How a Mix-Up Nearly Grounded a North Texan on Her Flight Home

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A North Texas woman contacted NBC 5 responds after she says an airline refused to let her board her flight.

The reason? She says the airline employee told her she was removed from a previous flight. The explanation didn’t make sense to the passenger who says she was never removed.

When she tried to clear up the confusion, she says she couldn’t get anyone to listen.

An unwanted detour

Registered Nurse Tiffany Knight said she and a couple of friends decided to take a trip to Florida in March.

“Me and my two other friends have all been vaccinated after COVID-19. We all work in health care. We went for her birthday for a two-day stay in Fort Lauderdale, just a little mini birthday trip,” Knight said.

Knight flew from DFW to Fort Lauderdale and said the flight was uneventful.

“I boarded, I got in my seat, I sat down and I fell asleep,” said Knight.

When Knight tried to check-in for her flight home, she said wasn’t able to and asked an American Airlines employee for help.

Knight said the person behind the counter said, “Well, since you were removed from the last plane, all your tickets have been voided and you can't fly with us.”

Knight told her it was a mistake, that she was never removed from a flight.

“She proceeded to tell me, ma’am, we're not crazy. We know what we're doing,” Knight told NBC 5.

Knight said after asking to speak with a supervisor, American Airlines let her book a one-way ticket home on another flight for an additional cost of $495.40. Knight said she figured she could clear up the confusion once she got home.

"Nobody ever investigated"

Knight said she called the airline and wrote a letter. She said customer relations told her it stood by its decision.

“Nobody ever investigated the fact that I wasn't the person that got removed,” said Knight.

Knight said she and her friend didn’t recall noticing anyone removed from their flight.

NBC 5 Responds looked at DFW Airport Police reports and found police said they had no contact with anyone named Tiffany Knight on the day she flew to Florida.

However, airport police did respond to an incident on Knight’s flight before the plane took off – involving someone else with the same last name.

According to an incident report, a gate agent called airport police because a woman opened the jet bridge door from the inside to let her friends onto the bridge from the terminal. The friends were late for the plane and police wrote the woman heard her friends knocking on the door after the gate agent closed it.

Police spoke with the woman and her friends and determined there was no criminal intent. The report says American Airlines rebooked the woman and her travel companions on another flight to Florida.

Tiffany Knight said she didn’t know the woman DFW Airport Police spoke to.

Both women have the same last name, but different first and middle names and ages.

Airline: incorrect booking notes

NBC 5 Responds reached out to American Airlines with what we learned.

In an email… an airline spokesperson wrote, “A member of our customer relations team has reached out to the customer to apologize for the confusion and learn more about their experience. We are looking into the circumstances internally.” 

A spokesperson says the airline believes incorrect notes were added to Tiffany Knight’s booking by mistake and that Knight was never banned from flying with American Airlines.

The spokesperson said it was possible Knight couldn’t check-in for her return flight because the booking error showed the first leg of the trip didn’t match up with the return flight – pointing to the other passenger who was rebooked.

What does this mean for security?

NBC 5 Responds spoke briefly to the woman who was accused of opening the jet bridge door. She said she didn’t know Tiffany Knight and had no trouble flying back from Florida. She said she didn’t realize opening the jet bridge door for her friends in the terminal was a security breach and won’t do it again.

Jeff Price, author of Practical Aviation Security, explained the mix-up likely was not a security risk since police determined the passenger who opened the jet bridge door was not attempting to tamper with the aircraft.

Price explains if an airline does ban a passenger, the passenger usually won’t know until they try to check-in for their flight. He says airlines don’t have to notify customers ahead of time.

“The airlines can decide on their own you’re just not going to fly with us anymore. We're a private business, we don’t have to let you on the plane,” said Price.

Price said an airline’s internal list is not the same as the federal no-fly list and airlines don’t necessarily share their lists with each other.

Though this incident may have been isolated, Price said it’s troubling the airline didn’t look further into Knight’s concerns.

“When situations like this do happen, my advice is to make one of two phone calls or maybe both. I'd call a lawyer or call the press or call them both because those letters hit those airline security offices and sometimes are taken seriously. Other times, it's just one more thing they have to deal with that day,” said Price.

An American Airlines spokesperson told NBC 5 Responds that if the jet bridge door incident involved a true security threat, the airline would not have just added notes to someone’s booking information. The matter would have escalated further.

"They need to look into their process"

The airline said it offered Knight refunds and additional miles for future use, saying Knight is welcome to fly with the airline again.

Knight said she has lingering questions about why the airline didn’t investigate her report of a mix-up when she reached out.

“This is a serious mix-up that I feel they should have looked at the first time that I brought it to their attention,” said Knight.

“I need to hear that they need to look into their process of reporting things like this and fix it,” Knight added.

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