Milan Schipper’s plan was to backpack through Australia, taking in its lush coastal landscapes and white sand beaches before heading to college this fall.
But instead, the Dutch teenager found himself some 10,000 miles away from Sydney, Australia – staring out at a snow-covered, frozen landscape – as he realised that he had accidentally booked a flight to Sydney, Nova Scotia, a municipality of some 32,000 people on Canada’s east coast.
“I thought I was going to Australia, but that turned out a little different,” the 18-year-old told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday.
In his online search for flights from Amsterdam to Sydney, one had popped up that seemed perfect: a 22-hour flight that was around €200 ($214) less than all the others. “So I thought, ‘Well, let’s book that one.’”
He began to worry he had made a mistake during a stopover in Toronto, after he glimpsed the plane lined up for the final leg of his flight. “The plane was really small and so I figured, would that make it to Australia?” he said.
His suspicions were confirmed after he boarded and checked the flight map on his seat screen. “I saw the flight plan was going to go right, not left. It was about the time that I realized there was another Sydney,” he said. “I felt terrible. I think I swore in my head for like 10 minutes. But there was nothing I could do about it because I was already up in the air.”
Clad in a T-shirt, sweatpants and a thin jacket, he landed in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where residents were bracing for a snowstorm expected to bring gusting winds of up to 90km/h and another 10 to 15cm (four to six inches) of snow.
He tracked down a few airline employees to explain what had happened. He ruled out heading straight to Australia – which would have cost him another €1,500 ($1,600) and more than 30 hours of travel.
Instead he opted to head home, spending five hours in Sydney’s airport before flying to Toronto and then Holland. His father came to fetch him at the airport.
“He felt really sorry for me,” he said. “He also laughed an awful lot, just like everyone else.”
Schipper said he wasn’t even the only disoriented tourist on his flight – an American woman had made the same mistake, he said.
As news broke of his error in the Netherlands, Schipper said an airline had offered him a free ticket to Australia. But after racking up some 50 hours of travel within the span of a few days, he was hesitant to take up the offer. “Yeah, [it’s] really nice,” he said. “But I’m not really sure if I’m going to go again.”