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United Air makes stop after wrong casket sent to American Samoa

United Airlines plane on the ground in Pago Pago

Pago Pago, AMERIAN SAMOA — A tagging error by United Airlines resulted in two caskets — one carrying a deceased Samoan — being swapped.

The family members of a west side woman — whose body was set to arrive this past Monday night on the usual Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu — were shocked to learn that the casket they were prepared to meet at the airport Monday night was carrying the body of another deceased person that Samoa News understands was supposed to be transported to Guam.

Samoa News notes that the tagging error was on the part of United Airlines, not Hawaiian Air.

This past Tuesday morning, Samoa News received numerous phone calls from local residents wondering why there was a United Airlines aircraft on the tarmac at the Tafuna International Airport. Social media was bombarded with questions from curious locals, and comments from people who had knowledge of what happened.

Speaking from Washington DC yesterday morning, Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson Ann Botticelli, in response to Samoa News inquiries, clarified that Tuesday's United flight was actually chartered by United Airlines, not HAL as assumed by locals.

"Thankfully, the family did not open the casket upon arrival in Pago Pago," Botticelli said. According to her, United Airlines was able to advise Hawaiian Airlines of the baggage tagging error while the flight was en route to American Samoa — before it landed.

 "We feel very badly for the family and have been working closely with United on appropriate remedies, and have also extended our own gestures of regret," Botticelli said via email yesterday.

HAL senior director of corporate communications, Matthew Brelis added, "Hawaiian Airlines is distraught for the family involved."

Yesterday afternoon, United Airlines spokesperson Maddie King, in response to Samoa News inquiries said, "We have reached out to the family members to express our condolences and apologize for this error."

She continued, "As soon as we became aware of this mistake, we worked quickly to reunite the remains with the family. We have talked to them personally and are working to make this right."

King said United has refunded all costs for transportation and the airline is covering burial costs.