Real-Life Edilma Perez In ‘The Hijacking of Flight 601’: What Happened To Aerobolivar’s Flight Attendant?


Even though the character of Edilma Perez in The Hijacking of Flight 601 is based on a real-life person of the same name, a lot of events have been changed to give a dramatic twist to Edilma’s story. It is true that Edilma wasn’t on board aircraft HK-1274 when the plane took off from the airport in Bogota on May 30, 1973. However, her reason for not being present was different from what was shown in Netflix’s series. 

According to Massimo Di Ricco’s reports, Edilma wasn’t a part of SAM airlines’ main crew and only attended the flights in case of emergencies and replacements. The 32-year-old flight attendant was a single mother with five children at home. In those times, the aviation companies weren’t keen on hiring women with children as flight attendants. But the SAM airlines (or fictional Aerobolivar) had made an exception for Edilma, and she was extremely grateful for the job for which she was ready to do anything. Therefore, the entire narrative revolving around Edilma coming late to work and missing the flight was entirely fictional. Additionally, the series presented that Edilma had three kids, while in real life she had five. So, when and how did Edilma board the hijacked flight in real life?

As per the reports, SAM Airlines’ negotiating lawyer, Ignacio Mustafa, finally convinced the hijackers to bring down the ransom money to 50,000 dollars in order to release the passengers and the crew. Fortunately, Borja and Toro agreed and started to release hostages in different batches after they received their money. However, it wasn’t the company’s director, Pirateque, who delivered the cash to them. Instead, some 32 hours after the hijacking, the Aruban authorities requested that the hijackers let the airline change the crew so that they could operate the flight better. It was during this exchange that Captain Hugo Molina, along with flight attendants Edilma and Maria Eugenia Gallo (also called Barbara in the series), came on board.

It is true that Barbara and Edilma are real-life friends. When the airlines requested Edilma to carry out the mission, she put a condition that she would only get on board if her best friend, Barbara, would come with her. At that time, Barbara was just a 23-year-old unmarried woman looking for adventures and experiences in life. Therefore, as soon as Edilma asked for her, Barbara didn’t waste a moment and quickly boarded the hijacked plane with her. Additionally, Barbara had already seen the hijacked plane when it landed in Medellin for fuel. In real life, there were around 84 in total when Borja and Toro hijacked the plane. However, they had released almost half of the hostages before Barbara and Edilma came on board.

Until this point, Netflix’s The Hijacking of Flight 601 seemed somewhat loyal to the real events, but it was only after the two flight attendants boarded the plane that things went haywire. To begin with, the hijackers weren’t carrying real guns, and Barbara and Edilma most likely didn’t get into a fight with them to help the passengers escape. After Borja and Toro got their cash, they willingly released the passengers, even though their method was quite bizarre. They were almost pushing the hostages from the plane toward the runway. Furthermore, Edilma didn’t stab Captain Wilches (or real-life commander Hugo Molina) with a screwdriver. That entire plot is totally made up. After releasing all the passengers, Borja and Toro were looking for a way to make their escape. They both wanted to take one flight attendant with them as leverage so that the authorities wouldn’t shoot at them. However, Captain Molina couldn’t let the terrorists take away any of his crew members because he was worried about their fate and therefore made a “gentleman’s agreement” with the criminals. He promised not to turn on the radio and inform the authorities about their escape until the plane landed in Buenos Aires. Such an arrangement would give them enough time to escape and cross the borders so that they couldn’t be arrested. In simple words, the hijackers did not take any hostages in real life, neither the captain nor the flight attendants. Everyone reached Bogota safe and sound, and Edilma was reunited with her family.

Additionally, the inquiry conducted by Vice Minister Esguerra at the end of The Hijacking of Flight 601 is fictional too. As soon as the captain and the crew arrived at the airport in Buenos Aires, they quickly informed the authorities that the hijackers weren’t on the plane and thoroughly explained their reason for hiding such a crucial piece of information. But even though the authorities released them in the end, the captain was severely criticized in the Colombian media for aiding the criminals and helping them escape.

So the last question here is: Where is Edilma Perez now? Well, the real-life hijacking took place in 1973, i.e., around 50 years ago. At that time, Edilma was 32, and based on my basic math, she must be 83 years old as of now. According to The Hijacking of Flight 601, Edilma lost her job as she was found smuggling alcohol on a plane. It was something she had already mentioned to Pirateque while suggesting that Ms. Monchola often forced her to smuggle things on the flight. So, maybe she took the blame for her, or maybe not. Whatever the case might be, Edilma worked for SAM Airlines for 5 years in total and maybe then switched careers for the better. What happened to her next is quite a blur, as the media didn’t report her after that, nor did she come onto the public radar again. And it seems to me that an 83-year-old woman isn’t active on social media either. In such a case, it would be safe to assume that Edilma is still alive, living a peaceful life in retirement with her kids and grandkids in Bogota. The important thing is that she was a part of a historical event in aviation history and will always be remembered whenever the incident will be discussed in the future. She created her own legacy by being the most courageous one in the entire ordeal.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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