From Melbourne, Orlando to Birmingham, Alabama: Make sure you know where your flight is heading

Simon Calder
No way: Ssn Jose in Costa Rica: Simon Calder

Melbourne, as you may have read this week, will soon be the new Orlando.

From 2022, Tui is planning to “do a Ryanair”: assign the name of a big city to a small airport. Britain’s biggest holiday company will operate all its Florida flights from the UK to “Orlando Melbourne International Airport”.

Passengers will touch down at an airport more than 70 miles by road from the city it is supposed to serve; 80 miles from Walt Disney World; and 9,745 miles from Melbourne, Australia.

The cunning plan opens a whole new seam in the potential for mistaken identity.

Travellers booking online are sometimes so thrilled to see an apparent bargain that they overlook the fact that the origin or destination is regrettably in the wrong country. Fran tweets: “I have friends who booked a ‘bargain’ flight from Birmingham to Las Vegas.

“Birmingham, Alabama, unfortunately.”

That midnight plane to Georgetown, warns Steven, could be going to the capital of Guyana or the Caymans; the only clue is that the latter is styled George Town.

No surprise to see that Tehran is confused with Tirana, but “The Great Sarcasmo” also tweets that Lviv in western Ukraine is sometimes muddled with Tel Aviv in Israel.

Neil McLoram’s nomination may be stretching the truth just a little. He writes: “There used to be a bit of confusion with Faroe Islands and Faro, Portugal awhile back.

“Always someone in departure lounge for Atlantic Airways flight to Torshavn looking rather optimistic in their sunglasses and flip-flops.”

Maria Fileva nominates two eastern European capitals: “Bucharest and Budapest. Happens much more often than it should.”

Most of the time using a travel agent will insulate you against problems. But not always. Both the Colombian version of Cartagena and the original in Spain are beautiful port cities, but if you are working as a merchant navy navigator it helps to arrive at the correct one.

Damian Dixon had such a colleague who was inadvertently dispatched to South America rather than southeast Spain after an agent’s navigational error.

Hurly Hawkin is reminded “of the time that a guy in leading UK telecom company phoned the newly appointed ‘Travel Group’ and asked for a return ticket to Oban.

“It goes without saying he was surprised, and dare I say delighted to receive a ticket to Oman.”

And Lucy Hughes recalls her days at travel agent Lunn Poly when a colleague was asked to sort out a ticket to St Petersburg in Florida.

“Yes, you’ve guessed where the flight was booked for,” she writes.

“Travel agent last seen crying on the bus on the way home.”

If only Russia’s second city had stuck with Leningrad – as its airport has, with the code LED.

But don’t expect too much help from three-letter airport codes elsewhere. Adam Woodgate reports: “A long time ago, in the days when they used to write the three-letter airport code, my dad was going on business to Los Angeles (LAX) but his bag got tagged to Lagos (LOS).”

Anyone going to Goa who sees their luggage labelled GOA is in for a shock when they land at GOI airport in India and learn their precious possessions are in Genoa, Italy.

Award for most niche British Isles potential identity crisis surely goes to Rachel Hair, who presents Ronaldsay airport on Orkney and Ronaldsway airport on Isle of Man.

Second prize in The Highest Number of Multiple Identities stakes goes to the staff at Corona Holidays. They offer three contenders among the Spanish island contenders: La Palma, a small and lovely Canary island; Las Palmas, biggest city in the Canaries; and Palma (ditto, the Balearics). And you could even throw in an Italian (mis-) connection, in the handsome shape of Parma.

Jonny Kyle wins the title, though, chipping in with The City With Most Multiple Identities. Step forward Santiago in Chile. Or Spain. Or the Dominican Republic (itself not to be confused with Dominica). Or Cape Verde. Or even Colombia, where the official title of the large southern city is Santiago de Cali.

The Latin habit of naming places after saints offers vast scope for confusion. San Jose in Costa Rica is of similar size and stature as its namesake in California. Each is served by British Airways, and both are in the Americas – where there are other San Joses in every Spanish-speaking nations from Mexico to Argentina.

Do you know the way to San Jose? Really?

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