I took the wrong flight. It happens.

[Para la versión en español, clic aquí]

On October 2nd at 6:30am, I arrived to Madrid Airport to take a flight to Zurich, Switzerland, to then travel by land to Meersburg, a small town in the south of Germany.

Everything went as usual. I sat down to wait for the boarding queue to get shorter, passed security and got on the airplane. Once I got to my seat (17C) I found a Spanish lady already sitting there. Cordially, I showed her my ticket and she showed me hers. Both said 17C, but we concluded it had maybe been a mistake. Without much more, I sat down at 17B where there was nobody, I closed my eyes and fell into a deep sleep even before taking off. At one point I remember smelling food, but I didn’t actually open my eyes until I heard through the speakers: ‘We are now approaching the city of Munich. We will be landing in approximately 20 minutes’.

I turned to my neighbor and said – ‘Did they say Munich?’ – ‘Yes, of course, Munich, why, where are you going?’ – ‘Ay, no, no, I’m going to Zurich!’ As I shook my head, mi neighbor, who had already noticed my sleepy and confused state, took my ticket and said: -‘Oh lady, this ticket is not for this flight aaaand it’s not even on the same airline! How the hell did they let you get on this airplane?’

We stared directly at each other for a couple of seconds until we simultaneously exploded into laughter for at least a whole minute.

When we landed I went directly to an airhostess, who made an even worse face than mine and took me straight to the main cabin. After making a phone call, the pilot informed me that the airline considered this a security breach and for them to resolve the situation I had to go their offices escorted at all moments by him.

Although it sounds dramatic, there was a special way in the pilot’s way of speaking and in his calmness, which in turn had a calming effect on me, too. I waited for a few moments while I learned how a plane is turned off and spoke to the co-pilot and the other airhostesses who had also come to meet me. I didn’t do anything wrong, I thought, so whatever happens, this already is amazing.

‘Thank God you ended up in a relatively close city to the one you’re going and not like somewhere in Russia’, they kept saying. (Honestly, that wouldn’t have been too bad), but we just laughed. I didn’t understand how this was happening.

I imagine by this point the thought ‘how dumb is she? How did she not notice she was on the wrong plane?’ has risen. And yes, I admit some of the guilt, because I didn’t act mindfully, BUT I do have to explain the sequence of events that had to unfold for this to happen to me:

  1. On that day at that precise time there were two flights leaving: Madrid-Munich 07:30am and Madrid-Zurich 07:40am from the same Gate: E68.
  2. At the Madrid Airport, some Gates have two tunnels that take you to two different airplanes, which is why the QR code reader worked when I scanned my ticket at the security point.
  3. I was sleepy. Very sleepy.
  4. There was somebody in my seat, yes, but there was nobody on the one next to it. Since I thought it was a mistake and nobody claimed the seat, I didn’t have to talk to an airhostess.
  5. My brain did, for a moment, register that the Airline’s name was different than the one I was flying in, but I didn’t put much thought to it because I know airlines sometimes do that. I once flew on Air France when I had bought my ticket on Vueling, for example.

After explaining to the security and airline agents what had happened, they agreed that it had also been their mistake; they said sorry by giving me cookies, a water bottle and a (free) ticket so I could get to my actual destination.

Tobias (the pilot), who has kind and smiley, like a good dad, stayed with me until he made sure everything was resolved and even agreed to take a picture with me. He says that never in his 26-year career had this something like this happened to him.

Eva (my neighbor) said to me ‘be happy’ and gave me her email so I could tell her how the story unfolded and she could tell her friends about it.

I got to Zurich with a 3-hour delay and it was amazing. Not only the experience, but also the way that I connected – and still connect – all the dots about the things that had to happen for this to happen to me.




2 thoughts on “I took the wrong flight. It happens.

  1. Nicolò Buzzaccaro says:

    Point .6: “Both the cities destination end with “…ich” and have the same number of words”
    So both you and whoever might have read the ticket could misread them quite easily in a situation when your brain already expect to read a given word.
    From an UX point of view I can tell you that it’s an unbelievable mistake that the company (or the airport service, I don’t know who’s in charge) did. I’m seriously surprised that it didn’t happen already.


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