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United Airlines passenger bound for Paris sent 3,000 miles in wrong direction

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By Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

NEWARK, N.J. — A French woman who was bound for Paris found herself on the West Coast instead after a gate mix-up and a series of mistakes put her on the wrong United Airlines flight.

Lucie Bahetoukilae mistakenly boarded a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco — despite carrying a ticket that showed Charles de Gaulle Airport as her destination — and flew about 3,000 miles in the wrong direction, WABC reported.

Speaking through her niece as a translator, Bahetoukilae told WABC that she ended up in California after airline officials failed to email her about a gate change. The announcements were made in the airport, but only in English.

“If they would have made the announcement in French, she would she have moved gates,” Bahetoukilae’s niece, Diane Miantsoko, told WABC. “Of course, because she speaks French she would have moved to another gate.”

An airline employee scanned Bahetoukilae’s ticket through the gate despite the change. Once on board, she found another person in her assigned seat. Bahetoukilae told WABC that an airline employee checked her ticket and moved her seat, but didn’t mention that she was headed in the wrong direction.

Her 7 1/2-hour journey from Newark to France instead became a 28-hour ordeal, including an 11-hour layover in San Francisco, WABC reported.

“With everything going on (in) this country people have to be more careful,” Miantsoko told WABC. “They didn’t pay attention. My aunt could have been anyone. She could have been a terrorist and killed people on that flight and they didn’t know. They didn’t catch it.”

A United representative told WABC the mix-up was the airline’s fault and called the incident “a horrible failure.” The company, which settled the case in a confidential lawsuit, gave Bahetoukilae a voucher for another trip for her trouble, according to the news station.

United has faced increased scrutiny since last month, when Dr. David Dao was forcibly dragged off a United Airlines plane in Chicago, despite paying for his ticket and boarding. United settled with Dao and changed a number of policies related to when a passenger can be removed from a flight.

An airline representative told WABC that it’s working to make sure the situation that Bahetoukilae faced does not happen again.

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