (I assume for free). It seems to be accepted that she is just as much responsible for the situation, so why not have bear some of burden for that error?

  6. BlondeGrlz says:

    @ForrestWhitakersLazyEye: @Hawk07: From the post:
    Also, the ladies next to me said that it was weird how they never mentioned that we were taking off to New York, like they usually do.

  7. Coelacanth says:

    Wow, that would’ve been something. I probably wouldn’t have cared so much, since New York is much more fun than Long Beach, although trying to convince the ticketperson at JFK about getting a return flight might have been interesting.

  8. EyeHeartPie says:

    How is it JetBlue’s fault that Wendy got on the wrong plane? That would be like blaming Six Flags for “letting” that kid jump the fence and “letting” him get decapitated. They do all they can to make sure accidents don’t happen (signs, fences, announcements, etc…), and the rest is up to the consumer to make sure stuff like this doesn’t happen.

  9. AaronZ says:

    With overbooking as it is, this was even more of a coincidence that her seat wasn’t also taken by someone else (would have been a good indicator.)

    I’d put the onus on both her and Jet Blue. JB should have flown her to her final destination asap. As for additional compensation.. what is she due? A free flight for accidentally getting on the wrong plane? Yeah, JB should have checked the ticket, but Wendy should have checked the flight number.

    I’d say about 50% of the times I fly, the gate changes. I always check the destination and the flight # on the board. Seems like common sense to me.

  10. ThinkerTDM says:

    Unwilling to provide compensation because of “human error”? WTF? What kind of error needs to occur to get these damn corporations to admit they were wrong?

    Also, whats the deal with naming gates with letters? Is “gate 9akjh” going to be next?
    You would figure if one was making millions of dollars a year, using your noodle once in a while would be good.
    Of course, those sorts of things only happen in bizarro world.

  11. Thataboy says:

    She messed up, not Jet Blue. They flew her back… that is MORE than fair.

    People have such entitlement complexes!

  12. Treved says:

    Similar thing happened to me when I was 10, flying from Oahu to Maui. got on the wrong plane and ended up in Kaui! Back then they just ripped your ticket at the gate and you walked on the tarmac to the plane. They were boarding 3 planes out of one gate, so it was easy to get confused.

    I had to wait in Kaui for them to deplane, refuel, replane, fly to the big island, same wait, fly to Oahu, same wait, and then fly to Maui.

    Instead of 45 minutes to Maui, it took about 4 hours.

  13. B says:

    On the plus side, I think we’ve found a cheap way to fly from Cali to NYC. Just buy a one way ticket from LA to Oakland or wherever is cheap, board the NY flight, and on the return trip, get a one way ticked to Newark or something.

  14. psuchad says:

    I have always wondered why I have to have a neat little clear bag for all my liquids but the airlines do not have to ensure that passengers and bags are on the right flight.

  15. PunditGuy says:

    Additional compensation? How about a dunce cap?

    I’m not a frequent flier, but every time I’ve flown there’s a board in the departure area listing each flight and where it’s going. When boarding information is announced over the loudspeaker, there destination of a flight is always announced. Frequently, if not always, the destination of a particular flight is also listed above the causeway to the plane.

    So there were two, maybe three, warnings about where this particular flight was going. While I’m concerned about the fact that she was able to get on the plane (the scan of the boarding pass is obviously only a “valid/invalid” check), this is 99.9% her fault. She’s lucky they flew her back; consider that compensation for the 0.1% fault of the airline, and pay attention next time.

    And no, I’m not a frequent “blame the consumer” troll. I like consumers. But seriously, grow up.

    • mobiuschic42 says:

      @PunditGuy: More than once, I’ve had to triple check with airport personnel that I was at the right gate because they didn’t update the gate board or there was another flight taking off from that gate 30 minutes before my flight, and they couldn’t show both. So the board at the gate is not always a reliable source of information.

  16. akede2001 says:

    Wait, so it’s the airline’s fault that you made a stupid decision?

    Please GTFO of the gene pool.

  17. petermv says:

    This once happened to me from LAX to the east coast on United. They had two flights 15 minutes apart in two gates next to each other I can’t remember the numbers. In any event I was able to stay on the flight as I missed mine beacuse I did not know there was a problem until the last few people got on and one of them had my seat.

  18. One arguement is that JB’s ticket scanner at the gate should have thrown an error, and that the gate attendant should have responded to the error to prevent her from getting on the flight.

    On the other hand, every traveler (sans children flying alone or handicapped people) should only rely on themselves to make sure they are on the correct flight.

  19. evslin says:

    Killer Naked Women From Planet Sex And Violence?

    I must see this.

  20. PHX602 says:

    Some coworkers and I were flying from Phoenix to Las Vegas for a trade show on Southwest. The flight was delayed, so naturally, we killed an hour or two at the airport bar.

    It came time to board, and our resident small bladdered colleague decided he needed to use the restroom. When he came back, he got in the line for a flight to El Paso, which was boarding at a nearby gate. He found out he was in the wrong line when he mentioned looking forward to hitting the Bellagio, only to have about 15 people look at him like he was from outer space. Meanwhile, we’re on the plane wondering WTF happened to our co-worker, only to have him show up out-of-breath just as we were getting ready to close up and push back.

    We still give him shit about this to this day.

  21. @PHX602: And given the delay, it ultimately would have been faster to drive, right?

    /hate regional flights sometimes

  22. Gokuhouse says:

    Isn’t there some kind of security hole here? And what are the odds that her seat didn’t have someone else in it on that plane?

  23. weakdome says:

    It does amaze me that they “scanned” her ticket without error. But seriously – I check every 30 seconds when I’m waiting for a flight, becuase I don’t feel like being the idiot responsible for being late or incorrect.
    And I agree with evslin – I want to see this movie also.

  24. attheotherbeach says:

    @ForrestWhitakersLazyEye: Try actually reading the article.

  25. Sudonum says:

    Reading the article it’s not absolutely clear, but I’m assuming that Jet Blue put her up for the night in NY, flew her to Long Beach the next day, and then flew her back to Oakland on her originally booked return flight. If this is the case, as others have pointed out, WTF else does Jet Blue have to do to make this person happy? I’m guessing perhaps a brain transplant?

    And $200 for a cab ride from LGB to Malibu? I guess she’s not a driver as a weekend car rental from Hertz with their navigation system should have been a lot less money.

  26. Pylon83 says:

    Why is it that people expect to be babysat all the time? She can’t be expected to be responsible enough to read the signs and make sure she gets on the right airplane? While the boarding pass scanner probably should have registered an error, this is still 99.9% the OP’s fault. JetBlue should have charged her for the flight home.

  27. chrisjames says:

    Gate 9 and Gate 9a? That’s some Charlie Kaufman shit.

  28. Orv says:

    What no one’s pointed out so far is that this is a violation of security rules. She probably checked a bag on her original flight, and they aren’t supposed to let someone’s baggage go on a flight if they don’t show up for it. (The idea is to deter bombings by ensuring the bomber will be on the plane when it blows up.)

  29. thebluepill says:

    Since Gate 9 and 9a are probably next to each other, I would assume they share the same Kiosk where you scan a ticket?

    Since the flights were departing at the same time, could the counter person checking the ticket made the simple assumption that the woman was at the correct gate and could have simply went down the wrong ramp?

  30. EyeHeartPie says:

    I’m guessing that the only reason she’s upset is because she paid for some unaccompanied minor treatment, because that is the only time that the airline is responsible for getting you on the plane, and that would be the only time she would have a legitimate grievance. Otherwise, it is the traveler’s responsibility to get to the correct gate and onto the correct plane.

  31. Rojma says:

    C’mon! I really rely on the Consumerist to give me stories about companies who are doing wrong. Is this a case where they are telling us about about a company who did good? I think this is totally a case of a consumer who through their own carelessness got on the wrong flight and then expects the carrier to compensate her for her own stupidity. The fact that they flew her back was more than enought! If I was the suervisor I’d be condesending to her too considering how dumb she was. Every flight I’ve ever been on has 1) Announced the flight destination before boarding 2) Has it posted outside the gate 3) Announces your destination when you’re on the plane but before departing. You’re telling me none of these happened??? I don’t believe it. Pay a little bit more attention next time and don’t blame the carrier for your lack of attention. This story should be pulled ASAP from the Consumerist. Is the Consumerist running out of stories???

  32. Farquar says:

    I had a boss that would do this all the time on purpose. He was an executive and flew a lot. If he missed a flight instead of rebooking, he’d just show up for the next flight and present his boarding pass for the previous flight. 80% of the time he got on the plane without issue.

  33. MissPeacock says:

    I don’t think the real issue here is the passenger’s fault for getting on the wrong plane; it’s the utter failure of the ticket scanning system to give a warning to the gate attendant. Does this mean you can scan a ticket for any Jet Blue flight at any gate and be accepted? Can I buy a ticket for an hour-long regional flight and then get on one going to Jamaica instead? If so, wow.

    As an aside, I was flying back to Birmingham from NYC last year at the same time another flight was boarding to Columbia, SC. Two guys had their tickets scanned, rode out onto the tarmac with the rest of us on a bus, and only discovered they were at the wrong plane when the flight attendants announced where we were going. You would not believe how confused the flight attendants were that such a thing could happen.

  34. DarrenO says:

    I agree, her compensation was getting back home on a free flight. Imagine if they would have said “hey, sorry, it’s your fault so you have to pay for a last minute fare back to California if you want to get home.” That would have cost a ton!

    I am a bit surprised that those high-tech scanning systems can’t tell the person taking the ticket that the person that just gave you the ticket isn’t on this flight. Ahh, technology!

  35. Orv says:

    @Farquar: I bet that doesn’t work nearly as well now that most flights are full. When they ran out of seats they would start asking questions.

  36. windycity says:

    I do think it’s odd that JetBlue let her on the flight. I mean, what’s the point of scanning the ticket? Just to determine that it’s not counterfeit?

    That said, I don’t think JetBlue owes her anything. It was her mistake just as much as it was theirs. She lost out on a portion of her trip plus some cash for the cab ride. JetBlue lost potential revenue flying her from NY to CA for free. Looks like a wash to me.

  37. Farquar says:

    To all the bitchers and moaners (thats you @Rojma @EyeHeartPie @Pylon83) I think what you are supposed to be taking away from the article is the suprise that the fancy scanners they use on your boarding passes don’t actually do anything. (or at the very least, ensure you are on the right flight)

    Take it for what its worth, but if you want to be adventurous: buy the cheapest ticket you can find on an airline that you know has a flight the same day to the destination you actually wish to go to. Get past security, and hop on the more expensive flight to your desired destination.

  38. Truthie says:

    I am not usually one of the blame the customer crowd, but this person really needs to take responsibility for her actions. She made a mistake, JetBlue didn’t catch it, and when both realized what happened JetBlue got her to where she was going. It sounds like the airline handled the situation appropriately, and I honestly have no idea why this person is demanding some sort of compensation for her error. I think if anything JetBlue should send her a nice company-branded dunce cap.

  39. Hanke says:

    @EyeHeartPie: It’s a MAJOR security failure, and it is Jet Blue’s fault. They scanned her ticket, and directed her to the gate; they let her get on the wrong plane, seperated, I would assume, from her checked baggage. Post 9/11, this is a big no-no.

  40. I can’t believe Jet Blue didn’t offer her meal and hotel vouchers for the hassle! Where is the service?!

  41. . says:

    I made it all the way to the back of a 757, saw someone sitting in my seat. Rather than hassle the person sitting there, showed my ticket to the FA. She said, “Right flight, wrong day.” Travel agent (this is 15 years ago) screwed it up, and I compounded the error by not looking at the ticket closely enough to verify correct flight/destination/day. I absolutely had to be on this flight. FA said just sit down somewhere and we’ll fix it later. Luckily flight was not completely full, but there were some nervous moments until they shut the door way up forward as I watched people continuing to stream towards me.

  42. scooby76 says:

    maybe the OP should have taken off her Ipod headphones.

  43. mike says:

    @ThinkerTDM: That’s a good point…if it’s computer error, they don’t pay. If it’s human error, they don’t pay. If it’s an act of God, they don’t pay.

    What’s left?

  44. Lambasted says:

    When I read the title of this post I hoped it was about child traveling because otherwise I knew I would have no sympathy. I then read what happened and my prediction was confirmed.

    Key part: “There was a gate 9 and 9a and they were both leaving at 1 p.m. I didn’t even think twice about it.”

    Ummm…..the destination and flight number are always posted at the gate. And somehow she still managed to get on the wrong flight all by herself. Oh yeah, that’s right. She did say she didn’t think twice about it. I wonder if she did eeny, meeny, miny, mo to pick which gate she’d walk through. Give me a break!

    When your boarding pass says Gate 9a it means Gate 9a not Gate 9. When your boarding pass says flight #782 it means Flight #782. When the posted destination says arrival in New York it does not mean California.

    Nobody is trying to trick you. Nobody is trying to pull one over at your expense. Other than hold your hand like they do with children who are too young and inexperienced to travel by themselves, airlines do all they can to ensure grown adults get on the right flight. Sorry, but her level of nonthinking is NOT the airlines fault.

    I must laugh at her request for additional compensation. I wonder who’s going to compensate the thinking people of the world for all the nonsense nonthinking people put them through?

  45. snowburnt says:

    Is the ticket scanner jetBlue property or TSA property?

    Also, it could have given an error but the gate attendant was too lazy or incompetant to realize it.

    But in the end this is definitely Wendy’s fault.

  46. ColonelDebugger says:

    Sorry Wendy, you’re a dumbfuck. Don’t go blaming everyone else for your own incompetence.

    Take this story to Oprah if you want idiots to feel compassion for your stupidity.

  47. Geekybiker says:

    Meh. She is at least as responsible for the goof up as jetblue. I’d be hanging my head in shame, not asking for freebies.

  48. mike says:

    I think JetBlue is at fault here. Yes, we can be dumb, but that doesn’t excuse an airline. Besides, it’s in their best interest to make sure everyone gets on the right flight.

    That way, someone buying a ticket to New York doesn’t “accidently” get on board a flight to Australia.

    I’m flying in two weeks and I’m frightened.

  49. Concerned_Citizen says:

    We need clarification. Did this person get flown to southern California or just back to Oakland? I first assumed it would have been Oakland because this person is complaining, but upon rereading it, there is no mention of that being the reason she is unhappy. If she made it to southern California, what is the problem? An airline is never liable for anything you missed because of the delay in getting to your destination or for the wasted time. It sucks that those scanners don’t confirm the gate, but unless the gate wasn’t labeled or an agent specifically pointed to the wrong line, this mix up isn’t there fault. Next time ask.
    That being said, it is ridiculous from a security standpoint that the scanners don’t check the gate. Those scanners should log who is walking on that flight and deny anyone with a wrong ticket. With all the security they are implementing and hassling people with, it is very very wrong when security is ignored somewhere else.

  50. One note about the 9 vs 9a thing…a lot of these type gates (from my experience) have you walk out of a single door, at which point you physically have to be directed to your aircraft on the tarmac. This is mostly for commuter jets and turboprops, though. It would be very easy at that point to walk onto the wrong airplane.

    However, since one of these was going cross-country, I doubt this was one of those “walk out on the tarmac” flights (probably had a jetway).

  51. windycity says:

    @Concerned_Citizen: The original article said JetBlue flew her from NY to Long Beach, which had been her intended destination.

  52. That-Dude says:

    @ThinkerTDM: @Ash78: @Hanke: @truthie:

    How is this JB fault . . . or at least why would they owe her additional compensation.

    Simple analogy, If she got on the wrong bus, would the local metro system bus her back to her stop? NOPE — at best she would get a transfer, pay the 35 cents and start all over. I think they did more than enough by getting her back to her original locale.

  53. Because I’m not perfect like so many of you here, I’ve almost gotten on the wrong plane once. The gate was changed about 20 mins prior to boarding, and a flight leaving at the exact same time mine was scheduled to leave replaced mine at the gate. I was in the bathroom when the gate change was announced, so I couldn’t hear the change. However, when I tried to board the wrong flight, I was stopped and directed to the right gate.

    Sure, the onus is on her to make sure she’s at the right gate. But allowing a passenger without a ticket to board? Totally Jet Blue’s fault.

    Now, she doesn’t need additional compensation. That’s just a bit greedy.

  54. lowercase says:

    Not sure how JetBlue could owe her any more, not only was it her error, it was an easily avoidable one. When I get through security, the first thing I do is walk out to my gate, check the sign to make sure it’s my gate (gotta watch those online check-ins, they’re usually wrong about the gate), then settle in or go back for food, magazine, etc.

    I know things work a little different out there in California sometimes, but who’s fault is it that she walked under the NEW YORK sign instead of the one for Malibu? And I’ve never been on a flight where they didn’t welcome you to the plane and the flight to wherever. So maybe if she and her seat-mates would glance up from their sudoku books and listen to the announcements, they’d have heard that.

  55. PinkBox says:

    I think JetBlue did the right thing in this case. I hate to blame the consumer, but she’s at least 90% at fault here. There had to be other signs that she wasn’t on the correct flight before she boarded.

  56. bpclay says:

    @Ash78: you partially took the words right out of my mouth. I’ve seen as many as 10 gates share the same entry way, and in some places there are one or two “corridors” that lead to jetways while the other ones take you to the tarmac.

    The only way to prevent this would be to require the boarding pass to be scanned (again) as you enter the plane, but god knows we don’t need an extra delay :-)

  57. Mr_D says:

    @That-Dude: Did you read the article? Their system allowed her to get on the incorrect plane. That’s the whole point of having a system. People make stupid mistakes like this, and computers don’t (or shouldn’t).

    As far as EXTRA compensation, I don’t think anything is really in order beyond getting her to her true destination for free (which they did). Maybe a bump to first class for that trip, but nothing beyond that. Wanting more is definitely greed.

  58. Xerloq says:

    Why didn’t the OP check the sign by the door that states where the flight was going. I think she got all she’s getting by getting flown back home.

    Wouldn’t you rather go to New York than Long Beach anyway?

  59. Beelzebub says:

    First off, I’m NOT BUYING that two flights from the same airline were leaving at the exact same time, from gates right next to each other. I’ve never seen anything like that, and the logistics make that a near impossibility. Not to mention a check on JetBlue shows the Oakland-NYC flight leaves at 1:40. So I’m already skeptical.

    Second, how hard is it to CHECK THE GATE YOU ARE WALKING THROUGH? If you KNOW you are leaving from 9a, then make sure there’s an “a” after the “9” above the little doorway. If you’re leaving from 9, make sure there’s no “a”.

    The fact that two flights are leaving right next to each other, at the same time, should make you as a flier who theoretically wants to get to your destination on time MORE cautious about what line you’re getting into!

    “Hmm…, there’s two lines here, and two different fights, both leaving at the same time. I better double check what line I’m getting into, maybe even ask the gate agent just to be sure. Oh look, free headphones! This plane pretty.”

    Sounds to me like this person was just not paying attention. They deserved what they got, and are lucky JetBlue even flew them back.

  60. JustThatGuy3 says:


    How is this a security failure? Bag matching hasn’t been required since TSA started x-raying all checked luggage.

  61. se7a7n7 says:

    Didn’t the same thing happen to Lisa Simpson the first time she rode the bus by herself?

  62. @Beelzebub: See above regarding the single door. There’s a place at O’Hare (United Express) where they’ll have 6-10 commuter jets on the tarmac and everyone goes out a single door, often in 5-minute intervals. There’s a guy checking passes as you step onto the plane, but I could imagine he doesn’t look very closely all the time.

    Still, it’s VERY weird that one airline would run two flights through the same door at the exact same time.

  63. Lambasted says:

    The OP’s account is so asinine I am beginning to think the Consumerist folks plant these types stories here from time to time just to get us riled up to laugh at us.

  64. Loki_Monster says:

    Aren’t flight attendants supposed to count the number of asses in the seats vs. the number of ticketed customers shown in the airline’s system? I’ve been on flights delayed because the two figures didn’t match up and the airline was trying to figure out why.

    My understanding is that the airlines do that to ensure that there isn’t someone on the plane who isn’t supposed to be there (i.e. person who somehow snuck on for malicious reasons).

  65. luz says:

    I’ve done this on CTA buses many times – why didn’t she just get out when she realized she was on the wrong line? Moron!

  66. @Lambasted: I think this is really just a security issue rolled under the guise of a Consumerist story :D

  67. howie_in_az says:

    OP should report this to the Ministry of Homeland Security. I’m sure they’d have a field day with Jet Blue letting someone on a flight A actually board and fly undetected on flight B. In fact I’m nearly positive that somewhere in the bowels of the MHS buildings there’s a bunch of risk analysis guys saying “you know, I bet this would never happen, but…” right before the windlowless room breaks out in giggles.

  68. sardonicbastard says:

    Did she at least get the extra 6,000 frequent flier miles?

  69. stre says:

    so what do these scanners do, then? do they just look for a bar code a go “bloop” and that’s it?

  70. anatak says:

    @evslin: Yeah, but where else would Killer Naked Women be from other than the Planet Sex and Violence?

    Just sayin’…. kinda redundant.

  71. Noris159 says:

    Help! Get this person what she wants… wait, what does she want? She wants a free flight for taking the wrong flight?!?

    @howie_in_az: There’s nothing good about Homeland Security other than allowing failures of life (TSA Agents) to feel powerful and have authority when they’re not trained to exercise such authority.

  72. Zerkaboid says:

    This really needn’t be said anymore but I like commenting: I can’t see how this is anyone but the passenger’s fault. Like someone said above, there is a difference between 9 and 9a, and I’m sure the flight number and destination were posted somewhere, but it sounds like she just wasn’t paying close attention. Sure it can be confusing, but there’s plenty that could’ve been done to avoid this problem.

    That being said, wtf JetBlue? How can you let someone with the wrong ticket past the gate? That is by far the most ridiculous part.

  73. ChuckTaylors says:

    I fly from Oakland to NYC on Jet Blue really regularly. First of all, Gate 9 and Gate 9A are not at all hard to distinguish. They are very clearly two different gates, and anyone walking through should notice since I belive Gate 8 also has a Gate 8A.

    Second, like I said, I take these flights a lot. Generally they scan a few of the boarding passes in, but then just keep a stack of most of them so the line goes faster. I’m sure that’s against TSA rules, but I’ve seen it happen on every flight from there I’ve taken, so it’s real. I wonder if she really saw them scan her pass or if she just assumed they did.

    Third, JetBlue did exactly what they should. They sent her where she wanted to go, with the only delay being caused by her inability to read her boarding pass.

  74. Thorny says:

    Maybe the scanner DOES do something, but the gate agent didn’t pay attention to it any more than the passenger paid attention to where the flight was going.

  75. Myrddraal says:

    How can a person be so unaware as to get on a plane going to the wrong destination??? There is always a sign and the “Flight ### to Blah is now boarding” announcements. Either this is an exceptional series of events that created an honest mistake on her part or it is another case of someone being too stupid to suck down air.

    Oh, and it is a little odd that the bar code scanners don’t check the ticket.

  76. waxigloo says:

    I was on a flight from Boston to Pittsburgh on JetBlue where this happened. They closed the doors and announced something along the lines of, “Is everyone excited to go to Pittsburgh.” At which point a young gentleman in the back stood up and ran to front saying, “No! I am meant to be going to California!” We were at Gate 3 and he was suppose to be at 3a.

    They “re-docked” and opened the doors and let him out. I am not sure if he made is flight or not, but I doubt it.

  77. jamesmusik says:

    I’m more worried about the security implications of this whole thing than her getting free stuff for being stupid. It’s trivial to print boarding passes with altered information on them. If the ticket scanners can’t catch these sorts of things, what’s to prevent people with nefarious intentions from getting on a flight they were never ticketed for?

  78. @waxigloo: announced something along the lines of, “Is everyone excited to go to Pittsburgh.”

    Comedy gold.

  79. ElizabethD says:

    I got on the wrong T commuter train out of Boston’s South Station once. Instead of Providence I ended up in Franklin MA.

    It’s really not so hard to make mistakes like this when we’re rushing to board our transportation. In my case, the conductor didn’t make it to our car to punch tickets until we were way past any reasonable point of return. (Hubby drove an hour to pick me up in Franklin. Whatta guy.)

  80. InsaneNewman says:

    Actually, when I flew SFO -> Dulles, DC last month, Virgin America was simultaneously boarding our flight (at gate 1A) with a flight to Los Angeles (at gate 1B). It was exactly as you described… 1 door that split into two jetways, one going off to the right, and one going off to the left. Although, that only happened because the LA flight was running 45 minutes late, and they were still keeping the passengers in separate lines. However, I could see how it could happen- and I’d still blame the passenger.

  81. SportsCentre says:


  82. bstewart23 says:

    Some people really are much better-suited for travel by bus than by air. When she landed in New York, did she wait at the carousel for her baggage, too?

  83. ninabi says:

    Totally understand how this could happen. I was flying home this week and my gate was changed. FOUR TIMES. And it wasn’t announced- I discovered it when checking the monitors to update just how late the flight would be. Dragged my bag up and down the concourse for 3 hours and when it was finally decided that yes, we were going to leave from here, I was like a little kid, asking, “Is this it? Are you sure? Really? Is this the right gate?”

    9 and 9a. Leaving at the same time. Yep, I could see this getting fouled up. Jet Blue could make it a lot better. Reading about a hefty helping of snotty attitude by a CSR isn’t making me want to book with them anytime soon.

  84. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    I have to aggree with my fellow posters, other than flying her to her original destination, there’s not much that she was owed.

  85. @se7a7n7: dang, you beat me to it.

  86. jtkooch says:

    By the way, I totally understand the confusion on the gates. Flights and destinations are NOT always listed at the gate. Anyone who has flown Delta out of JFK knows this. Five different gates leave out the same door (far right corner, if you have the terminal entrance and food stands to your back), and they board flights sometimes two and three at a time. When you get downstairs all the doors have gate numbers, but no indication what flight you’re about to get on.

    That said, JetBlue has done enough by flying her back for free.

  87. verazula says:

    the point you guys are missing is the fact that JetBlue let her on the plane in the first place!@@!@@! The whole ticket-checking thing is a charade and she was able to get on the wrong plane. Some blame can be placed on her for the accident, but really people! In this post-9/11 world, if its this easy for someone to get on the wrong plane, how easy would it be for someone else to get on a plane they weren’t supposed to be on? Imagine paying $100 for the Boston-NY shuttle (or something similar, read: short flight) and just hopping on the other flight and getting to fly to LA for freaking cheap??!?

  88. veronykah says:

    Hm, when she was talking to the agent isn’t there a LED screen with the destination right behind the agents head that says where the flight is going? Well at least in EVERY airport, everytime I’ve flown there has been.
    As far as her gate maybe being changed, or having an A or not at the end…anytime I have been confused or not too sure if I was at the right gate…I ASK the person at the ticket counter. Its all very simple and they will TELL you where to go if you are in the wrong place. Its all very nice.
    I can say I don’t know what the handheld scanners actually do, but getting on a plane for NYC when you are supposed to be going to Long Beach, really? I have to agree with most of the other posters that Wendy needs to learn to read and pay attention a bit more. Either that or appreciate the fact that she got a cross country flight for the price of flying from Oakland to Long Beach (that I would have been pretty damn happy about myself).

  89. I guess I was lucky… having flown when I was young with a Mother who’s middle name was Paranoia and made sure that we were on the correct plane. When I fly, I am a pest to the gate and flight staff. Is this the flight to Albany GEORGIA. You sure? GEORGIA? ‘Cause there ain’t no way in hades that I want to fly to the wrong Albany, Springfield, Portland or whatever.

  90. As others have said, this is a security error.

    Customers will make mistakes. That’s fine. But it’s very important that airlines not let people on planes that they don’t have tickets for.

  91. Pylon83 says:

    How is this a security problem? They have already been screened by the TSA and found OK to fly. Why does them getting on a DIFFERENT flight create a security risk? The TSA doesn’t screen you differently if you’re going to LA than if you’re going to Missoula, MT.

  92. Juggernaut says:

    I hate to make generalizations but I don’t think I’ve ever met a Wendy that was even semi-intelligent although they are usually red-heads and juicy.

  93. dveight says:

    I have no sympathy for this lady. Sure, JetBlue should have caught the error, but they did fly her to her intended location. Their responsibility to her is fulfilled at this point.

    The OP needs to take some of the blame for this mix up. I’ve flew out of Oakland, CA many times, I and I know for a fact that the gates are clearly marked. I also have never seen them not post a sign on the entrance way of what the flight number is and the destination. As for her saying that they never mention where they are going, I’m calling BS! Never once have I been on a plane where they do not announce the estimated length of the flight and the destination. I think she added that last part in of the woman next to her saying that JetBlue did not say anything to gain more sympathy.

  94. ohyeahright says:

    “The worst travel experience I’ve ever had”? Really, being flown for free to your original destination is the worst travel experience you’ve ever had? Get over yourself.

    The fact that this can happen is disturbing, especially given the fact that we are babysat every other step of the way. I can’t wait to see how TSA and JetBlue respond to this. Good think she wasn’t a terrorist, eh?!

  95. theczardictates says:

    @Hanke: That’s some mighty big assumptions there, Mr. Security. Who says she had checked baggage? And even if she did, who says her bags were allowed to fly on her original flight? It’s quite likely that when she failed to board that flight her bags, if any, were removed from it. That’s right: there’s no security risk when somebody flies without their baggage, only when their baggage flies without them…

  96. ChChChacos says:

    Once in Indianapolis I heard a call for a Providence flight on Delta airlines over the intercom. It said last call for that flight. My flight to Providence, was via Delta, but was not suppose to board for another 20 minutes. I panicked thinking I had missed the first call because I had just passed through security. So I went to the ticket counter and proceeded to board the plane. I walked down the aisle and became confused when my ticket said something like 12E when the seat E didn’t exist on this flight, it just went up to D. I asked the flight attendant and she informed me that in fact I had boarded the wrong flight to Providence, and mine was in another 20 minutes on a bigger flight that included the seat E. So they scooted me off the flight and I sat embarrassed in my seat until the next flight was called.

    But same type of story, they scanned my ticket at the counter, and I remember the guy saying something like, “Have a good weekend in Providence.” Although I would of ended up in the same location, only sooner, it was still two human errors that added up in this case.

  97. sean77 says:

    the consumerist has gone from protecting consumers from evil companies to protecting consumers from themselves. See also the don’t drink poision article.

  98. sean77 says:

    @theczardictates: there’s no security risk to having baggage fly without a person. Bags are scanned and sniffed before being loaded on the plane. Who is this protecting? We already know the terrorists will happily die for their cause.

    security theater.

  99. glass says:

    YEAH! Like this one time, I wanted to rent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Blockbuster. I accidentally grabbed Full Metal Jacket, and NO ONE THERE TOLD ME! Totally Blockbuster’s fault, not mine.

    If you get on the wrong flight, you’re an idiot. They announce the destination several times WHILE ANNOUNCING which rows are bording. There’s also a large sign above the gate counter with the flight information. Might want to check that in the future.

  100. g4lt says:

    what really scares me here is that someone with no connection to the city I’m going to WAS ALLOWED ON THE PLANE. OP should have had a one-way trip to gitmo for attempting to board a plane that they weren’t supposed to be on. They shouldn’t have gotten compensation for committing a crime, that’s for sure

  101. PHX602 says:

    @glass: “Duh, I are going to Boston, but the sign said Dallas. I thought they had my name up there, but just spelt Dumbass wrong.”

  102. snakeskin33 says:

    I don’t disagree that it seems like a security failure that she was put on a plane she didn’t have a ticket for. But that’s the ONLY thing the airline did wrong, and that in no way is the airline wronging the passenger, so it would in no way entitle her to any compensation. The security failure isn’t the airline doing anything wrong to her. All they did was fail to stop her from putting herself on the wrong plane, which, as others have pointed out, is FAR more service than you’re entitled to. The airline was very generous in flying her to her destination for free, and it’s laughable that she’s trying to extract a gift from them because she can’t be arsed to listen to the announcements.

    Incidentally, I do not believe for one instant that the whole “and then the ladies next to me mentioned how odd it was that they never said where the flight was going!” thing ever happened. Absolutely do not. You think the lady next to you is going to spontaneously recall the entire run of pre-flight announcements in the terminal and on the plane and suddenly realize that no one ever said “New York”? That is ridiculous. At most, the ladies were trying to sympathize and were SURMISING that apparently, they must have forgotten to say “New York” fifteen times like they ALWAYS do during the boarding and takeoff process, because otherwise, how could you possibly be IN THE AIR and not know where the plane was going? You think that the one time Wendy happened to not notice that she was getting on the wrong plane was the ONE time nobody said anything, ever, at any time, about the destination? That is simply not credible.

    I diagnose the same problem as many others: she had headphones on, she wasn’t listening to the announcements, she didn’t pay attention, she didn’t notice the difference between “9” and “9A,” and she made one of those staggeringly stupid mistakes that everyone makes at some point in his or her life, but that most people have the good sense not to martyr themselves about. Everybody’s done something about which they later say, “I cannot believe I did this, but.” Usually, they don’t ask somebody to pay them hundreds of dollars in compensation, though, so I’ll give her points for moxie.

  103. jimv2000 says:

    Why complain about it, you got a MYSTERY VACATION!

  104. Lucky225 says:

    At least the TSA made sure it was you and not an evil terrorist tho right?

  105. BillyShears says:

    Stories like this kind of remind me why airlines still explain how a seat belt works.

    Or why my canister of peanuts says “CONTAINS NUTS.”

  106. nsv says:

    What “additional compensation” is required? They flew her back, what else should they do? Pay for a basic reading course?

    I almost always check the board to see that I’m at the right gate. If I’m running late (TSA likes to do the latex glove check on me lately,) I’ll ask the person at the door if this is flight xxxx to wherever. I’ve assumed enough other things in my life and learned exactly what happens when you assume.

  107. dantsea says:

    I’m really trying to understand how someone who was supposed to get on Plane A but ends up on Plane B might somehow be a security threat. I’m sure there’s a reason, but it seems like a bit of hysterical specuation, a la BUT THINK OF THE CHILDREN as an emotional kneejerk response. Regardless of the plane being boarded they’ve already gone through the TSA checkpoint and are (hypothetically) safe as the passengers who boarded the correct flight.

  108. cccdude says:

    Even if they *had* announced what the destination of the flight was going to be, do you really think you would have heard it? Any casual or frequent flyer will totally zone out while the flight attendants are doing their spiel these days.

  109. OfficeMaxie says:

    I say congratulations to her, for locating an empty seat on a cross-country flight. Did someone else have to sit on the toilet?

    Seriously though, was there magically a seat available that was exactly the same one she was assigned on the other flight? Spooky! How did that work?

  110. Pylon83 says:

    I’m a fairly frequent flier, and while I absolutely zone out during the spiel, I imagine I’d perk up in absolute terror if I heard them say “New York” when I was supposed to be going to Mailbu.

  111. TVGenius says:

    @B: Good luck finding a flight from LaGuardia or JFK to Newark. Or at least a non-stop one.

  112. Mr_Burmie says:

    A similar mix-up occurred in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Wendy should have held out for a suite at the Plaza.

  113. TVGenius says:


    Ah, the Helen Lovejoys of the world…

  114. I nearly did this once. I was taking a 7am flight to Chicago. I got there extra early and sat down at the gate. Later, people started arriving, they called boarding for the flight to Chicago, and I got on. Except I was the row 28 and the flight only had 22 rows. So I walked back out and the attendants said, “Yeah, we just saw your ticket stub, this is the wrong flight.” My flight was leaving from that gate 30 minutes later; this just happened to be a Chicago flight from the same airline leaving from the same gate a little earlier. I was so tired that I didn’t even notice the difference.

  115. LUV2CattleCall says:

    @ForrestWhitakersLazyEye: @Hawk07:

    To be fair, jetBlue (and AirTran, and US Airways) have this huge spiel where they shill their credit card and other random crap such as the fact that they’re “always taking delivery of new planes” (even though they’re also selling planes…), so many travelers just tune them out. It’s still the pax’s fault, but I can see how it’s easy to miss the announcement.

  116. LUV2CattleCall says:

    Another reason Wendy is in need of being Darwin’d out of the genepool: The default screen for the LiveTV that’s in-fucking-front of each pax is loaded with Google maps and unless she also fails at geography, she could have seen that the planned route doesn’t exactly involve going to SoCal.

    Or she could have just noticed that the wings were drooping a bit much – indicating a ton of fuel being in the tanks – for a corridor flight…it’s so easy, a caveman could do it.

    In the meantime, I heard that jetBlue got together a special display just for her:

  117. Anonymous says:

    Who wants to take up a collection for Wendy? I’ll organize it….

    Here’s the catch: the money has to be used to tattoo the word STUPID on her forehead.

    The IT angle is interesting… it means that those nifty scanners aren’t necessarily online – which is actually the case in a lot of bar-code applications that don’t involve UPC codes and retail stores.

  118. bwcbwc says:

    @windycity: I’m starting to suspect that those scanners just do a seat-number check for duplications on a local database. I can’t see how any system that connects to the actual passenger list would fail to return a blip on entry.

  119. Ben Popken says:

    RTA. There was no announcement.

  120. jiggie914 says:

    This is not only a Jetblue Error. I got on a flight from NY to the Dominican Republic on Delta, but i was flying American. They still let me in. I realized the error when i saw a friend on the same plane and said to him if he was going to my town. There was a guy with the same names as me, just 20 years older, and it was an E-ticket, so i didn’t have a paper trail to check also i didn’t book it, so i was told it was delta, so to the delta terminal i went. After that i called American and they said it was ok to get on the next flight out. It seems to me that the Scanning system checks for you on the airport and not just on that flight/plane. Maybe it is a security hole, since I got into a different Airline, on a different terminal.
    Something to ponder.
    PS: i do admit it was my fault for not re-checking with the person that got me the ticket.

  121. Zerkaboid says:

    @SportsCentre: “KEVIN!” I hope this isn’t the type of thing that’d be considered a junk comment now, because I love it.

  122. sassenach says:

    As Judge Judy says, “put your listening ears on.” And your looking eyes. I’d give this oblivious woman nothing.

  123. BillyShears says:

    @Ben Popken: As a fairly frequent traveler (on JB no less…between Oakland/SFO and JFK to boot), this would be the first I’ve ever heard of them just not stating a thing between boarding and take-off regarding their destination. I’m not saying the person who sent this to you is lying, there’s no way to ever prove that. I’m saying the claim is an awfully convenient way to cover up a situation that needs a total, complete lack of attention on her part to transpire.

    There are signs at the gate saying where each flight is going, there are flight numbers if a gate or scheduled departure are similar. JetBlue flew her back (presumably to LA, the post didn’t specify) free of charge. I’m not sure what else she could possibly think she deserves.

    I honestly think the bigger story here is that JB’s system didn’t flag the error and let her get on the wrong flight. Huge security break right there; were she a terrorist she wouldn’t have shown up on the passenger manifest; were she a victim of the same no one would’ve known she was on board.

  124. HookEmSarah says:

    The original article has an updated response from JetBlue. While it’s no excuse for allowing her to get on the wrong plane, apparently they don’t use scanners in Oakland. But not only did they fly her back for free, they also paid for her hotel room in NYC.

    I don’t believe she is owed any more compensation since the mistake was just as much hers as JetBlue’s. They seemed to have handled this rather well. Can you see AA or United doing this for a customer?

  125. Overheal says:

    well did they accomodate her during her transfer?

    Ideal compensation is some Gold Lounge treatment and a business class bump :)

  126. BillyShears says:

    @Overheal: JetBlue doesn’t have classes.

  127. dveight says:

    @cccdude: If that is the case where someone zoned out, then whose fault is it?

    Hell, I hear police sirens all of the time (like 10 times a day.) What if I zone them out while I was driving and cross an intersection that a cop were zooming through and get side swiped? Can I blame the cop for running a red light with his lights and siren blaring because I hear them all of the time?

    Get real, and start accepting the blame for your own mistakes people.

  128. dveight says:

    @Ben Popken: Where are we getting this info from that there was no announcement? If it was from Wendy, then I don’t believe it. I’m sure if you ask the flight crew of Jet Blue, that they would say that yes, there was a an announcement.

  129. AgentTuttle says:

    Cheapest NY flight ever. I knew a guy who used to do this all the time to get cheap fares for long distances. It’s good to know that even in a post nine eleven Amerika, you can still pull this off.

    I also know a guy who discovered he had a folding knife in his pocket after he got on the plane. Good thing the TSA found his big dangerous bottle of water, though. I guess it distracted them.

  130. wendy17 says:

    Okay, okay, I’ve read enough of these comments and it’s time to interject (and yes I can read). I am the infamous ‘Wendy’ who got on the wrong flight and no I am not a ‘dumbass’. I have never had a problem locating a flight before and am a frequent flier. I think because I was so comfortable flying I did not pay enough attention…I will admit to that. I never fly on Jet Blue and was unaware that there were gates 9 and 9a. I looked on my ticket, saw 9, looked at the seating area which was full and pretty chaotic so I took a seat a little ways away from what i thought was my gate. When they began boarding the plane I kept my eye on the line and wanted to wait until it died down to head over. Because I was sitting near a different gate (due to lack of seats) I couldn’t hear the gate they were calling. In my recollection of the day I never said they didn’t call out the destination at the gate, I just was not in ear shot or couldn’t decipher it over all the other announcements neighboring gates were making. When the line was gone I walked straight up to the ticketing person. They took my ticket and gave me back my half and on the plane I went. The plane was packed, my seat was open, so no warning sign there. Like I said before I did not hear them say the flight was going to NY. After the fact, the ladies sitting next to me said they did not hear an announcement either. I have recently found out from a passenger, and these are in his words, “
    I was ON that flight to JFK from OAK and they only made one announcement at the gate and the women said “JFK” right before she hung up the phone so it was cutoff. ” I know that I should have been paying attention but there are a lot of factors that went into me making this mistake.
    Now none of this is really my problem with Jet Blue! My problem with JB, which a few of you have pointed out, is the fact that my bag, which I checked on, went to Long Beach with out me….big security breach. My problem with Jet Blue is that they took my ticket and still allowed me to enter a flight I did not have a ticket for. My problem with Jet Blue is that they did not do a passenger count to ensure the correct number of passengers were on the planes. My problem with Jet Blue is that even though they did put me up in the shadiest hotel I have ever been to and got me a flight home, will still not admit to the fact that they made a huge mistake. They have pretended like it was no big deal and I think it was a VERY big deal. I do not like the thought that I can be on a plane with someone’s luggage who never even boarded the plane. To me, that is scary. So say what you will about me and my ability to step on the wrong plane, but please also think about what this mistake says about Jet Blue.

  131. adam_b says:

    Yes, they definitely SHOULD be checking that you got on the right plane. It’s a matter of security. The airline needs to know who is on the plane.

    On a lighter note, am I the only one who realized that this plot is remarkably similar to that of “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York?”