Former airline captain questions safety of ANA Flight 175's U-turn to LAX

Safety of ANA jet's U-turn

The FBI is investigating how a passenger with the wrong ticket boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. All Nippon Airways (ANA) Flight 175 returned to LAX about four hours after takeoff Tuesday after the crew discovered an unauthorized passenger in what was supposed to be a vacant seat, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler. 

ANA says there is no mandatory regulation that forced its plane to turn around, and the airline defended the decision. But one aviation expert we spoke to said the U-turn was not necessary – and may have put the people on board at even greater risk.

Denny Kelly, a former airline captain, said the plane should have landed at the nearest airport and solved the issue as soon as possible.

"To spend four hours flying back to Los Angeles with the guy on the airplane you don't really know what's going on, that's not the safest way to go," Kelly said. "It messed a bunch of things up and didn't hurt anybody. But it could've."

The airline says the unauthorized passenger was an American in his 20s. According to the Transportation Security Administration, the passenger was ticketed for a different flight, on United Airlines. He was traveling with his brother, who was ticketed for the ANA flight. Both flights were scheduled to depart around the same time.

The decision to bring Flight 175 back cost fliers an entire day of travel.

"One person wasn't supposed to be on that flight, which -- don't they like, scan something?" one passenger asked.

Supermodel Chrissy Teigen and her husband, actor and musician John Legend, were on the plane.

"I just need to know why we couldn't have flown to tokyo [sic] and settled this one person's mistake... there," Teigen later asked on Twitter. 

ANA told CBS News the decision was made "in consideration of safety." ANA also tweeted an apology, saying, "We failed to deliver the customer service we strive for. … We welcome ongoing feedback to understand how we can work to make this right."

The FBI said it has not filed charges against the unauthorized passenger.