I’m flying to the "wrong" city this evening

Emirates and Air China on the ground in Dusseldorf

My trip to Europe this week was supposed to be a little loose on the scheduling. I’m mostly still doing work on US hours, but had some events in Europe as well spready across a 7-day span so I figured I’d spend the intervening days exploring a new city or relaxing or something along the way. And, because I’m me, I also wanted to try a couple new airlines and airports while I’m in the area. I mostly got it right, but a last minute change did not go quite as expected.

Getting to London was easy enough and the Air Antwerp flight from London to Antwerp was a little quirky but fun.

A train from there to Wuppertal got me a ride on the hanging monorail known as the Schwebebahn, a very cool experience.

My plan for Sunday was to eventually find my way to Weeze, a small German town on the Dutch border that happens to have an airport with Ryanair flights. A hop from there to Alicante was cheap enough for my travel budget and a couple nights on the southern coast of Spain seemed like a good way to relax before I needed to be in Barcelona for an event at the end of the week.

When I woke up this morning, however, I had second thoughts. The logistics of an overnight in Weeze were not great. Limited hotel and dining options and getting to the airport at 5a looked to be neither a pleasant nor inexpensive task. Given the plethora of LCCs in Europe I decided to change my itinerary, or at least see if that was viable. And because either Alicante or Barcelona would fit my overall schedule I searched for both. With a price point under $100 and an extra hotel night for $50ish (similar to what I’d pay in Weeze anyways) I figured that was a smart spend and confirmed both, packed my bag and hopped on the train to Dusseldorf Airport.

Halfway through the ride I pulled up my mobile boarding pass and realized I’d made a rather unfortunate mistake. My flight is booked to Barcelona. My hotel is booked in Alicante. That’s not a great plan.

My newly booked mobile boarding pass, quite clearly showing that I'm headed to Barcelona, not Alicante like I meant to do
My newly booked mobile boarding pass, quite clearly showing that I’m headed to Barcelona, not Alicante like I meant to do

I do need to be in Barcelona at the end of the week and there weren’t great fares to continue on to Alicante tonight. Also, I don’t really want the extra flying. Spending time on the ground Wednesday (I’m throwing away tickets previously booked for Monday NRN-ALC and Wednesday ALC-BCN) instead of in the air will let me get more work done and adding hotel nights in Barcelona proved to be net even on the hotel costs I had in Alicante. Fortunately and by some strange twist of fate, the hotel I’d booked there was refundable. That’s rare for me but I won’t lose money on that part of the trip.

This probably isn’t the first time I’ve booked a flight to the wrong city while searching multiple options. But I’m pretty sure this is the first time I didn’t catch the error before it was too late to change the flight. Fortunately the resultant outlay is within my overall budget for this trip. But I definitely felt like a bit of an idiot when I realized my mistake.

Also, sorry to Alicante. I’ll get down to visit eventually, I hope.

This change, and also my recent adjustment to the South Asia itinerary got me to thinking. Between standby, same-day change and just buying new tickets I think probably 30-50% of my travels end up on a different flight than when I start the booking. Even on the way to Europe this week I changed, getting out of Boston an hour earlier than initially intended. That number seems ridiculously high to me, but I’m not really sure. How often are you changing flights after booking a ticket??

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. You’ve had some intense travel recently. It’s easy to book to the wrong city but even easier to book on the wrong day when dealing with time zones.

    I’d say about 40% of my trips get changed by the airline or myself. About 90% of my AA award bookings made more than 10 months out get changed by them it seems. I almost wonder if I want to fly on a Tuesday if I should just book Monday to give them head fake 🙂

    1. If there wasn’t anything useful then what would I put in the “TL;DR” section? “Close this tab now” doesn’t seem very helpful either.

      There wasn’t much advice intended to be offered here, though there are two main ideas that I hope people understand:
      1) Even travelers who spend a ton of time on the road make mistakes in the process and they don’t have to be debilitating.
      2) If you’re not enjoying the plans previously made it is OK to change them.

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