Airport mix-up ruins couple's dream trip

By Thomas Burrows for Mail Online

The couple had a planned a dream holiday to Las Vegas. Photo / iStock
The couple had a planned a dream holiday to Las Vegas. Photo / iStock

It was supposed to be the holiday of the lifetime in Sin City, famed for its 24-hour casinos, bright lights and luxury resorts.

But it turned into a nightmare before it had even begun for Richella Heekin and Ben Marlow.

The couple had arrived at Birmingham Airport, in the West Midlands, only to be informed the flights they had booked were in fact departing from Birmingham Alabama, in the United States.

Birmingham International Airport in the UK. Photo / Wikimedia Commons
Birmingham International Airport in the UK. Photo / Wikimedia Commons

Despite forking out £1,200 ($2518) for the flights, they were told no refund was available and had to go to Amsterdam instead.

Miss Heekin, 26, a speech and language therapist, had booked the trip through lastminute.com as a 30th birthday surprise for her boyfriend of four years.

She kept details of the trip secret for more than a year before finally revealing the present at a party in front of all their family and friends.

Recalling the unfortunate mishap, Mr Marlow, a care worker, said: "When we turned up at the airport we couldn't find the flight details anywhere.

"We approached one of the desks and they told us our holiday was booked from Alabama.

"I was gutted - more for my partner than for me. She had told everyone and she was really upset.

"She was distraught and we didn't know what to do."

He added: "It's a common mistake apparently - but if that's the case the company's website should make it more clear.

"It's embarrassing because everyone was really happy for us. We are just going to have to start saving from scratch again."

Birmingham Airport in Alabama. Photo / Wikimedia Commons
Birmingham Airport in Alabama. Photo / Wikimedia Commons

Lastminute.com said its website made a clear distinction between the two airports.
A spokesman said: "While not an error on our behalf, we do feel very sorry that Richella and Ben only realised this choice of departure was incorrect once at the airport.

"This is when they contacted our customer service team, who did their best to assist on the day of travel.

"However there were no other flights available which could have been booked as an alternative.

"We take customer satisfaction very seriously and are committed to always finding the best possible solution.

"We have since contacted the airline and the hotel to ask whether any refund would be available.

"Unfortunately, as per the terms of conditions of the booking, this is not something that can be provided.

"Such cases are extremely rare."

However, the couple's bad luck was reversed and they will be visiting Las Vegas after all.

The Birmingham Mail reported that Virgin Holidays had stepped in to offer the couple free flights and accommodation for five nights.

"Considering we've got direct flights from Manchester airport to Las Vegas, we couldn't stand by and not do anything," a spokeswoman said.

"Our only bit of advice would be to enjoy a little flutter at a Vegas blackjack table, now that their run of bad luck has ended."

Despite the 4,200-mile distance between them, the two airports have some surprising similarities.

They are a similar size and both went into service around the same time - the UK's version was commissioned in 1928, while flights began at the U.S. version in the same year.

- Daily Mail, nzherald.co.nz

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