Yesterday I received a couple text messages from a friend of mine asking me to call her. This is rather atypical, as we communicate primarily by text. I’ve helped her and her family a couple times with travel planning, and I suspected that the “urgent” need was along those lines.

I felt awful as this was one time I was unable to answer quickly, as I’d been traveling for a project site visit in (extremely) rural southern Utah for several hours with no cell reception. I called her immediately after I got the text. My heart sunk when I heard the situation they were in.

Booking a Flight to the Wrong Airport

Turns out they had made one of the nightmare mistakes I’ve feared I’d make some day: they booked a flight to the wrong airport. Given that there are multiple U.S. city pairs that share a name, it’s not impossible. If you’re not paying attention when searching for flights, you could easily be duped.

In their case, they wanted tickets to Portland, Oregon. Instead, they found themselves with tickets to Portland, Maine. The two of these aren’t even close.

Unfortunately, with little more than a day to figure out new plans, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. American Airlines was graciously willing to provide them a full credit of the amount they’d spent on their original tickets (which amazed me, as they were ticketed through Expedia). However, booking new tickets would have cost substantially more, nearly twice what they’d paid. Even flying Spirit was going to be expensive. The kicker was that they needed five tickets.

It was one of those moments where I wish I really could have helped. With a good number of miles available, I could have easily made things happen for them for one or two tickets. But five seats this last minute was an impossibility. There’s unfortunately not a lot they can do except rebook with new tickets to still make the trip happen.

Booking a Flight to the Wrong Airport

Other City Pairs to Watch Out For

Portland isn’t the only city pair you need to watch for when booking flights. Here are some others that can be confusing:

  • Springfield, Missouri and Springfield, Illinois (at least these are geographically close)
  • Columbia, Missouri and Columbia, South Carolina
  • London, Ontario and London, England
  • San Jose, California and San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Sydney, Australia and Sydney, Nova Scotia (read about this one years ago)
  • Birmingham, Alabama and Birmingham, England

I’ll admit that I am less prone to making these mistakes as I nearly always use the airport code in the search engine, and I also search directly with the airline. Typing PDX instead of PWM would guarantee this isn’t a problem. This is one of many reasons to know your airport codes!

Final Thoughts

There was little that could be done to salvage their trip aside from booking new tickets. These would be at an immense cost. The bright side is having American Airlines credit for the original fare, but at the end of the day, they will have paid twice for this particular trip. I feel so bad and wish that there was more that I could do to help.

Have you ever booked a flight to the wrong airport?