American Airlines investigating after passenger boarded flight without record of it

LOS ANGELES (KGO) -- American Airlines is investigating a possible technical problem with a scanner at the gate that let a passenger get on board without leaving any record of it.

The airline still says it still has no record that shows Steve Homen of Los Angeles actually boarded a plane bound for San Jose on Friday. But it says it's now investigating the possibility the computer, not the passenger, was to blame.

Homen had proof he was actually on the plane - but only thanks to the fact he shot video with his phone of the takeoff and landing so he could post them on Instagram.

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"You would think the airline would look into it but no, I was just told immediately that 'hey, no, you weren't on that flight... there's no proof.'" Homen recalls. "I'm 6 foot 3, 6 foot 4 with shoes on, so I'm hard to miss. I felt like the Invisible Man."

The episode raised myriad questions about security, customer service, and reliability of all the computerized tracking. "It's important to know who's on the plane,'' Homen said.

"What if it's an unaccompanied minor or a person with a health problem, and the airline could say they were never on the plane."

And his immediate concern? When the airline determined that Homen did not get on the first flight, it canceled his return flight -- a common practice known as a "no-show" cancelation.

American Airlines then required Homen to buy a new ticket for his return flight to Los Angeles. "It was a same-day ticket. It cost me 200 bucks,'' he said. Though Homen could afford it, he says it's unfair to make a passenger buy a second ticket for the same flight.

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"The airlines need to think of customer service first,'' ABC aviation analyst John Nance said. "With millions of flights and people going in and out, despite how well the system is working and how few problems there are, they need to think about how these problems will occur. That machines do make mistakes. And maybe work with their customers instead of just saying hey man, you weren't here."

Homen, born and raised in the South Bay, flew to San Jose International Airport for a weekend visit with family and friends. He says he scanned his boarding pass using an app on his phone, both with TSA and later at the gate.

"I saw the light turn green and heard the beep and they waved me in,'' he said. He used his phone to take video of both the takeoff and landing, with the time stamp on the screen. When he tried to check in to his return flight, he was told his ticket was canceled for being a no-show. He tried to show his boarding pass, but he says the airline deleted the record of his flight off the app when it canceled his flight.

American Airlines tells us it's now investigating a possibility that the scanner at the gate read his boarding pass but did not record the information on the manifest. The airline said no other passengers were affected. The airline also said it will review what happened when he passed through the security lines, where his ticket is also scanned.

The airline also refunded the extra $200 fare. Now Homen says all he lost was a little time and points he would have earned for that flight up to San Jose.

"Either I'm Jason Bourne or Liam Neeson from the movie 'Taken,'" he says. "I was there but invisible. The question remains, how did I get on the plane?"

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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