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.


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Comments on “Flight Booking Typo Takes Tourist 8,000 Miles Off Course”

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53 Comments
paragate (user link) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Tag says:

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.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: 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….

Petréa Mitchell says:

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.

Mmyr says:

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.

Kristine (user link) says:

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 …

Ken (user link) says:

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.

Jackson says:

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…

euclidjr says:

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.

matt says:

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

Tyshaun says:

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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