American Airlines reviewing rare mix-up of Charlotte passenger boarding wrong plane

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A flight from Charlotte to Asheville was delayed for almost an hour and a half Wednesday after a man boarded the wrong plane, an American Airlines spokeswoman said Friday.

The man was supposed to fly to Charleston, American Airlines spokeswoman Crystal Byrd said. Instead, he boarded American Airlines flight 5615 to Asheville.

Byrd said a mix-up like this rarely, if ever, happens. American Airlines is reviewing the incident, Byrd said.

The man’s ticket was scanned at the correct gate, she said, but the plane flying to Charleston was boarding on the tarmac along with several other planes. He got on the wrong plane, Byrd said.

Crew on the Charleston flight realized they were missing a passenger and called the Asheville flight, Byrd said.

The 5:50 p.m. flight to Asheville was delayed for 87 minutes and had to return to the gate to remove the accidental passenger. He was rebooked on a new flight to Charleston, Byrd said.

A passenger on the flight, Kayleigh Kahn, said she had a layover in Charlotte while flying from San Francisco to visit her parents in Asheville. She’d been traveling since about 10 a.m. EST, she said.

Her first thought, when the pilot told passengers the flight had to return to the gate was: “Is this a joke?”

She didn’t feel unsafe, but said a passenger being able to board the wrong flight could have been a security risk. “The thought crossed my mind,” Kahn said.

She said she may try to avoid American Airlines flights in the future.

But Byrd said there are policies in place to make sure mix-ups don’t happen.

The airline puts signs outside planes, has workers directing passengers on the tarmac, and tells passengers directly where the plane is going before closing the door.

Over 21% of departures from CLT were delayed or canceled last year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.. Departure flights that were delayed were, on average, about 62 minutes late.

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Hannah Smoot covers business in Charlotte, focusing on aviation and health care. She previously covered money and power at The Rock Hill Herald in South Carolina. She is a lifelong North Carolinian and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.