Being in the travel trade sucks. You won't BELIEVE the fuss passengers make, just because some tiny mistake has been made which has led to them being taken to, say, the wrong country. Why quibble? Countries are countries.
Variety is the spice of life, as the Bible says. Or was it Rod Stewart?
Anyway, news broke last week about a pair of holidaymakers who were mistakenly flown to the wrong CONTINENT.
Triet Vo and his wife Sandy of Los Angeles booked tickets to Dakar in Africa, but were taken instead to Dhaka in Bangladesh. The nit-picking couple made a huge fuss, pointing out that Africa and Asia are 11,000 kilometres apart.
True, but they're on the same planet, right? You have to give the airlines credit for something.
The couple, whose story I learned from a news report forwarded by reader Jessica Mudditt in Bangladesh, was watching the Flight Info channel on the seat-back video when they noticed the plane heading past Africa towards Asia, according to an LA Times report. I was amazed at this. Someone actually watched the Flight Info channel!
Most people stink at geography these days. When the bad guys in the Boston marathon bombing were revealed to be from Chechen, the US internet community launched vitriolic attacks on Czech Republic websites, you'll remember.
The Czech ambassador pointed out that there was no connection between Chechen and his country, but internet haters brushed this aside as irrelevant. The ambassador had made the fatal mistake of expecting a modicum of reasonableness in web-based discussions, when in reality you'd be lucky to get an eighth of modicum, or even a jot, tittle or speck.
But at least Mr and Mrs Vo ended up more or less in the SAME HEMISPHERE as their intended destination, sort of, if you hold the globe in exactly the right position.
The same cannot be said for a couple from Italy who boarded a flight in July 2009 intending to go to Sydney, Australia.
They ended up in Sydney, Canada. This is quite possibly the furthest distance they could possibly get from where they meant to go, about 17,000 kilometres.
The only way the travel trade could make a bigger mix-up is to accidentally send people into space. Virgin Atlantic boss Richard Branson is currently working on this.
A European reader tells me that so many people go to Austria instead of Australia that Vienna shops are full of t-shirts saying: 'No kangaroos in Austria.'
I talked about this to a pilot friend and he said bad spelling was often to blame. The flight code for Dhaka is DAC, and the LA couple may have assumed it was short for Dakar. Recently Florida children intending to fly to Knoxville went instead to Nashville.
I was mulling over this when I got home and found my wife searching internet sites for cheap tickets from Asia to London. She was amazed at the variety of prices.
I pointed out that there were at least 28 Londons in the world, including places of that name in Ontario, Belize, Limpopo and Finland.
'How do I know I have the right one?' she asked.
Typical female thinking!
I told her to just pick the cheapest one. Variety is the spice of life, right?
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveler. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)