That moment you find out you booked your airline ticket to the wrong side of the world

Airplane Photography by Woody World Packer
Airplane Photography by Woody World Packer

Imagine This: You book your airline tickets online to the next tropical destination, head off to the airport, check in at the airline, grab a coffee or a glass champagne while you wait, board your airplane and off you go.

Then, when you are already flying high up in the sky, you decide to have a look at the flight path on your inflight entertainment system. We all do that right? Because it is fun! But what if the inflight entertainment system gives you everything but entertainment at that point when you watch your plane heading left instead of right. This actually happened to a few people around the world.

When I bumped into another case of mis-booked flights a few months ago by a Dutch bloke, I decided to sum up what I could find on the topic. Here are just stupid mistakes, and some cases of bad luck!

Sydney, Canada (YQY) vs Sydney, Australia ( SYD)

This is the most common mistake made by people. A few months ago it happened again. Dutch bloke Milan Schipper ended up in freezing cold, snowy Canada, while it should have been his first work week in Australia. He booked his flight tickets online, having no idea that the Airport code of Sydney, Australia is SYD instead of YQY, the code of the Canadian Sydney. His flight itinerary stated 22 hours up in the air with a stop in Chicago and Toronto, and he paid 800 Euro for his flight, so theoretically, apart from the really uncommon route it wouldn’t be a reason for a young unexperienced traveller to think ‘ Houston we have a problem’

The alarm bells went of when Milan was high up in the sky with Air Canada ( anyone ever flew from Amsterdam to Sydney, Australia with Air Canada?! ) and he had the shock of his live when he discovered on his inflight system, that the plane was heading right instead of left. He zoomed in on his final destination and his worst nightmare came true; He was bloody flying to Sydney, Nova Scotia in Canada!

When he arrived in Canada, he had the option to continue his journey to Australia, but this would cost him 1500 Euro and another 33 hours of travelling. He decided he wanted to return home, and so he did. After he had to wait till he got his passport back, because he had left this in the airplane after all the commotion.

Another story is that of flying Dutchman Mr Rutten and his grandson who booked the trip through a travel agency with plans to visit family in Australia. Also flying with Air Canada to Sydney, Nova Scotia. They decided to continue their journey to the intended Sydney, Australia after a little stop in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Not only the Dutch got mixed up, but also british couple Raoul and Emma from london and an Italian couple spend their holiday in Canada instead of Australia in 2002. For Argentinian woman Monique, it turned out pretty well, after she flew to the wrong Sydney, and befriended a local woman at the airport of Sydney, Nova Scotia and decided to spend her time in Canada as well.

Although the biggest mixed up destination is Sydney, there are a few other destinations in the world who also cause travellers some headaches.

Nashville ( BNA ) vs Knoxville, USA ( TYS )

Three children from Florida flew to Nashville, instead of Knoxville.

San Juan, Porto Rico ( SJU ) vs San Jose, Costa Rica ( SJO )

An error made by a British travel agent, caused a tourist ending up in Puerto Rico, San Juan instead of San José in Costa Rica. Okay, we must say, this one can be tricky as the Airport codes are easy to mixed up.

Glasgow, Montana, USA ( GGW ) vs Glasgow, Scotland ( GLA )

A British couple who booked their dream trip to Las Vegas online, had the fright of their lives when they discovered they selected Glasgow in Montana, USA instead of Glasgow in Scotland as their departure airport.

Grenada, Caribbean ( GND ) vs Grenada, Spain ( GRX )

A British grandmother booked her tickets to the Caribbean Grenada instead of Spain. When she was chatting away to her fellow passenger about how she was looking forward to visit the Alhambra Palace, some eyebrows raised. ‘ You won’t see the Alhambra Palace today, we are crossing the Atlantic at the moment’

Budapest, Hungary ( BUD ) vs Bucharest, Romania ( OTP )

Wasting tax payers money is what a simple booking mistake caused when a constable from England ending up in Budapest instead of his intended destination of Bucharest, where he was supposed to attend the Dance World Cup.

Dhaka, Bangladesh ( DAC )  vs Dakar, Senegal ( DKR )

When Ms Valdivieso booked their tickets, they showed that they were travelling from LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) to IST (Istanbul) and then on to DAC (Dhaka, Bangladesh). The couple had no idea that DAC stood for Dhaka, not Dakar, which has the code DKR.

Not only the above destinations, but also a few other airport codes can leave you ending up with an empty wallet, harmed ego and wasted time.

La Paz, Bolivia ( LPB ) vs La Paz, Mexico ( LAP )

Aberdeen, Scotland ( ABZ )  vs Aberdeen, Washington ( HQM )

Perth, Australia  ( PER ) vs Perth, Scotland ( PSL )

St. Petersburg, Florida ( PIE )  vs. St. Petersburg, Russia ( LED )

Panama City, Florida ( ECP )  vs. Panama City, Panama ( PTY )

Most of the time, using your common sense will help you a lot, in other cases, book via an experienced and professional travel agent, or use flight comparison sites like Skyscanner or which actually shows the country behind the destination you are looking for.

When you do end up in the wrong destinations, just try to make lemonade out of lemons, explore the unknown, and have a hell of a story to tell your friends and family at home.

Do know any other confusing mix up airport in the world? Or have you been in a situation like this before? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Oh wow, this post gave me lots of laughs and palm face moments! I think what you’ve said is the best way to sum up my thoughts: “most of the time, using your common sense will help you a lot” 😀 Xxx

  • Hi Priti! I Didn’t either, till I bumped into this article of the Dutch man flying to the wrong destination and I decided to search for more cases like that. Turns out quite a few people ended up at the wrong destinations! When I worked as a travel agent I always double or even triple checked that everything was alright, and still do that for our own tickets 😉 X Jo

  • I know right! In the end you have a bloody good story and probably a little laugh, but imagine you would really book your airline tickets to the wrong destination.. And have a suitcase full of summer clothes when you end up in Winter Wonderland Canada 😉

  • Hi Lisa.
    Yes me too! Worked as a travel agent, so I was always super duper careful with booking flights as I didn’t want to screw up. Would cost the company money in most cases. So luckily it never happened, but I will knock it off on wood 😉

  • This would be soul destroying! I can only feel for the couple who got the Glasgow’s mixed up! This is such an amazing article that will highlight the importance of being careful when booking flights!

  • Oh boy! I couldn’t even imagine this happening to me. I would get disheartened, and maybe laugh at it anyway. This could happen to anyone. Now on, I’m going to check and re-check my bookings before hitting the confirm button. Cheers!!

  • Oh, how scary! I have enough anxiety to make me double-check, I guess, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen to me. Most of my trips are road trips. But when I do fly, I stress over everything. Now I will remember to take extra caution. Thanks for the warning!

  • I am terrified of this happening to me so I always triple check everything! I’m surprised at how often it happens though. But with similar cities names it gets confusing!

  • Oh my GOODNESS I feel like this is something I would accidentally do. I’ve booked accommodations in the wrong city before,but flying to a different place sounds like an absolute nightmare! I’m gonna have to be extra careful if I book a trip to any of these places!!

  • This would be a real nightmare for me, but something memorable to blog about I guess! Thank you for listing the most common destination errors. I try to be super focused when booking flights, but we’re all prone to making mistakes sometimes! I’d never think of mixing Nashville with Knoxville, but then again, that’s just me!

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