Maria Larios was supposed to meet her family at the Raleigh Durham airport on Tuesday night. Instead, the eighty year old, who is partially blind and speaks no English, found herself in Denver after boarding the wrong United flight.
“How is it possible that a woman got on a plane that she did not have a boarding pass for and is now in another state?” her daughter-in-law Mikki Paradis told local news outlet WRAL, who first reported the incident.
“They were like, ‘Oh yeah. We made a mistake, and she was given the wrong boarding pass and so she’s in Denver. But it’s not a big deal. We’ve already got her on a flight to Raleigh, and we gave her a meal voucher,’” she continued. “You lost a person, and the whole time they were treating me like they lost my luggage.”
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Larios was traveling from her native El Salvador to North Carolina to be with her daughter who was undergoing brain surgery. During a stopover in Houston, she boarded the incorrect flight, despite Paradis having arranged for special assistance for her.
“She cannot read or write even in her own language. She can’t speak English at all. So when you hand her a boarding pass, she’s trusting that it’s the right boarding pass,” Paradis said.
United apologized for the mistake and put Larios on a flight that brought her to the correct destination around midnight the same day. They have since issued a refund and travel certificate.
The airline’s statement issued following the incident promised, “Our customer care team is in contact with her family to ensure we make this right. We are also investigating this incident internally to better understand what happened so that we can prevent this from happening again.”