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Southwest Pilot Avoids Heartbreaker, Returns Stowaway Organ to Seattle

Model of human heartModel of human heart
A Seattle-to-Dallas Southwest flight turned around after officials realized a human heart had been left in the plane's cargo hold. Sebastian Kahnert—picture alliance via Getty Image

A Southwest Airlines pilot pulled a U-turn to make an unplanned medical delivery to Seattle. A human heart, which was supposed to be delivered to Seattle, wasn’t unloaded from the plane, The Seattle Times reports.

The heart was loaded onto the plane by a courier service for the plane’s Sacramento-to-Seattle leg. The crew realized the heart was still in the cargo hold Sunday in the middle of the Southwest Airlines flight’s Seattle-to-Dallas leg. The pilot made a U-turn and returned to Seattle, the paper reports. The heart was bound for a tissue processor to harvest a valve.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and the safe delivery of the precious cargo we transport every day,” a Southwest spokesman told the Seattle Times.

One passenger told the newspaper that when the captain explained the situation to the people aboard the flight, they reacted with kindness. Once they made it back to Seattle, passengers had to transfer to a different aircraft for an unrelated mechanical issue, causing a total of about a 5-hour delay, the paper reported.

Commercial airlines are known to work with companies that ship organs intended for transplant. That is a small amount of their business, however, with the Dallas Business Journal reporting that it accounts for less than 1% of Southwest’s revenue.