Elderly couple heading for Michigan end up in N.Y. on wrong plane

Helen Wheeker, 96, and her 89-year-old husband accidentally boarded the wrong flight in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and ended up in New York state, near the Canadian border, instead of their intended destination in Michigan. Screenshot: WOOD-TV

March 27 (UPI) — An elderly couple flying from Florida to Michigan ended up on the wrong plane, which took them 520 miles off-course to a New York town on the Canadian boarder.

Helen Wheeker, 96, and George Nobel, 89, split their time between Davie, Fla., and Jenison, Mich., and their relatives dropped them off Wednesday at the Fort Lauderdale airport for their flight to Grand Rapids.

The couple, who were in wheelchairs, accidentally ended up at a gate next to the one for their intended flight and boarded a plane that flew them to Ogdensburg, N.Y., on the border with Ontario.

“I call this our most exciting adventure,” Wheeker told WOOD-TV.

The couple said the flight took about the same amount of time as their usual trips between Florida and Michigan, so they didn’t realize the mistake until they arrived.

“The captain came and looked at us over the back of the chair, and he says ‘something terrible has happened’ and I said, ‘what?’ And he said ‘you’re on the wrong plane’ and I laughed,” Wheeker said.

“If it was New York City, well, that’d be cool,” Wheeker said.

Allegiant Air spokeswoman Hilarie Grey said a boarding pass scanner malfunction led to the couple ending up on the wrong plane without being noticed.

The Ogdensburg airport offers only two destinations, Albany and Florida, so the couple elected to return to Fort Lauderdale.

The airline refunded the couple’s tickets, and they returned to Michigan on a Saturday flight.

Wheeker said she wasn’t angry about the incident, which she described as an adventure.

“How many people very close to 100 get to do this stuff?” she said.

Nobel said he doesn’t think he has the energy to repeat the trip.

“But I think we’re gonna stay in Jenison from now on — our travel days are over,” he said.


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