Flight Booking Typo Takes Tourist 8,000 Miles Off Course

from the accidentally-in-Montana dept

Technology can certainly make planning air travel (slightly) easier, but not when you check your common sense and organic brain power at the gate. A twenty-one year old German tourist planned to take a trip to Sydney, Australia, but wound up 8,077 miles off-course -- headed instead for the small oil town of Sidney, Montana, after mistyping his destination into a flight booking Web site. The man didn't notice anything was wrong until he was about to board a flight from Portland to chilly Montana, dressed in summer vacation clothes. Not only did the man trust the website a little too completely, his mother didn't notice the mistake because she trusted her son's techno savvy, saying he was "usually good with computers." Good with computers perhaps -- but apparently not so good at the simple task of actually reading his itinerary.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Ben, Dec 29th, 2006 @ 8:24pm

    even techdirt can make such a mistake...

    Article claims "Sidney" was his typo. Summary calls both Sydney.

     

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  2.  
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    don't matter, Dec 29th, 2006 @ 8:44pm

    even techdirt

    HAHA!

     

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  3.  
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    SimplyGimp, Dec 29th, 2006 @ 9:36pm

    Yay!

    I smell a lawsuit!

     

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  4.  
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    anonymous coward, Dec 29th, 2006 @ 9:53pm

    I feel sorry for the poor guy. Although he apparently lacks common sense

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Bum, Dec 29th, 2006 @ 11:00pm

    Dates Too

    Kid you not. I was leaving Bonaire and this dude in the front of me at the airport was told that his return flight wasn't for another thirty days. He made his booking himself on expedia.com and accidentally put in the wrong return date. His visa was also expiring in three days.

     

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  6.  
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    duh!, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 12:12am

    Sydney, MT or Sydney, Australia.... I am sure he picked he cheaper one... The people in Syndey, MT are very nice and hospitable, but probably not as nice looking as the what he would find down under

     

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  7.  
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    Ocean's Edge, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 4:06am

    Surprised...

    I'm surprised he didn't end up in Sydney Nova Scotia Canada. Happens all the time with luggage. (and bags for La Paz Mexico end up in The Pas Manitoba all the time)

    Hell if airline employees can't tell the difference... what's the poor clueless traveller to know.

     

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  8.  
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    kuro, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 4:16am

    well

    wow.. Germany to Australia throug portland? that's the long way around.

     

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  9.  
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    duh, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 4:56am

    whoops

    I have setup a flight that was the wrong date before, but caught it when the internary arrived. However, I can't imagine this blunder. To Kuro's point, Germany to Australia via Oregon? It's nice to know people in the U.S. are not the only clueless folks when it comes to geography.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Tag, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 6:16am

    When I was 17 I was heading from NY to Houston with a stop over in Atlanta. It was my first time flying by self. The Stewardess told us we could leave our stuff but had to be back in an hour. I returned to my seat and waited to take off. Put my walkman on and fell a sleep. When I woke up I was surprised to find out that we would be landing in Montego Bay in an hour. That was the best mix up ever. Yes it was pre 9/11 hence the Walkman.

     

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  11.  
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    Known Coward, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 7:21am

    Geesh the klutz should have awakened when US Immigration asked for his passport upon arrival.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 7:38am

    Ann Nonymous

    How do you not notice that you aren't even flying to the right country? This guy must have been retarded or something!

     

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  13.  
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    duh, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 8:02am

    u duh...

     

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  14.  
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    MissingFrame, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 8:13am

    The plane isn't the only thing with autopilot ...

    I see people do this all the time. Thanks to the installation of thousands of safety nets a person can be on autopilot 90% of the time and never get in real trouble.

     

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  15.  
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    PhysicsGuy, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 8:57am

    portland ... ? maine or oregon?

     

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  16.  
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    Obvious Bully, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 9:02am

    C'mon guys....
    Lotsa smart people do dumb things.
    I admit, this was pretty damn dumb of him, but it happens.

    Bet'cha it won't happen again. ;-)

     

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  17.  
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    paragate, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 9:57am

    Re: techdirt

    i once booked a flight from berlin, germany to seoul to go thru kota bharu, a provincial town in northern malaysia, from where i planned to cross the border to thailand on my way back. it was only when we had a stopover in the middle of the night and i saw those flyers in the waiting lounge read 'welcome to kota kina balu, capital of sabah, malaysian borneo' that i realized i had landed on the wrong landmass. i was forced to buy an additional ticket from the airline in seoul to make my stay in thailand possible. they said they were sorry but i had to file complaints with my ticket selling agency. you better check before you fly.

     

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  18.  
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    Petréa Mitchell, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 10:39am

    These things happen

    When I lived in the San Francisco area, there would be occasional news stories about confusion between Oakland (California) and Auckland (New Zealand), usually due to people mishearing announcements.

     

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  19.  
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    Erv Server, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 10:41am

    I did this once, I booked a trip online to Podunk, Poland and ended up in Nebraska

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 10:43am

    These things happen part 2

    Wups, hit "Enter" in the wrong context...

    Another example from a couple years ago: A reporter traveled from the UK to Augusta, Georgia to cover a golf tournament. Whoever at the newspaper made his travel arrangements instead booked him a trip to Augusta, Maine.

    Stuck in Maine for the night, he asked the paper to arrange him a hotel room in nearby Portland. They got him one in Portland, Oregon.

    If memory serves, though, the paper involved was The Sun, so we're not exactly talking about the sharp end of journalism here.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Martin, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 10:56am

    Even pilots do it

    Years ago the American Legion was having a convention in Las Vegas. Planes were chartered from all over to get them there. One plane ended up in Las Vegas New Mexico - so even pilots can end up in the wrong place, with all their passengers.

     

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  22.  
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    RUSKAYA, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 11:00am

    weird

    even in germany they would have asked for immigration documents before they got on the plane...anyway portland is nice due to the lack of australians....

     

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  23.  
    icon
    Griff (profile), Dec 30th, 2006 @ 12:15pm

    Easily done.

    Pal of mine (big fan of The King) went to the USA and made a pilgrimage to Nashville. When he started asking directions to various rock and roll must-see sites, someone had the sense to say "I think you might want Nashville in Tennessee"...

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Mike Burda, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 12:16pm

    Re:

    I don't believe that the U.S. offers pass-through status. That is, when you enter the U.S. you proceed through customs even if you have another final destination.

    So, it is standard procedure to present your passport in the U.S.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    PhysicsGuy, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 1:02pm

    damn, i just read the original article and it was portland, or. that's one helluva long detour.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Mmyr, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 2:01pm

    Isn't as hard as you think!

    With internet bookings it is even easier to get messed up flights. I was flying from Jacksonville, Florida to Dulles, Wasington D.C. When I entered my info the listing gave me a series of flights between the two destinations. I picked the best one and went on from there. The web site then recommended several flights that would be cheaper. I chose one that looked good and then checked my itinerary. I had booked the suggested flight of Jacksonville (JAX) to Reagan (can't use that airport due to company rules) with a return flight to Los Angeles (LAX). If I hadn't looked at it I might have been just as lost.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Incorrect, we do it all the time. (Tiawan - LAX - Canada) Its as if you never touch the US.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Elmer, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 3:53pm

    Pass Through Status

    I believe the US has pass through status if you are continuing on to another country..but being asked for his passport in Portland or whatever airport should have clued him in that he was going to the wrong place.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 3:56pm

    Re: whoops

    The Portland mentioned was in Maine, not Oregon...

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Kristine, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 5:24pm

    Reminds me of the time ...

    I was on a flight from LAX to San Jose -- the one in Silicon Valley. A German couple was very concerned as we took off for an interim stop in Santa Barbara, insisting in German that this was NOT where they wanted to go -- they wanted to go to San Jose.

    It was pre 9/11 or there would have been more fuss, but as it was the flight attendants basically forced them to their seats and strapped them in. The whole thing started over again when we got to Santa Barbara -- they were insistent they wanted to to go San Jose.

    Finally someone who grasped a lot more German than anyone officially affiliated with the airline informed the flight attendants that, indeed, the couple had no desire to go to Northern California -- they had intended to go to San Jose, Puerto Rico, and had spent the day crossing the continent for no apparent reason and consistently trying to explain but being consistently reassured they were headed right for San Jose.

    Last time I saw them, the couple was being hustled off the plane in Santa Barbara ...

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    PhysicsGuy, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 7:07pm

    Re: Re: whoops

    did you read the original article?

    Gutt's airline ticket routed him via the U.S. city of Portland, Oregon, to Billings, Montana.

    the portland mentioned was in OREGON not maine...

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Jay, Dec 30th, 2006 @ 9:22pm

    re: whoops

    I wish the plane would land in friggin hawaii next time I have to fly to LA for business - WHOOPS!

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Darrell Young, Dec 31st, 2006 @ 7:14am

    Maps for the accidental tourist...

    Nothing beats reading the itinerary; however, travel websites would do well to provide a visual cue in the form of a map of the itinerary demonstrating the route your are purhasing. This should help...

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Ken, Dec 31st, 2006 @ 10:35am

    Better Late than Never

    Wow, Techdirt, better yet, wow, Karl. I'm just ripping on you today. :) I heard this a couple days ago. Is it a slow news day, or what? Normally, you guys are on top of things. If you want you can make fun of me about being slow, I just woke up. What's funny is that the other people that posted comments probably heard about this from here.

    Nothing like keeping boring, menial, tiresome news alive for a few more days.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Jackson, Dec 31st, 2006 @ 10:42am

    Can't even find Microsoft...

    Microsoft is located in Redmond, WA but you have to fly into Seattle to get there. Of course, there's an airport in Redmond, Oregon where many people get off the plane looking for Microsoft's headquarters...

    At least they end-up getting off somewhere that is in the general geographic location as opposed to some of these other bird brains...

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Ken, Dec 31st, 2006 @ 10:48am

    Re: Better Late than Never

    My fault, please disregard my negative comment. Apparently I'm in such a bad mood, I didn't look at the article date. My apologies.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 31st, 2006 @ 12:44pm

    Wow!

    What a DumbA$$!

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    JW, Dec 31st, 2006 @ 1:42pm

    Travel (un)plans

    I do a lot of traveling and sometimes it is easy to make the wrong selections using the websites. I always check my summary several times. Perhaps it's just me, but I find the summaries really ugly and confusing at times. For me, in general, I prefer a good ol' real person on the phone.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Duodave, Dec 31st, 2006 @ 4:01pm

    Melbourne to Melbourne...

    I live in Melbourne, Florida, and have a good friend from France that had business in Melbourne, Australia. Well, he wanted to drop by and visit us on the way home, so he confused the hell out of his travel agent by booking a trip from Paris to Melbourne to Melbourne to Paris!

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    borednow, Jan 1st, 2007 @ 3:21am

    done it myself

    Many years ago, changing planes at ORD, I boarded a flight for Portland, Maine instead of Portland, Oregon.

    Fortunately, the FA noticed the mistake before I sat down.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    wow..., Jan 1st, 2007 @ 7:35am

    big deal

    he made a mistake, didn't read it all over, this is barely worth a discussion. he didn't fly to montana and get into a bunch of wacky adventures with rednecks including an out of control skiing scene and an akward dinner scene, so why should i care?

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 1st, 2007 @ 3:29pm

    Re: big deal

    No, but it would make a kicka$$ movie if he did.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    euclidjr, Jan 1st, 2007 @ 9:03pm

    Actually, according to the original story - he did in fact fly to Montana and almost got on the plane to Sidney, but I guess he realized a turboprop wouldn't get him there. He then spent three days at the Billings airport before getting enough money to reroute to Australia. Talk about a lack of geographic understanding, he thought apparently thought that there were flights from Billings to Australia. He should have just taken the vacation in Montana - they probably would have treated him like a king.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 1st, 2007 @ 9:06pm

    Re: Easily done.

    "Pal of mine (big fan of The King) went to the USA and made a pilgrimage to Nashville."

    Isn't Graceland in Memphis?

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 1st, 2007 @ 9:15pm

    Re: whoops

    Given that Germany and Australia are pretty much on oppposite sides of the globe, it isn't totally inconceivable that one might fly through any part of the USA on the passage. It's a bit shorter flying to the east from Germany, but not different by an order of magnitude. If one lived in Germany one might not necessarily recognize Portland Oregon as an unlikely hub on an international route. So, he might not have been on alert through the entirety of the Germany to Portland leg(s).

    Not that I think this totally excuses the kid's goofup, but let's all remember that the world is a giant sphere and we can get to places going either way.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    matt, Jan 1st, 2007 @ 11:39pm

    I would agree that this kid made a pretty dumb spelling mistake, and join you all in chastising him in good humor. However, I should remind you all that the majority of you cannot spell either. Nor do you appreciate the differences between, for example, "setup" and "set up". I suppose this is only an online message board, though, and that was a flight around the world! Hah

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Mario, Jan 2nd, 2007 @ 2:04am

    Nine people end up in the wrong country by one typ

    A group of nine delegates ended up in Monterrey, Mexico, instead of Monterey California. Nine guys.

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    Enrico Suarve, Jan 2nd, 2007 @ 3:15am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You're Kind of assuming that the guy knew what the deal with passports in this particular airport was...

    There is no international standard and some airports do pass through - others don't, the differences are especially true once your flying intercontinental

    I have to wonder though what questions the customs/immigration guy was asking not to trigger something, last time I went to the US the immigration guy was very interested in where everyone was staying and what we were doing whilst on holiday - I expect if I'd said "going to see kangaroos" he'd have stopped me....

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Lehigh Valley Web Design, Jan 2nd, 2007 @ 5:55am

    ha

    Many places in the world share the same name. For example, there are over 60 'London' destinations around the world and at least 10 'Monterreys' in Mexico.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 2nd, 2007 @ 7:14am

    Re: Re: Re: whoops

    hello people,

    It doesn't matter if it was Portland, Oregon. That is not the long way around. Think about it: there aren't going to be any direct flights from Newark to Sidney, MT. You probably have to fly to Oregon first....

    a little backtracking, that's all

     

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  51.  
    identicon
    Tyshaun, Jan 2nd, 2007 @ 7:47am

    I dunno....

    If I didn't travel so much for work, I can see this happening. The only reason I check my itinerary so much is because my company is cheap and if I didn't, they'd have me on 20,000 connecting flights to save a buck. That being said, maybe this kid doesn't travel very much and thought that he was just getting a bargain by taking a strange path to Australia. It is a silly mistake, but I wouldn't be as harsh as a lot of people here are being.

    Not everyone is as technologically savvy (or as thorough apparently) as they should be at times.

     

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  52.  
    identicon
    SM, Jan 2nd, 2007 @ 12:43pm

    yikes!

    I recall how dumb I felt when I mistakenly went to meet my family at Sabatini's restaurant instead of the cross-town Sebastianelli's.

    I feel better about it after reading this, though!

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    Website Design Lehigh Valley, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 12:35pm

    Read the fine print

    Sounds like this poor guy did not read the tiny print on his E-Ticket closely enough.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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