Getting put on the wrong plane is not as difficult as you might think.
Turkish Airlines mistakenly put a couple who had purchased tickets to Dakar, Senegal on a plane to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Turns out Turkish printed the wrong airline code on the tickets that Sandy Valdivieso and her husband booked over the phone. The tickets displayed the code for the airport in Dhaka (DAC), instead of the correct code for Dakar (DKR).
While such a mistake would be caught in most cases, the similar-sounding codes and destination names caused, in this incident, a perfect storm of misunderstanding.
The couple departed Los Angeles and transferred in Istanbul for their final flight, which is when they boarded the plane to Asia instead of Africa. The travelers didn't notice that their plane was destined for an entirely different continent mainly because they weren't familiar with the relevant airport codes. Valdivieso told the Los Angeles Times, "I guess we were just going by the flight number on our tickets, and that DAC was printed on them. You just assume that everything is correct." When Valdivieso heard airline staff referring to "Dhaka," she told the Times that she thought "this was how you pronounced 'Dakar' with a Turkish accent."
It wasn't until the couple looked at the airline route map a few hours into their flight that they realized something was seriously amiss.
In spite of so many hours wasted in transit, this story has a more or less happy ending. Once the couple got to Dhaka, Turkish put them on a flight back to Istanbul at no charge. And a spokesperson for the airline told the Los Angeles Times that the couple will receive two free coach-class tickets to any destination they choose. Turkish did not, however, offer Valdivieso and her husband a refund for their original $2,700 tickets to the wrong place.
One wonders how much culpability falls on the passengers themselves. The takeaway? This incident shows how important it is to be familiar with the airport codes for the destinations to which you're flying. Just because airline staff is letting you though the gate, don't take it for granted that you're boarding the right flight. Airlines, as we all know, make mistakes.
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