‘The Hijacking Of Flight 601’ Ending Explained & Series Summary: What Happened To Pirateque?


Netflix’s The Hijacking of Flight 601 is a dramatized retelling of the longest-lasting hijack in Latin American history. On May 30th, 1973, Flight HK-1274 took off from Bogota and was eventually skyjacked by two armed terrorists who claimed to be members of an urban guerrilla group. Eusebio Borja and Solano Lopez demanded money as well as the release of the political prisoners locked up in Socorro, Colombia. The Colombian government refused to cooperate, and they intended to set an example so that no one in the future dared to plan a hijack. The political climate in Latin America during that time was volatile, and skyjacking had become a rampant affair.

The six-episode series does not stay entirely true to the actual incident, and certain assumptions are made for dramatic purposes. Flight attendants Edilma Perez and Maria Eugenia Gallo played a crucial role in ensuring the safety of the passengers, and the series extensively focuses on these two characters. Balancing her job with the duties that came with motherhood often overwhelmed Edilma, but after her husband abandoned her and her children, she had no choice but to continue working a full-time job. As an indigenous woman, the biggest struggle for Maria Eugenia Gallo, aka Barbara, was to be treated as an equal at her job. All her life she had compromised, and in a strange way, the hijacking would help her realize what she wanted from life. Edilma and Barbara were not on the 601 flight when it took off from Bogota. The nervous new flight attendant, Marisol, was handed the responsibility of taking care of every need of the 43 passengers onboard, and needless to say, she was terrible at her job.

Spoiler Alert

What did the hijackers want?

Ulises (Borja) and Toro were struggling athletes from Paraguay, desperate to make it in life. When coach, Don Pacho, informed Toro that he had been selected by the first-division football club in Cali, La Gloriosa, he saw a ray of hope. But Pacho would not allow him to play unless he paid his debt. Borja was ready to risk himself to see Toro happy, and that was when he met Checho. He slept with Checho to get the money Toro needed. On his way out of Checho’s apartment, he came across revolutionary literature that eventually influenced him to a great extent. Borja was watching the rich get richer while he struggled to get his hands on one decent meal a day.

Their lives drastically changed after Toro fractured his foot during a crucial match. That was the only chance he had to prove himself, but luck did not favor him. He was thrown out of the academy because he hid his injury before the match. Borja and Toro ended up at Checho’s place. Pacho had their passports and belongings, and they needed them to go on with their lives. Borja, Toro, and Pacho broke into the academy that night and got everything they needed. Checho was full of adrenaline, and he was convinced that he was a true revolutionary. Shockingly, while celebrating their success, Toro ended up mistakenly pulling the trigger of the gun in his hand, and Checho was immediately killed. Borja and Toro had nowhere to go and no one to be with. They needed money to survive, and through Checho, they also realized that they could hijack an aircraft and claim to be guerrillas to make it all seem professional. That was how the hijacking plan came into being. They wanted to be taken seriously, and their beliefs aligned with those of the revolutionaries, which was why they claimed to be guerrillas.

Why did Edilma and Barbara agree to board the hijacked aircraft? 

With the only flight attendant onboard lying unconscious, Captain Wilches decided to request that the airline send another attendant. The situation with the passengers was slipping out of control, and he believed having trusted crew members onboard was crucial to overcoming the crisis. Edilma had lost her job that morning, and she had a family to feed. When the director announced that they needed an attendant to board the hijacked aircraft, she readily agreed. She did not know what she was signing up for; all that she cared about at that moment was providing for her children. Edilma did not expect Barbara to come along with her, but she somehow managed to convince the mother of three to let her accompany her. Barbara wanted to look after Edilma and was also eager to experience the thrill of boarding a hijacked plane. The flight attendants carried with them the aeronautical charts as requested by the pilot. While Captain Wilches was made to believe that they would be heading to Cuba, the hijackers suddenly announced that their next destination was Aruba.

What was the Colombian government’s stance?

When the news of the hijacking became public, the Colombian government announced that they were not ready to negotiate with the revolutionaries. They refused to allow them the space to make demands, even if it meant risking the lives of the innocent hostages. The director of Aerobolivar, Pirateque, believed that it was their duty to negotiate with the hijackers to ensure the safe return of the passengers. Since the airline’s reputation was on the line, he thought they needed to take some accountability instead of relying on the government’s decision. He was perhaps the only one in Aerobolivar who cared about the lives of the hostages, and he went against the airline owner, Dr. Chavarriaga, to hand over the money the hijackers demanded in exchange for the release of passengers. Meanwhile, Edilma convinced a passenger to fake a pregnancy to force the hijackers to let her go. But it backfired, and Toro and Borja demanded 400 grand instead of 200. After repeatedly negotiating with the hijackers, Pirateque managed to convince them to release women and children in exchange for 200 grand, and finally Toro and Borja agreed. Pirateque went against the decision of President Misael Pastrana to hand over the money to the hijackers. They threatened to kill all the hostages if he failed to deliver.

How did the cabin crew help the passengers escape?

The crew devised a plan to release passengers. There was a concealed exit at the back of the aircraft, and they drugged the hijackers to leave through the exit. But their plan did not work the way they thought it would. Pirateque arrived at the airport and offered them 50 grand at first to release a few more passengers. The duo agreed to the deal. The joy on their faces upon getting their hands on the cash made it evident that they were not guerrillas, and that the money was solely for themselves.

Borja (Ulises) and Toro felt overconfident about their operation, and they went on to insult Captain Wilches, who had previously advised them to work hard instead of cribbing about being poor. The captain was furious, and he tackled Ulises down to the ground. Some of the passengers grabbed hold of Toro, while the rest escaped through the secret door. Most of the passengers made it out of the aircraft alive, and only a few remained trapped. Edilma tried to escape as well, but unfortunately, by then Toro and Ulises had taken control of the situation once again.

Why did Toro threaten to kill everyone?

Toro and Ulises’ plan started to fall apart when all the countries they requested refused to allow them to land. They could either fly to Bogota, where they would be either killed immediately or arrested, or they could land in the Atacama Desert. Toro was injured, and Ulises knew that they were not in a position to risk themselves. Their best bet was to attempt landing in Atacama, even though he was aware that they might as well die while trying to do so. Captain Wilches was determined to land in Bogota even though Pirateque warned him that the defense forces were planning a military operation and the crew, along with the passengers, would be killed if they tried to land. The captain measured the risks in both cases, and he convinced himself that the possibility of surviving in Bogota was higher than landing in a desert.

Ulises felt a connection with Maria, and he disclosed that his actual name was Eusebio. She also figured out that he did not kill the passenger in the chamber, as he claimed he had. Edilma and Maria convinced Eusebio to hand themselves over to the authorities, but Toro was not ready to give up. He had a grenade in hand, and he threatened to detonate it if they ended up in Bogota. Captain Wilches refused to turn around, and Edilma had no choice but to stab the captain in the leg with a screwdriver for their survival. The co-pilot, Lequerica, took over the controls of the aircraft, and Edilma tried to convince a hysterical Toro not to give up his fight. She encouraged them to search for the light (a way to survive) instead of killing themselves. Edilma was desperate to return home to her sons, and she refused to accept that this was the end. 

What happened to the crew?

During The Hijacking of Flight 601‘s ending, it is revealed that Lequerica, Edilma, and Maria helped the hijackers land at a clandestine location after turning off all signals to disappear from radar. This was the only way they could survive. To ensure that their location remained a secret, Eusebio instructed Edilma and Maria to come along with them. They planned to hold the attendants captive for 72 hours, and if their location remained hidden until then, they would set Edilma and Maria free. Edilma proposed they take along the captain instead of them. No one would care to rescue two stewardesses, but they would make an effort to bring back a reputed pilot. Also, he was the only one who was not involved in their plan, and the chances of him giving away their location were high. Wilches refused to cooperate; he believed it was more honorable to die in a military massacre than to help the terrorists. Edilma presented him with two options: he could either be the hero of the story by risking his life to protect his crew, or he could betray the trust of his crew and put them behind bars, and in that case, he too would be charged with treason. The captain finally agreed, and after dropping the hijackers and their hostage at their secret location, the crew made it to Bogota alive.

Were the hijackers arrested?

The crew members were questioned after they landed, and they stuck to their pre-decided story. Edilma knew that if the truth surfaced, they would be imprisoned for conspiring with terrorists and helping them escape. Instead, they told a story of heroism and bravery—they lied about Captain Wilches proposing a gentleman’s agreement in which he begged the hijackers to free the hostages in exchange for their safe landing. They further added that when the hijackers declared that they would hold Edilma and Maria hostages for the next 72 hours, the captain voluntarily asked them to take him along instead of them. They convinced Vice Minister Esguerra that it was the self-sacrificing captain who ensured that everyone on the flight survived. Esguerra pressured Lequerica to reveal the location they landed in, and he ended up providing three: Mendoza, Resistencia, and Asuncion. Lequerica stated that he was confused and could not confirm where exactly the hijackers landed. Edilma promised to reveal the truth in the next 48 hours after the captain returned. Esguerra threatened to take Edilma’s children away from her, and she had no choice but to confess the truth.

Meanwhile, Toro decided to head to Asuncion to be with his family and hand over the money he had made through the hijack. He always felt the burden of failing his family, and now that he had the cash, he wanted them to live a better life. Eusebio and Toro parted ways, promising to remain brothers for life. The Hijacking of Flight 601 ends with the captain returning home a hero. He did not confess the truth and agreed with the statements made by his crew members. 

Edilma finally reunited with her family; this was the moment she had been waiting for. After all the chances she took and the sacrifices she made, Edilma never got the increment that she had hoped for. Three years later, she lost her job after she was caught smuggling alcohol. Pirateque was imprisoned for going against the decisions of the government. He married Manchola while serving his sentence, and after his release, they moved to Guaduas. Captain Wilches was honored for his act of bravery by the government, and he continued flying commercial aircraft until his unfortunate death in a plane crash seven years later. 

Maria and Edilma continued to remain the best of friends. Maria decided to quit her job after she realized that her job did not make her happy and that she needed to find her true calling. Maria moved to Brazil, and the twist in the end is that she stayed in contact with Eusebio. This bit is, of course, fictionalized, considering that Eusebio disappeared from the face of the earth after landing in Resistencia. It is believed he is alive, and who knows, he might be watching the series as well! Toro was arrested in Asuncion after he distributed the money from the hijack among his neighbors. It is believed that after his release from prison, he participated in a bank robbery and was killed during it in Buenos Aires.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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