In an atypical move, a New York-bound El Al flight returned to the terminal gate after its official departure to collect an 11-year-old girl who had been removed from the airplane after she mislaid her passport.
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On Wednesday, August 7, Inbar Chomsky of Rehovot was headed to Camp Simcha – Chai Lifeline’s summer camp program for pediatric cancer patients – along with a group of 40 people. After boarding the plane and undergoing extensive medical examinations, Inbar discovered that her passport was missing. When a camp staff member notified the flight crew, a frantic search ensued for over half an hour as the flight attendants, ground control, and fellow passengers examined every inch of the aircraft and gate for the passport. However, when the passport failed to surface, the captain informed Inbar that she would not be able to stay on the flight and a sobbing Inbar was escorted back to the main gate.
“Everyone was in shock, no one knew what to do,” said Elad Maimon, the program coordinator of Chayenu, the Israeli branch of Chai Lifeline. “Taking a little girl off a flight is unheard of, and especially when that girl is sick and has already endured enough hardship. The airline personnel had tears in their eyes. They approached Inbar in the terminal. They bought her water, cried with her.”
Minutes after the plane departed from the gate and began its preparation for takeoff, one of Inbar’s fellow campers found the passport in another girl’s backpack and excitedly reported the find to the flight attendants. In response, the pilots immediately stopped the plane and, after consultation with air control, returned to the gate to pick her up.
Maimon, who sat at the gate with Inbar and representatives from the airline, watched the plane turn back in disbelief. “The flight attendants could not believe their eyes,” he said. “They told me they had never seen such a thing.”
“Planes rarely return to the gate after departing,” wrote the El Al spokesperson in an official statement. “The plane was on its way to the runway, when the passport was found on the plane. After consulting with El Al crew on the plane and El Al staff at the airport the decision was made and the plane returned to pick up Inbar. El Al was honored and proud to help Inbar’s dream to go to the camp in the USA come true. We wish Inbar full recovery and health.”
Inbar and her fellow campers have since arrived safely at Camp Simcha.