Traveler was pumped for Australian vacation, but he was booked to Sidney — in Montana

Photo by Steven Cordes via Unsplash

He thought he was bound for his dream vacation to Sydney, Australia, where he would depart for a cruise and finally get the chance to see kangaroos, according to media reports.

But those pesky airport codes foiled Kingsley Burnett’s plan, KTVQ reported. He mistakenly booked a flight to the wrong Sydney — the one in Sidney, Montana. The tiny town’s airport code is SDY, while the Sydney in Australia is SYD.

“I saw (a) mountaintop covered in white snow. … At that point, I knew I was in trouble,” Burnett told the station.

His plane landed in Billings, Montana, where a smaller aircraft was waiting to take him to Sidney, the station reported.

An American Airlines ticketing agent at the Billings airport stepped in to help, Shelli Mann wrote on Facebook on Saturday, Jan. 28. Mann is the general manager of the Boothill Inn, where Burnett stayed the night after his flight mix-up.

Mann said in the Facebook post that she was driving Burnett to the airport from the hotel when he started telling her the story of his ordeal. By this point, he was laughing about the whole thing, she said.

“He told me that he was taking the vacation of his dreams … he wanted to see kangaroos and he was catching a cruise ship out of Sydney, Australia,” she wrote. “Problem is, he booked his ticket to Sidney, Montana. Imagine his horror when he got off the plane in Montana and realized his mistake.”

Carol Castellano an American Airlines ticketing agent arranged for him to fly home to New York, though he would have to reschedule the cruise, according to KTVQ.

Then Castellano made the arrangements for his hotel room and called the cruise line to explain what happened.

“As we were driving back to the airport this guest just went on and on about Carol and how she was his angel,” Mann wrote. “He was laughing and snapping pictures and exclaimed how the people in Montana were the nicest he’d ever met.”

People lauded the agent’s kindness and both workers’ excellent customer service in the comments.

They also shared stories of other travel mix-ups, and commiserated with Burnett.

“This is amazing. But that poor gentleman!!” one wrote. “Sidney in January … no comparison to Sydney.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Sydney was mistaken for a city of the same name but in a different country. According to, it’s more common for travelers to mistake Sydney in Australia with Sydney in Nova Scotia, Canada.

And in most of those cases, it was travel agents who made the mistake.

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