Maria Eugenia Gallo (Barbara): Who is the Flight 601 Stewardess?

In the Netflix Spanish show ‘The Hijacking of Flight 601,’ the narrative transports the viewers on a thrilling misadventure aboard Aerobolivar’s Flight 601, which faces an uncertain future after two terrorists hijack the aircraft to convey their financial and political demands. Flight attendants Edilma Pérez and Maria Eugenia “Bárbara” Gallo helm the narrative alongside Captain Richard Wilches and his co-pilot, Guillermo Luís Lequerica, as the crew members responsible for the safety of the 43 passengers aboard the hijacked flight. With young armed men, Toro and Borja. as their assailants holding them hostage and little support from the outside world, these flight crew must brave dangerous circumstances and find a way to survive.

As the series pitches a blend of fact and fiction, it presents an exploration that affords a lot more moral ambiguity to the situation on both ends of the spectrum. Nevertheless, flight attendants Edilma and Bárbara remain the moral centers of the show. For the same reason, Bárbara’s character must have caught the viewers’ attention, compelling them to wonder about her real-life counterpart.

Maria Eugenia Gallo Was Part of the Replacement Crew

Maria Eugenia Gallo was one of the flight attendants aboard the SAM Colombia Flight HK-1274, which underwent a hijacking scenario on its departure from Bogotá, Colombia, on May 30, 1973. The flight, populated with 84 passengers, was held hostage by Eusebio Borja and Francisco Solano López, two Paraguayan soccer players. The hijackers were seeking 200 million dollars in cash and the release of political prisoners from a Socorron jail in Santander.

In real life, Gallo didn’t become a part of the incident until 32 hours into the aircraft’s hijacking. By then, the terrorists had already released a few hostages as a gesture of morality, while others had managed to escape. Furthermore, the Columbian government had refused to negotiate with terrorists with the assertion that they held no political prisons. As such, the matter’s resolution seemed to be left entirely to the SAM company. Consequently, hours after the aircraft’s relocation from place to place, their third landing on Aruba saw a change of crew, wherein new pilots and flight attendants boarded the plane to relieve the first batch. Since the same came with the offer of fifty thousand in the flesh, the hijackers agreed.

As a result, at her friend Edilma Pérez’s recommendation, Gallo was chosen as one of the flight attendants for the assignment. At 23, the prospect computed as more adventurous than perilous to Gallo, who quickly agreed to board the hijacked plane of her own accord. Alongside Gallo, another unnamed flight attendant, Perez herself, captain Hugo Molina, and co-pilot Pedro Ramírez were chosen as the replacement crew.

Around the 38-hour mark, the hijackers gave up on their political prisoner demand. Furthermore, Pérez and Gallo were starting to figure their assailants out, chatting with them to encourage a calmer disposition. Eventually, the hijackers released all passengers, keeping only the craft’s crew on board and cutting outside communications upon their trip to Buenos Aires.

In the end, Borja and López came up with the plan to use Gallo and Pérez as their escape insurance. Both hijackers planned to get off the aircraft at a different stop with a hostage each. Although the idea scared both women, they agreed to the deal for the sake of their colleagues whose lives would be saved. Nonetheless, when the time came, Co-pilot Ramírez refused to allow the two women to take the metaphorical bullet for them.

Thus, after some negotiation, a pact between the hijackers and Pilots came to be, asserting that the crew would not notify authorities of their location until they got to Ezeiza. As a result, around 60 hours after its initial take-off, HK-1274 finally landed at Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza Airport with the crew members safe and alive. But of course, the hijackers, Borja and López, were missing. Consequently, crew members, including Gallo, saw interrogation by the police to figure out the details about the hijacker’s mysterious disappearance. Yet, they held up their end of the agreement.

Maria Eugenia Gallo Continues to Share Her Story While Living a Private Life

After Maria Eugenia Gallo exited HK-1274— relieved and overjoyed to have her freedom— she swiftly entered police interrogation followed by media and public scrutiny. Despite the agreement’s nature as a means to ensure the crew’s safe return— who voluntarily agreed to be a part of the replacement team— Captain Molina couldn’t escape media criticism for it. Nonetheless, the crew didn’t disclose the truth until they arrived in Ezeiza— as agreed.

For her part, Gallo maintained a relaxed disposition, confident in her belief that they had done the right thing and taken the course of action that would ultimately help people by saving lives. The police’s suspicion of the crew— as potential accomplices— went so far that they even searched Gallo and her colleagues’ luggage to see if they were hiding a share of the fifty thousand ransom that the hijackers claimed. Nonetheless, the police investigation went on to take different routes, which resulted in the hijackers’ identification. Of the two, López was the only one tracked down and jailed, with Borja continuously escaping from the law.

Afterward, the people involved in the incident went on to live their lives, putting the horrifying hijacking behind them. Yet, Gallo remained amenable to sharing her story. A 2021 NPR Radio Ambulante episode, “Los Aeropiratas,” includes Gallow’s firsthand account of the events for fans curious to learn more.

Likewise, creators of ‘The Hijacking of Flight 601,’ Camilo Prince and Pablo González, reportedly conversed with two stewardesses with personal experience of the hijacking as part of their research. From what we can tell, Maria Eugenia Gallo, who is in her 70s today, continues to live a quiet and private life in Colombia.

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