Dan Landson, a spokesman for the Dallas-based airline, said the flight was in the air for about three hours before it returned to Seattle.
The crew onboard the Southwest Airlines flight made the decision to turn back to Seattle.
Once Flight 3606 landed in Seattle, mechanical difficulties forced the already late passengers to reboard to another plane, causing around five hours in delays.
Southwest Airlines was tasked with flying the heart from Sacramento to Washington, where an unidentified hospital was awaiting the organ.
Dr. Andrew Gottschalk, who was on the flight, told the Seattle Times that while passengers were shocked by the news, everyone on board "was happy to save a life". Someone forgot to unload the heart before the plane left for Dallas, and the captain announced over Idaho that the flight was turning back.
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Gottschalk said the horror began to sink in when those with internet began searching the internet and found that a heart would last only hours to be viable for transplant. While the heart was likely needed for a transplant, its exact goal is not known. 'You can recover heart valves or skin or bone or corneas, and they could be kept for a longer period of time, ' Newman explained.
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It's not known whether or not someone's life was in danger because of the mishap or if the heart made it to its intended recipient, according to the report. But no Seattle-area hospitals claimed to be involved, according to the paper.
"We only use private flights", Katherine Pliska told the Times.
"We sincerely regret the inconvenience to the customers impacted by the delay", a Southwest Airlines spokesperson said. "There's a time limit to get where it needs to go".