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Update 12/28/2017 1:14pm: ABC News sources confirm our speculation that “The brothers, who have nearly identical names, were able to board the ANA flight together by apparently using a duplicate boarding pass.”


In case you missed it, an ANA flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo’s Narita airport (NRT) turned around four hours after departure due to an unauthorized person on-board. Chrissy Teigen hilariously gave the world live updates from the eight-hour flight from LAX to LAX.

The question on everyone’s mind: Why did the flight turn around?

The Washington Post reports “a U.S. government official with knowledge of the situation” says the situation involves two brothers that boarded the flight. One was ticketed on ANA and the other brother was ticketed “on a United Airlines flight leaving around the same time.” So, both brothers cleared security with valid boarding passes — just one boarded the wrong plane. However, it’s unclear whether this act was intentional or accidental.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told the Washington Post that interviews were conducted, but no charges were filed for the stowaway.

In a statement to TPG, ANA offered its “sincere apologies” to the passengers that were on the flight, noting the airline “failed to deliver the customer service [it strives] for and passengers expect from [it].” The airline went on to back up its pilots and crew, saying they did the right thing in this situation:

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.

But how?

Personally, I’m surprised that a passenger was able to board an ANA flight without a valid boarding pass. In the past two days, I flew ANA from Sydney (SYD) through Tokyo’s Haneda (HND) to Vancouver (YVR). Just like when I departed from San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) a few weeks ago, the boarding pass checks were intense. I’d actually go so far to say that they were the most thorough document and boarding pass checks done by any of the 52+ airlines I’ve flown.

While I find it completely believable that a passenger could board the wrong United flight, I find it very strange that a passenger could have pulled this off when flying ANA.

If the information concerning the brothers is true, we can only speculate as to how they were able to do it. Perhaps one (booked on United) had a copy of the other’s ANA boarding pass and ANA agents missed the difference in the first name when doing document checks. Still, the boarding pass scanner should’ve flagged that the passenger had already boarded and at least trigger a closer look. But, if the ANA-ticketed brother boarded second, perhaps he could’ve convinced a lax agent to let him on when showing his passport.

Considering there weren’t any arrests and the airline wouldn’t provide further details, we might never know what exactly happened. If these brothers did play a trick on the airline, perhaps keeping their methods a secret is best for travelers.

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