Edilma “Edie” Perez: Who is the Flight 601 Flight Attentant?

In Netflix’s Colombian crime drama series ‘The Hijacking of Flight 601,’ Edilma “Edie” Pérez boards Flight 601 of Aerobolivar knowing that the airplane is hijacked. Even when she gets an opportunity to escape, she decides against abandoning her companion María Eugenia, who is known as Bárbara to the former. In reality, as the series depicts, Edilma boarded the Sociedad Aeronáutica de Medellín’s HK-1274 aircraft to feed her large family. She displayed courage and resilience in dealing with two hijackers and the passengers who were trapped inside the plane as a committed flight attendant. The series pays homage to her bravery through its narrative that revolves around her!

Boarding SAM HK-1274

Edilma Pérez boarded the SAM HK-1274 aircraft more than thirty hours after it departed from Bogotá. While the hijackers were negotiating with the airline, a whole day had passed, leaving the crew members exhausted. After flying around the country of Aruba several times, the flight landed in Dutch territory for the third time, making the authorities request the hijackers to accept a new group of crew members. When the SAM officials were trying to figure out whom to send to the hijacked plane, Edilma volunteered. As a mother of five children, Edilma was highly committed to the job which helped her feed her children.

Edilma also proposed asking her colleague María Eugenia Gallo to join her. María, who had already learned about the hijacking, was eager to be a part of a life-altering experience, which motivated her to join her friend. Edilma boarded the aircraft after asking her sister to look after her children. The hijackers pointed a gun at Edilma to make her obedient. “They [the hijackers] were aggressive, yelling. Trying to appear in command. But actually, they were very nervous. They threatened us several times, pointing the gun to our heads,” the flight attendant said about her experience, as per NPR.

It didn’t take long for Edilma to realize that the hijackers were as nervous as the passengers and crew members. Her communication skills as a flight attendant helped her to gain their trust. “We [Edilma and María] chatted with them [the hijackers], we teased them so that they would cool down because they were very stressed. So they began to trust us. Because if we had gotten worked up again, there would have been a shooting and we would have all died,” she added.

Escaping from the Plane

Around sixty hours after the departure of the flight from Bogotá and freeing all the passengers, the hijackers conceived a plan to escape from the authorities. They asked the pilot to stop at Resistencia, Argentina, and Asunción, Paraguay, for the duo to split and leave. One of them planned to take Edilma hostage while the other one chose María. “I was shaken, I remembered my children. My children were young. It seemed to me that they were left unprotected. At that moment I definitely felt very scared,” Edilma said in the same NPR interview. That was when the pilots intervened.

To save Edilma and María’s lives, the pilots told the hijackers that they wouldn’t cooperate with the investigation and reveal how the duo escaped. After threatening to hurt the crew members’ families if they spoke against them to the authorities, the hijackers left the aircraft as planned. Edilma and the rest of the crew ended up in Buenos Aires, from where they returned to Colombia. The authorities questioned Edilma and her colleagues regarding the hijackers’ escape but they remained true to their promise. Even though the Colombian press attacked them, the flight attendant knew that she had to prioritize her family over the investigation.

Life After the Hijack: Where is Edie Perez Now?

As per ‘The Hijacking of Flight 601,’ Edilma continued working for the Sociedad Aeronáutica de Medellín, the real-life counterpart of Aerobolivar, for three years. She was then fired for smuggling alcohol. Edilma also remained friends with María and together, they spoke to Pablo Gonzalez and C.S. Prince, the creators of the Netflix crime drama. The screenwriters conceived the series based on journalist Massimo Di Ricco’s non-fiction book ‘Los Condenados del Aire.’ However, the conversation with Edilma helped the duo structure the narrative with the former as the protagonist and the backbone of the story they wanted to share.

Edilma and María

Gonzalez and Prince were struck by Edilma’s courage to board the hijacked flight despite having five children waiting for her at her home. They express their appreciation and gratitude towards her at the end of their show’s each episode with a photograph of the former flight attendant. Monica Lopera, who portrays Edilma in the crime drama, considers the real-life figure as the representative of Colombian woman in “all her greatness.” Even though Edilma spoke to the series’ creators, it can only be seen as an exception. She has remained away from the spotlight in recent years. As far as we can tell, she continues to reside in Colombia.

Read More: The Hijacking of Flight 601’s True Story, Explained