I accidentally sent my boss to Italy instead of Florida

A reader writes:

My boss asked me to make travel arrangements for herself and a C-suite executive. I have done this before, but this time I made a huge mistake. The travel was supposed to be to the American city of Naples, in the state of Florida. I accidentally booked a flight and hotel for the city of Naples in Italy instead.

I should have been more careful when I was booking the flights and should have paid more attention when the list of hotels came up. It was completely my fault. The worst part is my boss and the executive didn’t realize the city was wrong until they landed. (We’re in Canada. Both my boss and the executive came to our district from the province of Quebec after two branches merged, and while their English is good, it is not their first language and they didn’t realize I had booked the wrong international city.)

They ended up in Italy and missed the conference and meetings they were supposed to attend and were not able to pitch our product. The cost of my mistake — incorrect flight tickets, hotel, conference fee, and lost product orders — was at least $25,000 and possibly even more.

My boss called her boss while she was still in Italy and told him to fire me. I was given my pay up to the current day and perp walked out of the building in front of everyone.

I know I screwed up, but four months ago I was given a raise and a slight bump in title because my annual review was so good. I have never made a mistake like this. I needed this job. I’m going to be a father in less than a month. How can I convince my boss that I’m sorry and to give me another chance?

Ooooh, I’m sorry. This sucks.

I’m not generally a proponent of firing people for a single mistake if their work is otherwise good, even if the mistake is a big one. People are human and they make mistakes, and it doesn’t usually make sense to jettison an excellent employee who messes up once (especially since most competent people will be extremely careful never to make that mistake again).

But it can make more sense if it’s part of a pattern. If your boss had had concerns about your attention to detail in the past, this could easily be a last-straw kind of situation. Any chance that could be the case? Ideally that’s something she would have talked to you about if it was a concern of hers, but it’s also true that plenty of managers suck at giving feedback … and it’s possible that there have been other issues with your attention to detail in the past that she hasn’t flagged for you, who knows. (I know you were just given a raise and a title bump, which means that overall they were happy with your work, but it’s also possible to do those things and still be worried about someone’s attention to detail, depending on the role.)

On the other hand, there are also managers out there who do believe in firing for single mistakes, if the mistake is a big one. And this was a indeed a big one, and it sounds like there were probably multiple opportunities for you to catch it during the process — not only the flight booking itself, but when you were picking hotels too. I say that not to make you feel worse, but to explain what your boss might be thinking.

As for there’s anything you can do to get the job back … ugh, I think it’s pretty unlikely, unfortunately.

That said, this is a situation where I think you have nothing to lose by trying, even if it doesn’t ultimately work. You could contact your boss with a sincere apology and explain that you’re mortified and that you understand the terrible impact it had. You could say that you understand her decision, but that you’re also hoping she might be open to reconsidering, in light of your long track record of good work there and that this was out of character for you. If there’s anything that at play that could explain this, you could mention that too (like if you were sick when you booked the tickets) as long as you frame it as context rather than an excuse.

I want to warn you that I don’t think the chances are high that this will work. But I don’t think it will hurt you, so if you wanted to give it a shot, you could.

Meanwhile, though, I’d be very actively job-searching. I’m sorry!

{ 935 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Sending someone to a completely wrong country is a pretty big mistake. I think you really should focus on searching for new employment rather than expending your energy trying to convince them to give you another chance.

    1. NoMoreMrFixit*

      You’re better off looking for a new employer unfortunately. Not only was there a financial impact to this mistake, but if your manager had meetings lined up and had to cancel then there’s a public relations impact as well. End result is a big hit to your credibility in management’s eyes. Good luck with the job hunting – hope you find something new quickly.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That’s an excellent point–sometimes, when you’ve lost a lot of credibility in your boss’s eyes, it’s a mistake you wouldn’t be able to recover from at that company. This can be an opportunity for a fresh start, as opposed to eternally being known as “the one who sent the boss to Italy” and losing any chances for growth.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I agree that the weight of having made this mistake and being forever known for it would be a lot to bear. I don’t think it would hurt to do as Alison suggests and ask for the job back, and if by the grace of the boss that works, keep an eye out for other opportunities if, in a year or so, the pressure is too much to bear.

          Also, OP: start looking for another job immediately. Find out what your company will say when your references are checked, and plan how you will frame it in job interviews.

          1. Fiennes*

            It might be a better use of time to thoroughly apologize/explain in hopes of getting a fairly solid reference instead of the job back. The firing is almost certainly going to stand but if this really is a lone-if-egregious error from someone who’s otherwise done good work, they may be persuaded to represent his work overall in references rather than dwelling on this one, large, anecdote-worthy mistake.

            1. EddieSherbert*

              I would definitely be focused on how to get a good reference from this company. I think that’s far more likely to happen than getting your job back, and you don’t want to use (whatever small amount of) capital you have with them on trying to get your job back, and then have to come back and also ask for a good reference.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Yes, I was thinking that. I don’t believe there is any way to salvage this job, but a non-defensive explanation and a very sincere apology could temper the reference in future.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I think this is one reason they are unlikely to give him the job back–the belief that (for good reason) he would be searching for a new job and preparing to leave. It’s a dark mirror of accepting a counter offer for your employer, and then being laid off once they’ve had a chance to hunt for a replacement for you.

        2. Wilton Businessman*

          I agree. You don’t want to be known as the guy that sent the boss to Naples, Italy instead of Naples, Florida for the next 10 years.

          I’m not a fan of firing for a single big mistake of an otherwise superstar. If it was a pattern, then that’s a different thing.

      2. AMG*

        I agree– I think the ship has sailed. You will get through this–just focus on moving forward. We are all human. I will be okay. <3

      3. wearing too many hats*

        and that is a much longer flight and inconvenience – that is a LONG flight back to stew about the situation!

    2. Sherm*

      And while you look, ask yourself if attention to detail is something you need to work on. I really don’t mean to jump on you — I feel mortified for you — but I’m pretty sure I would have noticed the steep plane fare, or the travel times, or the Italian-sounding hotels and thought “Wait a minute…..”

      1. Kate*

        Steep plane fare doesn’t necessarily apply. Flights from Canada are notoriously all over the map.

        I actually just went to Expedia this.

        Trip from my Canadian city to Naples, Italy: 883 CAD.
        Trip from my Canadian city to Naples, Florida: 759 CAD.

        1. SeptemberGrrl*

          Are you sure that’s Naples and not Ft. Meyers? There are virtually no flights to Naples, FL.

            1. Mel*

              This could actually explain the mistake even more. If everyone was looking for an airport in the city of Naples, they wouldn’t realize that they should have been going in to Fort Myers. In fact, if the LW was ONLY searching for flights to Naples (and didn’t include the state or country), they wouldn’t have even realized it was the wrong airport.

              1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                Or, they went, “No, no, they’re going to Naples, not Ft. Myers! Stupid Expedia.”

            2. Samantha*

              I think there is a small regional airport in Naples, FL–my grandmother snowbirds there. But how on earth did they manage to board a flight to Europe without being aware. I can’t imagine a gate/boarding process that wasn’t extremely explicit about where they were going. Buying the tickets for the wrong Naples seems like an easier mistake. But boarding the flight would require a certain amount of obliviousness–almost a contributory negligence.

              1. ..Kat..*

                Maybe that’s part of why the manager is so angry. She feels dumb for not noticing. Seriously, just reading her plane ticket and hotel info should have tipped her off.

                1. Honeybee*

                  This was my guess, too. There’s also the different flight times. The shortest flights I could find from Quebec to Naples, Italy were 11 hours long. Flights to Fort Myers are about 6.5 hours even with one stop. About halfway through the flight I’d be like “…bzuh?”

                2. Zombii*

                  Winner! :D I’m guessing OP’s manager was asked by their boss why they hadn’t noticed their flight was headed to the wrong country, and reacted the way you would generally think someone who expects others to fully manage crucial aspects of their life would react.

                  (Yes, yes, I know: OP screwed up, but even though OP missed multiple cues they were booking the travel plans incorrectly, OP’s manager also missed multiple cues they were on the wrong flight.)

                3. mbaumga*

                  I agree! I can’t imagine someone getting on a plane for Naples, Italy and not realizing it.

              2. MW*

                Yeah. While this doesn’t negate the OP’s mistake, I feel that the boss must have had ample opportunity to notice the mistake and fix it, but did not. Even if the money would still have been lost, they might have been able to get another flight in time and not miss their meetings. Maybe I just feel this way because I’m the nervous sort who compulsively checks and rechecks tickets, bookings, etc. before a flight.

                Maybe if the boss has a chance to cool her head she’ll decide she overreacted and that some other punishment could work short of firing OP. But I’d still start job searching.

              3. Erica*

                “Boy, there sure are a lot of Italians on this flight! Toronto doesn’t *seem* like a logical connection hub… *shrugs* Oh well!”

        2. Anonygoose*

          Yeah! In Canada we’re pretty used to flights from Canada to Europe being cheaper than flights within Canada or even to the States. I was playing around with flights last night, and found a return flight to Dublin from Toronto that was $100 cheaper than a return flight to Calgary for the same dates.
          Crazy airfare is not unusual for Canadians flying to any destination.

          1. MK*

            It’s not just Canada; where I live domestic filghts are very expensive compared to international ones (taking distance/taxes into account).

          2. Katelyn*

            Of course, depending on where in Canada you live, Dublin is almost the same distance away as Calgary. :)

            1. Jessesgirl72*

              You get that in the US too. When I was long distance dating my now husband, I used to tease him all the time about how the flights to Dublin were cheaper than the flights to San Francisco, and maybe I’d just go to Dublin instead. :)

              Almost every Canadian I know that lives within a day’s drive of a US airport drives to that airport and takes a flight to other parts of the US from there.

          3. The other one*

            Not only in Canada.
            Years ago, I had a flight from Hamburg, Germany to Johannesburg, South Africa via Munich, a 12 hour flight.
            Total cost around $900 return. The cost for the (one hour) domestic leg would have been $700 as this happened to be busy Friday evening flights, so the 20,000 km/12,000 miles detour was only $200.
            I have given up on understanding airline pricing.

        3. Tara*

          And both of those are cheaper than some flights I’ve taken just inside the country on its own. Canada flights are practically just like “Wanna fly somewhere, anywhere, in the world? Well… $800 it is, then!”

      2. caryatis*

        Yes! I looked up the major hotels in Naples, Italy, and they almost all have Italian names.

        1. Morning Glory*

          If the conference recommended a large chain like “Marriott Courtyard” for guests to stay at, the OP may have just sent it all to a travel agent, or else booked it all through the same web site, without double-checking the specific Courtyard name if there was only one Marriott Courtyard listed.

          It’s a thoughtless mistake, but if the OP was overworked that day, it’s something I could see slipping through the cracks.

      3. Academia Escapee*

        My confusion is how did the OP determine which hotel to book? Clearly it wasn’t the host hotel for the conference. And if a distance search had been done, it would have been clear that the conference wasn’t in Italy. Or did I mis-read and the OP DID book the host hotel in Florida, and lost the cost of that because they didn’t show?

    3. Jesmlet*

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expending a little energy here – it really wouldn’t take long to write that email. What OP shouldn’t do is place too much hope of success here. It’s a long shot and should be looked at as such. 5-10 minutes to bang out a truly sincere apology/maybe give me a second chance email and then put it out of your mind and focus on applying elsewhere.

      This is a type of mistake I could see myself making, which is why I’m extraordinarily careful when it comes to stuff like this. Just bear that in mind for the future.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Agreed. And if the OP is going to give this long-shot a shot, the time to strike is sooner rather than later — to quote Michael Scott, “As ASAP as possible”.

    4. Matt W.*

      In general, if I’m supposed to be flying to Naples, Florida; and am waiting in line for a plane to Naples, Italy, I’m fairly sure I’d catch on


      The longest flight time I’ve seen from Canada to Florida is 8 hours; it can be as little as 5 hours. Meanwhile, the SHORTEST flight from Canada to Italy is 11 hours. Something about this story sounds off. If you ask me (which no one has, LOL), the boss is just as liable here.

      1. irritable vowel*

        Agreed – this situation was not the finest moment for anyone involved. I can’t imagine being so oblivious that I would travel to the wrong country for a conference, even if I were accustomed to having other people make all my travel arrangements. Obviously there ARE people that oblivious, and they were so embarrassed at realizing they’d be eternally remembered as “the one who went to the wrong country, can you believe it!?” that their response was to fire the employee who made the mistake. As my friend who used to work in the septic tank industry said, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that sh*t flows downhill.

      2. Evie*

        However if the person booking hadn’t ever been on a long international trip I could see now knowing how long flights normally are. And landing times would be in a different time zone regardless it sounds like.

      3. Erica B*

        This is what i was thinking? didn’t they read their boarding pass? and the announcements in the airport- they say the destination! and they tell you what time you’re going to land! which Quebec to Fl should be the same- maybe 1 hour difference.

      4. Honeybee*

        I just feel like there are so many places I would’ve caught this even if someone else had booked me: my itinerary before I took off, my boarding passes, the departures board, the board on the gate, the announcement on the airplane before we took off…

          1. Daniel*

            A flight from Eastern Canada to Florida could easily go out over the Atlantic to avoid the busy air corridors of the US’s northeast region.

      5. Oooga booga*

        I have to agree. I mean, aye gods, I had seen bosses who are helpless at everyday things and rely on their PAs for everything from meals to taxi bookings, but this? Takes it to another level. I mean at the VERY LEAST, wouldn’t you have noticed the huge honking ITALY sign on the airport check in?

      6. sstabeler*

        No-one disagrees firing the OP was probably an overreaction unless it was part of a pattern of sloppiness. However, that doesn’t actually help, since it is extremely unlikely that they would be rehired (rehiring tends to be restricted to cases where it would be unreasonable in any circumstances for the fired employee to be terminated). People are saying that it’s best to concentrate on finding a new job rather than pin their hopes on being rehired at their old one.

        In short, the boss shouldn’t have fired OP, but that doesn’t mean OP will be rehired.

        1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

          I’m agreeing with Matt W. 10,000%. I think the boss is definitely partly to blame.

      7. Bob A*

        I agree, and by “off” I’d go so far as to say likely made up, because it’s hard to imagine two people, boss and letter writer, both so unobservant as to make and not catch the error. This may go against the site’s rule requiring kindness to letter writers, but I don’t know how else to say it. Letter writer seems to view this as a normal mistake (“I know I screwed up”), rather than a mistake caused by such obliviousness that most people find it hard to imagine that it could really happen.

    5. Sketchee*

      These are also executives who will go onto a plane without checking those details. And so they need to feel they have a reliable staff who handles this kind of thing. It may not be completely fair to anyone and there isn’t a great resolution I can imagine. Moving on in both action and mentally may be the best idea

      1. Vicki*

        They also need someone to blame because the embarrassment of Getting On A Flight to Italy (with a possibly Italian flight crew, a bunch of Italian being spoen on the plane, and information on the weather in Italy) is an embarrassment many execs would like to push off onto some underling whose fault this was.

        Speaking primarily Québécois is a poor excuse. Your boss should be fired.

    6. Kathy*

      The fact that they walked you out is a big sign. It wasn’t a mass layoff, you didn’t do anything criminally wrong, nor threaten anyone. Yet they pretty much treated you as such. You will not get your job back there.

      I would possibly again apologize profusely (I don’t agree with saying you were sick or giving any explanation, it looks like you are deflecting) and ask if you could use your manager as a reference.

      1. Karou*

        Getting walked out could be standard procedure for the company, whatever the reason is for being let go. It is for my company.

      2. Suz*

        I wouldn’t read anything into the fact that OP was walked out. Most places I’ve worked do that to everyone who is fired or laid off.

    7. KH*

      Don’t ask for your job back. There is no chance they will give it. This is a huge huge “what was he thinking?” kind of mistake with such incredulous outcome that firing someone is the only way save the company reputation. Move on. Asking for your job back will raise eyebrows and shock former coworkers.

    8. Kathleen*

      What about the bosses responsibility? They should have reviewed their tics before they traveled. Who gets in a flight and doesn’t notice where they are going? Dumbasses.

  2. Blue Anne*

    Oh god. I’m so sorry, OP. That’s not a hard mistake to make (a phone rep once booked me in for my GRE in Edinburg, Texas, USA instead of Edinburgh, Scotland) but ouch ouch ouch. I feel for you so much. I hope this works out.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I once drove to Yosemite National Park with a friend who was in from out of town. It was early spring, but he’d checked the weather report and it was going to be in the mid-60s, so he and my husband packed t-shirts and light jackets. I always over-prepare for hiking so packed myself some jackets, hats, etc. “just in case”.

      Turns out the friend had been looking at the weather report for Yosemite, KY. At our Yosemite, there was still snow on the ground.

      And that’s why we now own a bunch of (large-man-sized) hats and gloves from the Yosemite gift shop…

      1. KHB*

        My grad school adviser once went to Colby College in Maine for a conference, when she was supposed to go to Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire. Funny thing was, there was a conference going on at Colby College at the same time. She got all the way to the registration desk before she realized the mistake.

        1. KHB*

          And then there are all the hapless train travelers who end up in Las Vegas, New Mexico (which has an Amtrak station) instead of Las Vegas, Nevada (which doesn’t).

          1. Vicki*

            Add the story of the guy who took the connecting flight to Aukland, NZ instead of Oakland, CA; the person who ended up in Ontario, Canada instead of Ontario California.

            There’s a Mexico, PA, a Paris TX, … the jokes just write themselves.

            1. Erin*

              Ontario, California thing sucks for international shipping if you live in the US. Because the abbreviation for Canada and California are the same. The only difference is that there will be a city name like Windsor, Ontario, CA.

              1. jasper_red*

                Yes! I was flown to Ontario, CA (California) for a job interview years ago and I was so confused–I knew the job was in southern California so why send me to Canada?? I grew up near the Canadian border so to me, I saw Ontario and immediately assumed it was somewhere in Canada. Then I realized there was also an Ontario California. It’s funny looking back.

          2. Humble Schoolmarm*

            Here in Canada, the town of Sydney has had at least 8 confused tourists looking for kangaroos and koalas since the early 2000s.

            1. Pixel*

              I see lots of opportunity here! Dress a few kindergarteners as koalas, get some fake eucalyptus leaves at Michaels, and change the labels on the beer.

    2. Charlie Q*

      I studied abroad in Paris for a semester and had a second study program in Viennna, Austria that started a few weeks later. My French was good & I knew that Vienna in French was Vienne. What I didn’t know is that there’s a Vienne, France as well as a Vienna, Austria. Guess which one I booked my train ticket for?

      Fortunately I figured it out when trying to send my Austrian host mom the name of the train station where I’d be arriving & was able to change it.

      Point being, I hear how this could happen. I concur with those encouraging OP to spend their capital on securing a good reference rather than trying to get the job back, or at least prioritizing that.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I knew where this was going as soon as you got to ” . . . in French was Vienne”.

        If you’re ever back in that part of the world, though, I’d still recommend taking an intentional trip to Vienne. Lots of very interesting Roman holdovers.

    3. ZenJen*

      Yes, I once almost booked travel for someone to Portland, ME…..when they needed it for Portland OR!

      Since then, I’ve ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS confirmed the state with the traveler, NOT just the city of travel!!! Although, honestly, a trip to Italy involves a passport–wouldn’t that clue the clueless traveler in???? I think the bosses are liable here for their idiocy.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          It’s also very possible they had a layover somewhere in the United States, or something similar, so their first boarding wasn’t for Italy. I can see not thinking anything of it if you are in Quebec, and you are getting on a plane to, say, Atlanta, on your way to either city of Naples. Indeed, you might not discover until Atlanta at the earliest that it’s the wrong Naples.

          I agree with the others who say that the boss was pretty clueless to get ALLLLLLL the way to Italy before noticing the mistake, but I can see how the boss at least got out of Canada before realizing there was a problem.

          1. So Very Anonymous*

            Well, to be fair, the boss probably did notice something was wrong given that “Atlanta to Naples, FL” is probably a pretty short hop as opposed to “Atlanta to Naples, Italy.” But once you’re in the air en route to Naples, Italy (“wow, this sure is a big lake we’re cross– UH OH”) there really isn’t much you can do. They’re not going to turn the plane around for you.

            1. TychaBrahe*

              I don’t know about him, but I sleep really well on airplanes, a combination of years of conditioning and usually staying up late the night before prepping. I can’t remember the last time I heard a flight safety briefing. Get on board. Get my window seat, pass out, and generally don’t wake up until the plane begins its descent. It doesn’t matter if the flight is an hour long or six.

              I’m not sure I could sleep for the entirety of an eleven hour flight, but you never know.

            2. Sarah K*

              I know this response is way late, but apropos of nothing in the original LW question, I am bewildered that neither of the 2 people traveling caught this error at the initial airport. In my extensive international business travel experience, the airline employee at the check in desk repeats your final destination city and country. “Mr. X, we’re checking you in through to Naples, Italy today.” Now, I realize that one *might* avoid a physical check-in desk by a) checking in online and b) not checking a bag, but airline personnel are still required to check passports at the gate prior to international travel. Without that check, you will not be allowed to board.

              And given the initial departure was from Quebec, I don’t see a language comprehension issue being a problem. And this is all just the first line of defense.

              As others have pointed out, there are also the large gate signs and multiple on-plane announcements pre-gate pushback. Again, it’s possible that a) the unfortunate travelers missed every single possible cue; b) they both had the one airline employee who did not repeat the destination; and c) they both failed to look at single piece of information about flights and hotels until it was too late to fix the wrong bookings. Possible, but a perfect storm of naïveté and oversight errors on the part of the travelers for sure.

              But my guess is that rather than admit they were a little bit complicit in and embarrassed by their incorrect routing by simply not paying attention, they sacrificed the employee who initiated the costly, embarrassing error. Certainly the company’s prerogative to terminate employment, particularly over the cost and reputation issues. The best the ex-employee should hope for us to politely request a positive reference from a hopefully less angry by now boss.

              It sucks, but unfortunately some organizations are not or cannot be forgiving of these mistakes, and blaming one person they can fire is the easiest way to deal with the situation.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        They would already have passports with them if they were in Canada flying to Naples, FL in the US. It probably didn’t raise any questions if they went through security in Canada and then only had a changeover in between.

        The last time I went to England, I had to go through Chicago’s O’Hare and the international terminal isn’t connected to the rest of the airport, so you have to go through screening AGAIN once you arrive, before you get on the train to that terminal. But that didn’t happen when I flew from my city through Atlanta. I only went through security in my home airport and just went to my gate at Hartsfield–Jackson airport.

      2. always in email jail*

        They’re flying from canada, so a trip to Naples, Florida would require a passport/customs as well

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        It sounds like the OP is in Canada, so international travel either way. I would still think the boss would have noticed something, but it’s a bit more understandable.

      4. Leticia*

        They should be thankful that none of it involves a visa. Otherwise the Exec would have been deported. That would be an irreparable mistake.

        If a any South American mixes up Naples Italy – no visa required, with Naples Florida – visa required, it can have much dire consequences.

        Over here in Brazil we have the good taste of translating the names of cities we want to copy into Portuguese and adding new in front of it. So, Hamburg turns into Novo Hamburgo. Makes for easier booking. (end of irony)

        1. sstabeler*

          It’s actually refused entry, not deportation, and it isn’t irreparable, in the sense that while a previous refusal of entry is a potential reason for being refused in future, it’s not an automatic bar like deportation is. (They’d need to explain it, but “I was booked into the wrong flight and only realised it on arrival” is, actually, sufficient explanation- they’re looking for people that wouldn’t stick to their visa restrictions, not people who screwed up once)

      5. APike*

        Ha! I’m from Eastern Canada, and my husband and I went to Pennsylvania for our honeymoon. He had booked a hotel for us in Portland on the way back, but when we put it in our GPS in the morning, the GPS told us it was going to be a 2 day drive! That’s when we realized he had booked it in Oregon instead of Maine. We have lots of funny stories from that trip, but that’s one of my favourite ones.

    4. zora*

      Ouch is right.. this is literally my worst nightmare. I already triple-check all of the airports/towns/dates, etc when booking travel for my boss, 3 checks before I hit “Purchase” and a couple after and when the itinerary arrives. This story is giving me such anxiety, I am probably going to add another 3-7,000 double-checks on travel bookings. I am so sorry, OP!

    5. Rebecca in Dallas*

      My BIL worked in customer service for an airline that (at the time) did not have international flights. He had a customer call in once LIVID because they had bought a ticket to Panama City, Florida thinking they were going to be flying to Panama (the country). They also did not realize their mistake until they landed. :/ This was somehow the airline’s fault, of course.

      1. TychaBrahe*

        I used to have a sheet of travel agent jokes, from back when such things were faxed office to office, pre-email, (and there where still travel agents). They were the typical stuff about how long does it take to drive to Hawaii, or to swim under the islands. But one was about a woman who called to book travel to “Capetown.” The agent began discussing options, and talking about visas, passports, and vaccines.

        The woman interrupts and says something like, “I don’t mean to make you feel stupid, but Capetown is in Massachusetts.” The agent carefully replied, “Cape Cod is in Massachusetts. Capetown is in South Africa.” The woman reportedly hung up.

    6. de Pizan*

      One year when we were at college, I made the reservations for my sister and I to fly back to our parents’ for Christmas break. They live in the Dallas, TX area. There’s two airports–Dallas/Ft Worth and Dallas Love Field, about 45 minutes apart. Every single time I had flown in/out of Dallas, we had gone through DFW. But on this trip, we flew into Love Field. So neither my sister nor I paid attention that when we flew out, we were actually flying out of DFW instead….even though on our itineraries, the two airports had different initials. Because neither of us had ever had a situation where a travel site booked us at different airports. So when we left, we had our relatives drop us off at Love Field. Whoops. There wasn’t time to get to the other airport, and we had to pay $100 each to change our tickets. (And yes, even though my sister ignored it too, it ended up being all my fault.)

      1. BookishMiss*

        Houston has two as well – Hobby and Bush International. Flew down for my cousin’s wedding, and on her father’s instruction landed in Hobby because ‘it’s 5 mins from her house.’
        Nope, that’d be Bush Int’l, with Hobby being on the other side of Houston.
        The rest of the wedding weekend proceeded as memorably as you would expect from a start like that!

      2. TychaBrahe*

        I flew to Tennessee one time on Southwest. Tennessee has two Southwest destinations, Memphis and Nashville.

        I landed in Memphis, did my thing, and was halfway to Nashville when I passed a sign saying I’d entered the Eastern Time Zone. I had driven in after dark, so nothing looked unfamiliar, but I knew I hadn’t changed time zones. Fortunately Southwest and Hertz worked with me to change my flight and return location at no cost.

        1. techandwine*

          I’m not sure I understand what happened here? Do you mean Memphis/Nashville and Knoxville? Nashville is still in Central Time, so if you hit a sign saying you’d entered EST, then you were way further towards the Eastern Coast (either Chattanooga or Knoxville)!

    7. LPUK*

      My sister used to work for an airline as a check-in desk agent and once sent a man to the island of Guernsey rather than Jersey (where he was ticketed). To make it worse he was blind, so travel that would have been a nightmare anyway, was made even worse by being flown to the wrong destination. She had to ring the airport to ask them to let him know he was on the wrong island. She didn’t get fired though.

    8. EvilQueenRegina*

      There was a couple on my local news last year who were trying to book a flight for Las Vegas from Birmingham UK. They got to the airport, couldn’t see their flight anywhere and then found out their booked flight took off from Birmingham Alabama,

    9. Drew*

      Edinburg in Texas does have a university, so I can see how that could happen. I hope you weren’t stuck going there for the exam; it’s not as nice as Scotland. #understatement

      1. Blue Anne*

        No, I called back to fix it when I realized. They then booked me into Manchester without telling me, because the Edinburgh testing location was closed for remodeling, they saw that Manchester was the next closest, and they had the typical American “it’s the UK, probably like a half hour drive” deal going on.

        I ended up never taking the GRE. :)

  3. MMDD*

    Oh OP. I’m so sorry. I have no advice, but for what it’s worth people land in Sydney NS when they meant to go to Sydney AUS more often that you think.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Wasn’t there just a story about this? I feel like I saw something on Buzzfeed.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        I read a Reddit post about a guy who flipped out because he thought he’d booked a flight to return to England and didn’t realize until the plane was about to take off that it was destined for Manchester, New Hampshire.

        1. Sarianna*

          Unfortunately for me, there are no direct flights between Manchester, NH (MHT) and Manchester, UK (MAN). It would be much more convenient than flying through Boston or London, for one… but can you imagine the boarding calls?

          1. Jennifer Needs a Thneed*

            But you CAN fly from San Jose in California to San Jose in Costa Rica. I have friends who have done that. Makes me giggle.

            1. Sarianna*

              Hah! That is just wonderful. I’m grinning like a loon here. That hop is going on my travel bucket list!

            2. Drew*

              I once visited a friend in St. Paul, Minnesota, and called from Austin, Minnesota to “check in and see how he was doing.” I could truthfully tell him the weather in Austin was a little chilly and that I looked forward to seeing him very soon. Not my fault he assumed the wrong Austin…

              1. Rachel*

                Reminds me of Eddie Izzard talking about the Pilgrims. “We’ve taken off from Plymouth and landed in… Plymouth! We’ve gone round in a circle, lads, back on the boat!” :D

    2. L.*

      Oof, I too have ROYALLY messed up in my job a few times despite pouring my heart and soul into my job, I think this is all the commenters’ worst nightmare because it can happen so fast and to anyone, and my heart goes out to you as you work to move on. I agree with Allison other commenters that it sounds like the job is gone, but by all means, develop a straightforward mea culpa apology and see where that gets you. Maybe you can at least salvage a good reference from the people you worked with (though probably not the boss who had you fired), for instance. Good luck!

    3. Kelly L.*

      Wasn’t there a Full House episode where a couple of the girls got on a flight to what they thought was Oakland, CA, but it was Auckland, NZ?

      1. Fiennes*

        That really happened to a businessman back in the 1960s, I think. He was running late for his flight, pre-flight checks weren’t nearly as exacting, and staff rushed him onto what he thought was his one hour commuter flight. IIRC the guy didn’t realize he was taking an unexpected journey until he figured out they’d been over the water almost the whole hour & showed no sign of descending…

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          It was 1984-1985. I know this because it happened right after very-much-younger me got on the wrong airplane and flew to the wrong city. Back in the days when everything was paper!

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          A friend had this happen relatively recently. It wasn’t a similar-named-city mixup, just a gate change and gate agents who rushed him onto the flight. He ended up in Kentucky, I think?

        3. Dust Bunny*

          My grandfather did this and ended up in Ohio instead of wherever he was supposed to go. Maybe in the early 1970’s?

      2. KarenT*

        My dad learned the hard way that there is a Lebanon New Jersey…luckily noticed before the plane took off!

      3. Jess*

        This makes me laugh because when Siri reads out directions in Auckland she says “Oakland” – let alone how she interprets a Kiwi accent saying “Owklin”!

        (Now there’s an Australian-accent Siri she’s improved a bit…)

        1. Giudecca*

          I don’t remember where they were coming from, but the Oakland airport is almost as close to San Francisco as the San Francisco airport, which isn’t in San Francisco. Also, the Oakland airport is often easier to get in and out of than SFO. So, them flying into OAK makes perfect sense.

    4. Cape Bretoner*

      Yes! It’s totally A Thing here to track how often it occurs. Bonus irony for landing in a shitty little postindustrial town instead of a major metropolis with sunny beaches. And the price difference is much bigger so you’d think that would be even easier to notice but airlines make everything so automated that I think it’s not that hard to do.

      1. MMDD*

        Hah! I once worked for a car rental place and had to send roadside assistance to a woman in NB, but the US-based call centre thought I meant New Brunswick, New Jersey and sent a tow truck out on a wild goose chase in NJ! Lesson learned there lol

    5. A. Schuyler*

      I live in Sydney, Australia and I’ve accidentally priced vacations based on flights from Sydney, NS. This is why I always search by airport code rather than city.

      1. Kitumba*

        If you follow aviation industry blogs, there are numerous examples of this kind of mixup; it’s far more common than you might think. The Syndeys are particularly common, because one is in New South Wales (abbreviated NSW) and the other in Nova Scotia (abbreviated NS).

  4. WellRed*

    They’ve already perp walked you out the door. They are not walking you back in, I’m sorry.
    So glad I don’t book travel for people.

    1. Koko*

      In one of my very first jobs I caused a major inconvenience for my boss. She was an attorney who used the Esq suffix on her cards, so when booking her for a flight I selected the suffix from the drop-down.

      Well, turns out when her boarding pass was printed, “ESQ” was appended smack against the end of her last name, so it read like, “SMITHESQ” with no spaces or anything. The TSA agent gave her major grief because her ID just said SMITH and he needed to see SMITHESQ!

      She was eventually able to get through and catch her flight but I caught an earful and was super-embarrassed. Here I thought I’d been being respectful by using the title she had earned, and instead I just caused her major problems!

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        That was not at all your fault. If they can’t handle suffixes then they shouldn’t include them on the registration system.

        1. Lance*

          Yeah, that’s definitely a flaw in the system; there shouldn’t be a drop-down if it’s going to somehow treat it like an extension of the person’s last name.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Ugh, yeah, I wound up with the first name MSELIZABETH on a ticket once. I noticed it as soon as I got the confirmation email but had to spend a long time on hold with the airline to change it.

            1. MashaKasha*

              We once spent a good deal of time trying to get my then-husband checked in, because they had entered his name (ALEKSANDR SMITH) as DR. ALEKSAN SMITH. We were looking for ALEKSANDR in their system and nothing was coming up. No idea how this happened. This was pre-online booking and iirc, we’d booked through an agent.

        2. KH*

          My name always shows as SMITHMR (not my real name) and no one has ever asked my my passport also doesn’t’ say SMITHMR…. ESQ is an unusual suffix and the gate agent was inexperienced; this shouldn’t have happened.

      2. cataloger*

        That’s weird — my boarding pass almost always has my middle initial appended to my first, and they never even blink at it, so maybe they’re just used to that bug now. I traveled with someone last year who was particularly worried when it happened to her, as appending that initial turned her first name into a different first name!

        1. Fiennes*

          My middle name is smushed onto my first name all the time. Neither TSA nor airline blinks.

          1. Evan Þ*

            Mine too. The TSA should be used to that by now, but maybe that one officer wasn’t used to middle names or titles starting with “Esq.”

            1. Koko*

              Yeah, my guess is the agent was maybe used to a signal initial ending up on the end of a name, but didn’t see too many “esq”s coming through.

        2. SF2K01*

          Probably because your middle name/initial will appear on your identification where Esq won’t.

        3. The Final Pam*

          Yeah, my boarding pass pretty much always has my first and middle name joined like I have a really long, unusual first name (think Finalpam instead of Final Pam), and I’ve never had any issues with security, boarding the plane, etc.

        4. Tammy*

          Mine too. My middle initial is “L”, and for reason I don’t understand, United’s computer always turns “Ms. Tammy L LastName” to “LASTNAME TAMMYLMS”. It’s very odd…but so far nobody’s commented on it when I’ve flown.

        5. MashaKasha*

          Mine, too. I panicked and called the airline the first time I saw that on a confirmation email. They said not to worry and that it was their standard procedure.

        6. Ruby 16*

          Huh. Last time I flew (a couple years ago, I don’t fly very often) that’s how it looked on mine and my boyfriend’s boarding passes – our middle initials were attached to our first name.

          The security people circled our names in red pen and pulled us aside because the names didn’t match what they had on some other paperwork (just because of that middle initial, mind). I heard one of them say to another, “What do you think, should we let them board?”

          They did let us on the plane, after asking me a few questions, but yikes.

      3. Liz2*

        Gah that is one of those lessons you usually have to learn the hard way first, same for fedex and official things- deciding when it’s more important to be efficient vs formal is not an easy path!

        OP I’ve done some dumb mistakes in my time- this is awful for you and I wish you the best in finding a good spot ahead.

        1. JaneB*

          I get something like JamesTKirkMr from our official travel people – unfortunately all my other id is ” Dr J Tiberius Kirk” because I don’t use my first name and have a doctorate. Oh how I hate travelling, and this is just icing on the very mouldy cake.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Oh hell yeah. At OldExJob, I learned the hard way that FedEx is only responsible for $100 of the direct value of a package, if you don’t list the direct value beforehand. That one nearly cost my company $4200 when they lost components we were shipping Express to a customer. My boss managed to talk them into reimbursing us for half. From then on, I made sure every single component package had a value on it, even if I had to chase people down and bug them for a quote page to get it!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m mortified on OP’s behalf (I think the Germans call it fremdscham). But I agree that once someone perp walks you out of work, the likelihood of being able to get your job back, with the same managers in place, is less than 1%. OP, I agree with Detective Amy Santiago that it might be time to switch your mental energy over to job hunting and negotiating the terms of your reference.

      1. Julia*

        The verb is fremdschämen – I don’t think I have ever seen Fremdscham as a noun. (And since both words are underlined in red, I’m assuming even the verb hasn’t yet made it into our dictionaries.)

  5. Natalie*

    What I found really bizarre was that the boss never noticed they were flying transatlantic ? Seriously?

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, I just…don’t understand how you manage to get all the way there without realizing it. Never looked at the reservations? The board at the airport? Noticed the time zone for your landing time seemed way off? None of this makes sense…I know it’s not really helpful to the OP, but this is baffling.

      1. Mike C.*

        I’m guessing this was a situation where the boss had no idea where the conference was, just that there was a conference.

        1. LBK*

          Hmmm, I guess that makes more sense – I wonder if the issue wasn’t that the OP accidentally sent them off to the wrong Naples, but that everyone was under the impression the conference was in that Naples, and it wasn’t until they landed and none of the info about getting to the conference was making sense that they realized they were in the wrong place. Still seems like an insane mixup though.

          1. Duck Duck Møøse*

            I’m trying to figure out how someone can be so disengaged in the travel process, that they do no prep of their own, and don’t notice the problem. Maybe the execs need to be fired, too. Does the company really need execs who are that clueless?

            1. Triangle Pose*

              Eh, I don’t think it’s that big a deal. The execs have more important things to focus on. I’m not even C-suite and I don’t do a single thing for my travel, my admin books everything, it get auto-loaded to an app on my phone and I just show up. It’s really not my role to spend mental energy on something like this. OP said the language wasn’t the exec’s first language and I could see that being an additional barrier.

              1. LBK*

                Even if English isn’t your first language, you’d think they would be able to tell the difference between English and Italian…

                1. Triangle Pose*

                  But the execs could have thought the conference was actually IN Naples, Italy. Again, the senior folks are likely focusing on their pitch and not where/when flight/hotel details, which they rely on OP to handle. That’s my main point.

                2. Symplicite*

                  Not necessarily. Based on the information at hand, it’s likely that the executives spoke French, a Romantic language, which shares a lot of similarities. And they probably weren’t paying attention in the airport, either.

                3. Zahra*

                  Sure, you know “Yes”, “No”, “Toaster” (old Quebecker joke: that’s the minimum a Quebecker knows and, sometimes, all they know of English.)

              2. Anna*

                Even if they have more important things to focus on, it takes a pretty unique disengagement to get all the way to the gate and not realize the flight says Naples, Italy and not Naples, FL. They announce it enough times over the PA and the gate has it written in big letters on a screen. Your admin may book everything, but you still look around you, I’d bet.

                1. Natalie*

                  Sure, but that assumes they knew they were supposed to be going to Florida. If they were completely disengaged from the process they may not have known that.

                2. Sylvia*

                  Yeah, that’s a pretty special accident. OP definitely holds responsibility here, but not all of it.

                3. Sadsack*

                  I find it difficult to believe that these travelers had no one in their personal lives to tell where they are going. Wouldn’t they need or want to know where they are going to tell their spouses/children/housekeeper/whoever? How does one just go to the airport with no idea of the intended destination? There were some extreme circumstances mentioned in this thread of super frequent travelers who really don’t know where they are going next, but OP didn’t say this was the case with his boss.

              3. Admin Assistant*

                I agree — I think it’s reasonable to expect your EA/admin to be competent enough to book your travel arrangements to the right city, and if you were already going to fly internationally anyways (from Canada to the US, in this case) I could see an exec just following the instructions given to them by their assistant and going on autopilot while they sent emails from their phone or did other work stuff. Like you said, execs who travel a lot expect to be able to devote their mental energy elsewhere.

                1. Triangle Pose*

                  Exactly. If I am giving a training or pitching or giving a presentation somewhere for my company, I am focused on that, not the travel details or destination. Maybe they thought it was in Italy, the point is really that OP messed up and had many chances to fix this one but didn’t, not that the execs should have noticed. Maybe they did notice but it was too late because they were on the plane! Maybe they thought it was in Italy! We don’t know. We know that OP can write an apology and try to get the job back, but she should know chances are very low because this was a multi-level screw up and it’s likely she’s not coming back from it.

                2. Anna*

                  I’m absolutely going to disagree with you. A C-Level exec is still an adult existing in the world and is responsible for knowing their surroundings. The OP is absolutely responsible for having booked the wrong flight and not noticing, but the exec is still responsible for knowing where they’re going. There are very few instances where a person is absolved of paying attention to details like where the flight they’re getting on is going to. This is probably not one of those situations.

                3. LPUK*

                  I have dealt with senior people who actually need to be taken by the hand and led through an airport if they are to travel successfully – they have an acquired helplessness. I remember reading the travel briefing document that the EA produced for her VP Marketing and laughing incredulously at the level of detail she went into. Apparently he had to have a car booked with a limo driver and a sign cos he couldn’t be trusted to find his way out of the airport on his own ( we are talking the airport in his home city). Same guy was on a trip to US ( from home office in Dublin) when he lost his laptop cable. He rang up his EA to courier another one over to US rather than ask his hotel concierge to find one. So I’m not at all surprised to see a corporate VIP make this kind of error.

              4. Kate*

                I’d urge you to please expend some energy when you get to the airport to double check that the location on the board at the gate matches where you’re supposed to be going. Just showing up somewhere and going through the motions seems dangerous to me.

                1. Honeybee*

                  Yeah, this seems really weird to me. I mean, I know that C-suite execs are important and everything, but I don’t think it’s beneath them to look up from their phones for a few seconds to make sure they are flying to the right country.

              5. bridget*

                I rely on my assistant to book travel for me as well, and travel 3-4x per month, so I don’t have time to be carefully monitoring the process. Even still, I consider it part of my job to QC my admin’s work, even if it’s just a cursory glance at my boarding pass or the calendar invite to make sure everything looks correct. She also sends me a hold itinerary for me to give a thumbs up or down to before she makes any final bookings. Furthermore, I also consider it part of my job to know at least the very basics of the conferences I go to – I wouldn’t really consider myself prepared for it or the pitch if I literally didn’t even know what country it was supposed to be in.

                1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  “She also sends me a hold itinerary for me to give a thumbs up or down to before she makes any final bookings. ”

                  That’s what I do for my boss (or any other traveler) as well; I send the proposed itinerary along with a note saying, “Here’s your proposed flight itinerary; please look it over and let me know if any changes are needed, and I’ll book it upon your approval.”

              6. Falling Diphthong*

                We had occasional excitement in Europe due to no one understanding German well enough to grasp (or even notice) the last minute “this train is now an express” announcements over the PA system. The German conductors were very kind once they realized we were lost tourists, but as we all *look* German this took some bewildered back and forth.

            2. Karen D*

              I actually can see it with the circumstances OP outlines, though Boss and C-Suite person would have to be VERY oblivious — English is not their first language, and maybe they just haven’t done enough international travel to realize that entering the U.S. from Canada is generally a Customs Lite experience rather than the full international departure rigamarole.

              I do think this is one good example of why almost everyone in a company should be responsible for booking their own travel. We used to have a designated travel agent at our company, and while she never accidentally sent someone overseas, she was remarkably cavalier about making sure the hotel she chose was well-situated and that all the details lined up.

              One time she had me flying into Nashville and picking up my rental car 20 miles away. I literally did not notice that until I was standing at the car-rental desk in the airport and they told me “Um, your car is in Mount Juliet.”

              I finally just started giving her a piece of paper with all the details and then standing there while she made the reservations.

              1. THE Liz*

                That is really casual… I book travel for execs and map out destinations (airport to hotel to meeting location, etc.) to ensure pick up times and flight selections all work out well and allow enough time…

                1. Karen D*

                  She was terrible in many ways. She also tried to book me on a flight that landed 55 minutes before I was scheduled to speak at a hotel that was 45 minutes from the airport — because the flight was $25 cheaper than the one I asked her to book.

                  Unfortunately, the phrase “career ending mistake” always just … slid right off her. The company was family owned and she was protected.

                2. Drew*

                  @Karen: we had that trouble with an agent at work for a while. It took our CEO sitting down to explain that saving $100 on a flight with a four-hour layover was *costing* us money once you factored in staff salaries being paid for them to sit in an airport half the day before she would concede to at least let us look at the itineraries before she booked them.

              2. Creag an Tuire*

                Maybe they just haven’t done enough international travel to realize that entering the U.S. from Canada is generally a Customs Lite experience rather than the full international departure rigamarole.

                Or else they thought it was a little odd that Customs for a flight to the US was taking so much longer than usual, but chalked it up to our recent Change in Management and put it out of their minds?

                1. plain_jane*

                  I don’t know what airport they were flying out of, but my recollection is that flight to the US is much more involved before boarding (because I pre-clear US customs while still in Canada), while I would only be clearing customs in Europe once I’ve landed.

                2. a different Vicki*

                  Unless they were used to pre-clearing US Customs and Immigration before boarding the plane in Canada, the execs might not have noticed anything until they were on the ground in Naples and saw that the lines were divided by EU/non-EU citizens instead of US/non-US. Even if you are used to that, it would be easy to follow the signs for “International” and not realize that there are different signs for “United States.” If they did that, with valid passports and tickets for Naples, Italy, airport security wouldn’t think anything was out of order, because from their viewpoint it’s not–the ID matches the ticket, which is for a flight out of this airport in the next few hours, please take all your personal belongings, your flight is at gate 87.

              3. Ann O.*

                That seems more like an issue with a bad hire. A good travel agent should be able to book more efficiently and with better results.

            3. Liz2*

              I was an admin to a genius in his field, on lots of boards, articles out the wazoo, lots of tv news interview requests, very much in demand superstar of his field. He was upset because I didn’t remind him to take his golf clubs to his club fitting appointment. Things happen.

              The worst mistake I ever made was when I made air, hotel, car reservations for an exec. I triple checked the numbers and called directly to confirm since it was a new position for me and a first trip I planned. Somehow even in all that I missed that the car reservation dates were for MARCH instead of FEBRUARY because the days were identical. Thank goodness they had a car to take and worked out, but that burned deep for a long time!

              Even the best have the rough times.

            1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

              Also the “English is not their first language so they did not notice” seems like a very poor excuse from the execs. Even if they did not speak English at all, French (they’re Canadians…) and Italian are close enough to be able to understand what the flight attendant is saying. Maybe they even flied with Italian Airlines. It was a big mistake but these two bosses do not look like the smartest in the pack!!

              1. Amy*

                I used to work extensively with people in Quebec and while we did have language issue now and again they almost all spoke English well enough to have no issues navigating an airport. Most of our issues revolved around technical jargon or slang.

                1. RKB*

                  In Canada, all boarding announcements, signs, and flight literature would also be in French.

                  Also, my grandma doesn’t speak a lick of English but if she can navigate her way from a village in India to our airport in Canada, then it shouldn’t be a valid reason.

              2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                I would have thought, too, that if your English is good enough to do business effectively in Florida, it should be good enough to notice this error at least before the plane took off.

              3. Falling Diphthong*

                Making the execs look foolish is another mark against any chance of getting his job back.

                And in the end it’s like the “but why didn’t someone notice the different credit card?” objections to the linked letter about being fired after booking oneself into a senior exec conference–“why didn’t someone else notice and stop me?” isn’t a good defense.

                1. sstabeler*

                  They’re not entirely equivalent- the person who booked herself inot a senior exec conference could well have been fired for the attempt anyway- but you aren’t wrong.

        2. cbackson*

          Yeah, I would also guess that is the answer. Possibly with the added factor that the execs may not have had any idea that there *was* a Naples in Florida.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I know, right? And there were two of them — the boss and the other executive. How did both of them not notice?

      3. SeptemberGrrl*

        It makes no sense to me either. I can understand (perhaps) the booking of the wrong tickets but beyond that, it is incomprehensible to me that this could actually occur. Alison has said in the past to take the letters at face value, even if they seem implausible, so I am….but it require much suspension of disbelief to do so in this case,

        1. K.*

          Agreed. I can understand booking the tickets for the wrong city – that’s an easy mistake to make. But I feel like so many things have to be ignored to get on the plane and not notice until you arrive that you’re in the wrong country, and it’s very hard for me to imagine missing/ignoring that many things when traveling.

          1. Mina*

            What about the whole passport issue? I’ve never been out of the country but don’t you have to show them getting off and maybe on the plane too?

              1. Pommette*

                A passport would have been required, but the process would be different.

                Canadians travelling to the US have to go through US customs before boarding their flight. Canadians travelling to other countries only go through custom after having landed.

                (Whether travelling domestically or internationally, they would have had to go through airport security and have their passport or other ID checked before they were allowed to board the flight).

            1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

              Yes, but since they were flying from Canada, it would have been an international flight regardless.

              Still pretty confusing!

              1. Oryx*

                I think this is where people are getting hung up, because this is mostly a US centric site so readers are forgetting that either way the Boss would have had to go to the international side of the airport.

                1. RKB*

                  It depends on the airport. Some have US counters, because it’s so common to travel to the US through there.

          2. Queen of the File*

            It’s possible the execs thought they were supposed to be going to Naples, Italy for the conference and didn’t realize until they got there that the conference was in Naples, Florida. (The admin mistake could have been in reading the conference information instead of an error when booking the flights.)

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think it’s semi-easy if you’re not paying attention, or if you don’t really look at your tickets/reservations until the day you’re traveling.

        For example, if the execs didn’t know which Naples they were going to, they wouldn’t have caught it. Plus, flying to Naples, FL if you’re west of Quebec can take longer than flying to Naples, Italy. And depending on the class of your ticket, the airfare can come out comparably, too.

        I’m not absolving the bosses, but I can see how a series of small oversights could result in a big one like this.

        1. Justme*

          And they needed passports anyway, so it’s not like that would have been a huge giveaway.

          1. Fiennes*

            Plus, if they were flying above cloud cover, how are they to tell the polar route from the one south across the US!

          1. Halls of Montezuma*

            That happens rather a lot, actually. It’s why one of the basic safety series tests all NATO ordnance must pass without reaction is a drop test.

        2. Susana*

          Still find it fishy. They don’t speak much english, so didn’t realize until they landed that they were in Europe? So how were they going to navigate a conference in Florida? This has April Fools written all over it.

      5. Ted Mosby*

        Agree. I have a strong inkling that this is part of why Boss is so furious.

        Yes it was OP’s fault and I know we can’t excuse all LWs of all blame all the time just because we’re rooting for them but come on… at some point you must have gotten the itinerary. You got a hotel confirmation. You got the the gate. You got on the plane. How in the Lord’s name did you never notice you were going to the wrong continent?? I imagine Boss was mortified and felt stupid and had to tell quite a few people why she wasn’t there, and “my stupid assistant messed up my travel” sounds a lot better than “I didn’t realize I was flying across the Atlantic ocean until it was too late.” And once you’ve said that enough times… well, I’m sorry OP. :-/

    2. Mary Dempster*

      I’m with you on this one. It’s a terrible mistake, but you’d think you’d notice when the flight attendant also starts speaking in Italian and not just English that it’s a bit of a hint. I always look at my arrival time too, which even though flying Canada -> FL is not a short flight, it’s a MUCH longer flight to get to Naples, Italy!

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        And there would be magazines and such on the plane.

        I really think any adult who does this cannot totally blame the person who booked the flight.

        1. Phouka*

          That was my first though, too — seriously? Two adult people cannot pick up ANY hint that they are boarding a plane to Europe? Even if you don’t speak the language, the ‘italy’ part of the destination should have been obvious. (Italie vs FLORIDA), right?

          So, OP borked it up, but good, but I really cannot assign 100% of the blame here. The execs got to the airport, ignored all signs and destinations posted, got to the gate (where, ostensibly, they were speaking French and said “flight to Italy” at some point) and ignored every announcement, got on the plane, ignored all announcements, didn’t read their tickets, and apparently blithely flew off to Italy without noticing ANY of it? How oblivious can you be?

          1. Courageous cat*

            Yeah, agreed. Like, I’m sorry, but I just can’t imagine any plausible situation that would make it normal that two adult human beings did not know they were taking off to a completely different continent. The argument that they would seems absurd to me.

              1. Kbug*

                Or what language to have materials in? While I know a lot of business is conducted in English even in Europe, you might want to have different language option materials for an international conference in Italy that’s attracting French, Italian, German, etc., speakers versus a conference in Florida that is a domestic conference. Or maybe the Florida conference was going to have a big contingent of Spanish speakers there and it’d be good to have materials available. Just, how do you really prepare for something if you don’t know what continent to which you’re going?

    3. blackcat*

      Maybe part of why the boss is being harsh is that they’re embarrassed to have not noticed, either?

      1. Seal*

        I was thinking the same thing. Every time I’ve flown out of the country it’s been made VERY obvious where we’re going regardless of which airline I’ve used. There are plenty of cities in the US named after European cities beyond Naples, FL as well (I live in one – when I told people where I was moving to they were noticeably less excited when I explained it was the one in the US rather than in Europe). So while making travel arrangements for the right city, wrong country is on the OP, getting on a plane that’s clearly not going where you expect it to go is on the travelers.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          And they’d have had plenty of warning. There’s announcements on the plane in Italian.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            And at boarding, too. I took a Korean Air flight when I went to Manila, and they announced boarding in Korean before English.

            1. voluptuousfire*

              Also whenever I’ve flown internationally, they’ve had the flight map that shows where you are in the trip. I would think they would have noticed that they were going northeast vs. southeast on the flight map!

              1. Halls of Montezuma*

                By then, wouldn’t it have been too late? I’ve never seen those start until the plane is in the air – before that, it’s all the safety pre-flight information and advertisements.

                1. Jess*

                  When I was a kid my parents sent me to visit my aunt in Texas and I flew as an unaccompanied minor. I made it to Chicago okay, and then the airline employee who was supposed to make sure I got where I was going put me on the wrong plane. We pulled away from the gate as the flight attendant announced “nonstop to Austin,” and I jumped up and said, “Austin? I’m supposed to go to Houston!” They brought the plane back and I got off and they put me on the right one.

                  If nine year old me could handle noticing I was on the wrong flight, these two executives certainly had no excuse. OP booked the wrong travel and that’s on OP, but wow were his bosses ever clueless.

              2. fposte*

                That’s dependent on your aircraft and whether the airline has installed it. A lot of aircraft don’t have those.

              3. Mephyle*

                Sure, they may have noticed once they were in the air, but that just means they had more time to stew – all the way TO Italy as well as all the way back. It’s not as though they could have asked to have the flight turned back at that point.

              4. SarahTheEntwife*

                They might not have looked at it. I obsessively watch those things because it amuses me, but if they were working, or sleeping, it might not have been nearly as obvious. If they napped for much of the flight they might not even have fully realized that the trip was longer than it was supposed to be.

          2. nicolefromqueens*

            LW says the boss and C-level are speak: English and (I’m assuming) French. I’ve heard from a few bilingual people that if they’re tuned into in one language, they won’t comprehend any background talking in the other language. For example if you’re talking to me in Spanish, and someone interrupts and starts speaking in English, I would normally understand every word, but because I was tuned to Spanish I’ll miss likely the first few words or sentences. Well, I can’t really speak for myself because I never got to the conversational level in any other language, this is what other people have told me.

            They may have heard the Italian before they took off, but disregarded it thinking it was Spanish, which is common in south Florida (where Naples is).

            1. AMPG*

              This is my experience – I know people who were raised bilingually who can switch back and forth within the same sentence, but as someone who learned new languages in school, I could never do it. I have to switch language “gears” on purpose.

            2. Humble Schoolmarm*

              I can switch in the same sentence but if I’m having a conversation in Elvish and the people beside me are speaking Klingon, I’m aware that they’re speaking Klingon, but I can’t overhear/understand bits and pieces of their conversation the way I can if both conversations are going on in Klingon. Whether I could pick up the difference between two related languages like Spanish and Italian while speaking French, I’m not sure.

            3. Julia*

              That’s not my experience at all, and it would also means interpreters were pretty much doomed.

            4. Yup*

              No, that’s not true at all – bilingual people (I am one) can switch mid-sentence; there’s never a period of “missing” comprehension due to language switch, never mind if the noise is background or not.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m sure this is a big part of it. The boss felt embarrassed in front of a C-level exec, and it’s easier to blame OP than to admit that you should have reviewed your travel documents prior to flying to Europe.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Totally agreed! Although it’s harsh, given the magnitude of the error, I think OP’s boss would have been justified in firing him just for that mistake. But when you add in the embarassment of being stuck with a C-level executive trying to recover from your admin’s error, it makes it more likely that you won’t get a second chance.

        1. Bwmn*

          I’d have to imagine this is a huge part of it.

          That being said……the one part of this story that kind of rings odd to me is that when I attend conference, I want to find a hotel close to the conference site. Now perhaps this is a case where the company has points with a hotel chain, so the instruction was just “book flights to Naples and rooms at the downtown Marriot”. But I still have to imagine that booking the hotel provided giving the OP the address of the conference to ensure booking a “good” hotel in proximity to the conference.

          Now if the OP was given no context of where the conference was in regards to hotel booking, then that does come back to the boss. Because asking someone to book a hotel in a city – even a more midsized one like Naples – can easily end up really inconveniently located compared to where someone needs to do business. But it’s easier to focus on OP’s greater mistake than to be embarrassed by what doesn’t look like giving great instructions or any kind of cursory check.

      3. A.*

        Didn’t we see another letter recently where the employee’s punishment was disproportionate because the boss was embarrassed? I can’t recall exactly what happened in that case but in this situation the boss either failed to notice where she was going or didn’t even know where she was supposed to be going in the first place and that can’t make her look good to the exec team.

        Agree with others the OP should see about salvalging the reference and focus on applying for other jobs. I wouldn’t try to come back to a job with a boss that lashed out like that.

        1. LBK*

          Maybe the one where the OP was chastised for showing up in casual clothes to get her boss at the airport in the middle of the night?

            1. Oryx*

              This is probably it although given the hoops the employee jumped through to get to that conference, I don’t think the punishment was disproportionate.

              1. Mike B.*

                Yeah. Firing is extreme, but sometimes a reprimand is just not enough to convey the gravity of the offense, even if it was committed in innocence. The would-be conference attendee now knows that (1) “no, because” does not automatically become “yes” when the “because” is addressed, and (2) managers loathe surprises.

                I feel terrible for the OP, but this is one of those cases. It was not just an expensive error (I’ve personally caused more expensive errors, and have only been promoted for my trouble), but an embarrassing and destructive one–the opportunity to give the presentation was obviously worth even more to the company than the cost of the plane tickets, and no amount of money will bring it back.

                The good news is that firing is not the end of your career, and a single (serious) mistake won’t destroy an otherwise solid reputation.

                1. KarenT*

                  I think too sometimes the company knows your reputation is irreparable. I don’t think I would have fired the OP in this case but I can understand thinking that he will always be thought of as the guy who sent his boss to Italy instead of Florida.

      4. Creag an Tuire*

        Yup. And somebody upthread pointed out the PR impact of having to cancel meetings because “we accidentally went to the wrong Naples” — this is going to make the whole company look Clown Shoes in a way that could cost more than just one lost pitch.

        (Not to make OP feel worse, just to make it understandable why the other two members of this Three-Way Fracas of Obliviousness would throw the lowest-ranking person under the bus so quickly.)

    4. B*

      I was thinking the same thing. Wouldn’t you notice the length of flight being very different and/or them saying Naples, Italy. If their English is as good as you say that is something they absolutely should have caught but I would assume that they also heard it in French and Italian when it was time to board and on the plane. Never mind when they were printing out their boarding passes/looking at them.

      However, I do agree this was a huge mistake and doubt they would consider taking you back. I still think apologizing would be good in the long run.

      1. Jesmlet*

        I think it depends on which part of Canada as far as length of flight. I also can’t remember past international flights mentioning the country – just the city. I think the really kicker here is they didn’t notice they were flying over water for such a long time, but I guess if they didn’t have a window seat that’d explain it.

        1. NLMC*

          It is possible they noticed once the plane took off or any time before landing. It’s really too late at that point though.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Yeah either way there’s nothing they could’ve done. OP did say it wasn’t noticed until they landed though. That probably made things worse for OP. While it’s mainly his fault, there were several points along their trip where they too should’ve caught the mistake.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              “When they landed” is the first time they can make a phone call, if they realized what happened right after takeoff.

              1. Jesmlet*

                Well yes, but if OP specifically said they didn’t notice until they landed then I’m just going to assume that’s true. Either way it doesn’t change the situation much.

            2. NLMC*

              Agreed. Yes, I think it was the OPs fault, but I also believe it’s ultimately up to the traveler to make sure they know what’s going on as well.

    5. Not Karen*

      Yeah, did they not look at their boarding pass? Did they not hear the multiple announcements of the destination? Did they not notice they were flying over the ocean?

      The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN apparently gets lots of calls from panicked patients who find themselves landing in Rochester, NY and bewildered when the taxi driver doesn’t know where their destination is. It’s inconceivable to me how you would take that long to notice.

      1. Z*

        When I worked in reservations for Major American Airline, I had a man call back to ask why his flight was so long. He was booked from NYC to Rochester, MN. I told him it was only 2x hours, but I thought there might be a time difference. He said, there shouldn’t be a time difference when he’s not leaving his state. Turns out, he wanted to go to Rochester, NY and didn’t clarify that with the agent he booked the ticket with. He was confused why anyone would even want to go to Rochester, MN. Which is when I told him that’s where the Mayo Clinic is and I sold at least one ticket to there a month. (Luckily I was able to change his ticket and get him some money back.)

      2. AKJ*

        Rochester MN is a tricky one, especially since most people would fly into Minneapolis-St. Paul (an hour north) instead of the small airport in Rochester. If you don’t know that, and just search for “Rochester” on a booking site, you’ll end up more often than not in Rochester, New York.

        I used to work at a major US Airport and I saw this happen a few times. I also saw a few other misses over the years for all kinds of reasons – language barriers, gate changes, people not paying attention… it’s not as rare as you’d think.

    6. Roscoe*

      That is my thing. I mean the OP made a huge mistake, but really, they at no point figured it out? That just seems irresponsible on their part too. I mean, I know they are executives, but it just seems really careless to not even look at the tickets. I have people who have booked my tickets before, and you can bet I was looking stuff up before.

    7. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Honestly, my first thought was that the reason for the harsh response was that the boss was embarrassed for not noticing more than anything else.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Yep. That’s not just one person making a mistake, that’s one person making a mistake, that person not catching their mistake, then two additional people not catching it when they were in-progress with said mistake.

      2. Michelenyc*

        I am wondering if the C-Level employee that was on the trip actually instructed the OP’s boss to fire him. Just a thought.

      3. Sylvia*

        I thought so, too. There’s accidentally buying a ticket to the wrong country and then there’s actually arriving in the wrong country. :x

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Exactly. And I can understand how someone might not notice they’re on the wrong flight (I don’t fly often but I’ve done this with trains). Sometimes, things just don’t click straightaway. In this instance, it could be argued that there were more indicators to that they were on the wrong flight, even before they took off. So I can see how they’d feel even more embarrassed than the person booking the flight.

    8. Ann O'Nemity*

      My first thought as well. It’s hard to believe that THREE people never realized that the reservations were for Italy instead of the United States. This sounds like the plot for a common-sense defying B-comedy movie!

    9. Antilles*

      It’s odd but it is possible that they legitimately didn’t know where the conference even was. Several possibilities here:
      1.) If you attend a lot of conferences, it’s entirely common to travel so much that you can’t really keep track of what’s what – am I at the Teapots International 2017 or the International Conference on Teapot Design 2017 or Teapots of Americas 2017?
      2.) It’s possible the management didn’t pay attention to the location. If you go to the Annual Teapot Congress every single year, you probably don’t bother reading the brochure any more since it’s routine. So the boss just forwards it right on to OP without wasting time reading it.
      3.) It’s also possible they made the same mistake as OP, only knowing “Naples” but not the country.
      None of these are really legitimate excuses for the boss not having a clue where they’re headed, but they’re all plausible.

    10. Tomato Frog*

      I mean, it’s quite possible they did notice before they landed. But you get arrested if you try to tell the pilot to turn the flight around.

      1. Zathras*

        Yeah, this is my reaction to many of the other comments – they may well have noticed that they were flying over the ocean, that the flight was too long, etc. But there’s not much you can do about it at that point!

        This is rough because I can actually see myself committing the OP’s mistake – it’s reasonably easy with the autocomplete to accidentally put in the wrong airport, and then after that you’re mostly looking at the airport codes..

        I have a harder time believing I would ever be so busy and important that I would wander onto a plane completely unaware of what destination I was supposed to be traveling to. How would you know what outerwear to pack?

        1. a different Vicki*

          Also, if you’re Canadian you don’t expect airport codes to have a connection to place names. SEA to YYZ gets you where? How about BOS to YUL? (YVR and YOW at least hint at city names.)

          The problem isn’t that the letter writer’s boss had no idea of the destination, but that they either had the wrong idea–and will have landed in Naples dressed for Florida–or that they as well as LW thought they were supposed to be going to Italy.

    11. DouDou Paille*

      It’s not inconceivable to me – I once worked for a pair of management consultants (in the UK) who showed up at the airport for a flight to France without passports, and were turned away. They thought that the UK being part of the European Union meant that they didn’t need them.

      1. Jen RO*

        But you don’t *need* a passport to travel within the EU… do you mean they didn’t have any other type of identification? (I seem to recall that the UK is against national ID cards, but I’m not 100% sure.)

        1. Tau*

          It looks like we commented at the same time – and I can confirm that the UK is against national ID cards. I had a rather bewildering conversation on the subject with a few Brits who seemed to think I was from some sort of Orwellian dystopia when I showed them my ID card. I chalked the whole thing up to cultural differences and moved on.

        2. sstabeler*

          That’s the Schengen Zone, not the EU. EU allows you not to need a visa, but you still need a passport to prove you’re an EU citizen. Within the Schengen Zone, you have automatic permission to enter if coming from another Schengen Zone country.

      2. Tau*

        To be fair, you don’t technically need passports within the EU, but the UK doesn’t have a suitable form of identity card. I’m German and I fly UKGermany with my ID card all the time. (Although probably not so much in the future). And if you’re within Schengen you can fly with just a driver’s license. So I can see how they got confused.

        1. gmg22*

          Interesting — my understanding has been that because the Brits never joined Schengen, you would in fact need a passport for entry/exit to and from the UK. But clearly this isn’t exactly the case if you are allowed to use non-passport ID to fly.

          1. Tau*

            National ID cards are enough – it’s just that Britain doesn’t have one, so Brits do need their passport.

      3. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        On one occasion, my father realised he didn’t have his passport and didn’t have time to get it, and got on a Eurostar with a) a letter from the Minister he worked for and b) his Blockbuster card.

        Apparently, at his retirement party they were still trying to work out whether it was the letter or the Blockbuster card that swung it.

    12. Andrew Taylor*

      Absolutely – especially from Canada, they generally direct people to Domestic, US, and other International sections of the airport. You’d assume they’d have noticed even at that point.

      1. HungryBeforeLunch*

        Exactly what I was thinking: ask a Canadian what International is and the US is not included in that, even though, by definition, the US is an international destination. Due to its proximity, however, in Canada, things are often sorted by Domestic, US and International (anything other than the US).

        1. blackcat*

          I remember being baffled, at some point a while back, to see flights to Canada classified as “domestic” and flights to Hawaii classified as “international.”

          But then I realized they were sorting due to plane size. Flights to Hawaii are longer -> bigger plans -> park ’em at the international gates.

          1. AVP*

            on Jetblue, flights from SFO to JFK leave out of the international terminal, not the domestic which is where the rest of Jet Blue’s flights are located. I screw that up pretty much every single time I fly that route. (Luckily the airport is pretty easy to get around.)

    13. Aveline*

      As someone with a husband who has often flown to points, A, B, C,D, F and G in one trip, it can happen.

      At his last job, my DH often was sent off on trips without a full knowledge of his destination(s) or schedule. His staff took care of everything but packing (e.g., putting events in his calendar, prepping his slides, etc.). He always packed “flexibly” b/c he never knew where he’d end up on a trip. More than once, his travel was altered when underway. He was once in rural China and was supposed to come directly back, but was told to go to London. When in London, they decided they needed him in India in less than 24 hours.

      This is not uncommon among some sales people, consultants, and IT executives.

      I can totally see it happening if it’s customary for the executives to rely on their staff to do so much.

      1. AVP*

        Me too! This is something my boss would definitely do if he didn’t have an eagle-eyed staff working on his travel. Languages, flight lengths, things like that can go completely over his head.

        I once booked a hotel for the wrong month (ie., March 15 instead of Feb 15th) so the tiny 10-room hotel was very confused when I arrived for check-in. Luckily it was just me traveling and not any other staff so, if they hadn’t had a room handy, I could have easily just gone to the airport and found a room there without anyone the wiser.

    14. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      I was once on a connecting flight from Dulles to Charlotte, but the jetway we went down to board had 4 planes using it (commuter planes), so they announced on our plane “Is everyone going to CHARLOTTE? If not, the plane to CHARLESTON, SC, is across the jetway at door B”. I know frequent business travelers don’t always pay attention, but I would be somewhat aware of my boarding pass, boarding process, etc., before I zone out. And also, any confirmations emailed to me or printed out for me prior to travel might have bought me a clue before the actual travel.

      1. Dan*

        Never mind that out of Dulles, United Express serves (or served) both Charleston SC and Charleston WV.

        Best story I ever heard was a passenger that was sent to Charlottesville, VA (UVA Campus airport) by “mistake”. He was supposed to go to Charlotte, and his flight got cancelled. US Air sent him over to United. United/United Express didn’t serve Charlotte at the time, and the gate agent was a foreigner who was apparently geographically challenged. So he puts the guy on the flight to Charlottesville, because that’s the closest thing to “Charlotte” that we heard. Gate agent got suspended for that one.

        Whether or not the Naples story is true is pretty much irrelevant. Sydney Canada and Sydney Australia get mixed up. Melbourne FL and Melbourne Australia also get thrown in the mixed-up mix.

        1. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

          Exactly why they said SC! Ha! Given that I was born in Charlottesville (then my parents promptly moved to NoVa, but I returned to be a ‘Hoo), then lived in Charlotte after graduation, I can concur that they are not “close”. In any way, shape, or form! But I love both! Also a big difference between St. Petersburg, FL and St. Petersburg, Russia. Don’t wanna get those confused…you wouldn’t be packed correctly at all!

    15. Princess Carolyn*

      Now I’m wondering which airline they flew on. When I flew to Italy, the airline was called Alitalia — a pretty big giveaway. I’m surprised they didn’t end up on Alitalia, Lufthansa, or some other European airline. And I’m surprised there wasn’t a layover in Germany or somewhere else in Europe.

      1. nutella fitzgerald*

        Air Canada is a major carrier, and a lot of flights are code shared, so I don’t think that the airline would necessarily be a giveaway.

      2. AVP*

        This new thing where many international flights are code-shared between domestic and international flights makes me so paranoid that I will screw up a flight booking.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yep. I booked a flight on British Airways (in a specific class) and my flight from here to Dallas was a code-share with American Airlines, because BA doesn’t fly out of TinyTown Airport. My flight got cancelled because of thunderstorms in Dallas, so they had to rebook me.

          On the first rebooking, they put me on AA all the way to London. I had to go back up and ask them to change it because I did NOT want to get stuck in a US carrier’s sad excuse for premium economy after paying a ton of extra money for World Traveller Plus. Because of that, I ended up going through Chicago instead.

          Off-topic, but I liked BA. Someday I’d like to try their first class–I hear it’s nice.

        2. AnonAnalyst*

          I hate this as a traveler. I’m already paranoid I’m going to screw up the reservation or somehow get on the wrong plane at the airport. Just tell me what airline I’m actually flying so I have a small amount of confidence that I’ve done everything correctly.

          (Also, airlines, there are some airlines I pretty much refuse to fly if ANY alternative is available. I do not appreciate the lengths some of you go to to obfuscate that it’s a code share flight actually operated by XYZ airline. Just be clear.)

      3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        When I flew home from Italy, it was a direct flight to New York. My flight over had a layover in London but I scheduled it that way so I could see a friend living there.

    16. Just Another Techie*

      Yeah that’s my question. Most airports have big electronic boards at the gate that say the city, state/province, and country of the destination. And did they not notice when they didn’t have to deal with the US’s TSA? I thought everyone flying to the US knew to expect horrid TSA behavior.

      1. Alli525*

        I don’t think that Canadians entering a Canadian airport would have to deal with American TSA at that airport – would they? I’ve never been to Canada but have traveled internationally a handful of times, and I don’t think I’ve ever hit TSA until landing in the U.S.

        1. Alli525*

          Ah, my apologies – I continued reading more comments below and noted that it DOES work that way in Canada>>USA flights. Seems strange to me but oh well.

          1. Absotively*

            You go through US customs before boarding, but I’m pretty sure the security screening is still run by the Canadian agency, not the TSA.

            1. skunklet*

              Nope, could be US CBP: https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/ports-entry/operations/preclearance
              “Today, CBP has more than 600 law enforcement officers and agriculture specialists stationed at 15 air Preclearance locations in 6 countries: Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Aruba; Freeport and Nassau in The Bahamas; Bermuda; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg in Canada. CBP also staffs a Pre-inspection facility for passenger/vehicle ferry traffic to the U.S. in Victoria, Canada.
              In Fiscal Year 2016, CBP personnel stationed abroad precleared 18 million travelers, representing over 15 percent of all commercial air travelers to the United States.”

              They also have CBP officers that pre clear Cargo headed to the US; I once had a nice conversation with a CBP officer in Italy….

              1. Absotively*

                CBP is what I meant by US Customs.

                There are two things to go through, one after the other: airport security and US Customs. Airport security is where they stop you if you don’t have a boarding pass, x-ray your stuff, have you walk through a metal detector, and so on. This is run by the TSA in US airports, but in Canada it’s run by an equivalent Canadian agency. US Customs is where they inspect your passport, ask about stuff like your purpose for visiting the US, and decide whether to let you enter the US. Customs is indeed run by US CBP.

                The relevant bits are that (a) the US’s TSA is not involved, which is the misunderstanding I wanted to correct, and (b) it’s noticeably different from the process for other international flights, such as to Italy, where the Customs part of things mostly happens in your destination airport after you land.

                1. skunklet*

                  right, but my point was that there are US Customs (CBP) officers in foreign airports; depending on the airport of departure in Canada, if they were coming to Naples, FL, then they may have gone through a pre-trip clearance with a US Customs officer in Canada (if not, the airline would forward info to the US, but that’s another issue)

    17. Jillociraptor*

      That was my first reaction, but then again, I have had bosses who would do literally whatever was in their calendar, no questions asked. To the point where I would enter appointments for “rest your eyes” or “go eat lunch,” and they would absolutely do it.

    18. oranges & lemons*

      As someone who lives in western Canada, I actually think it would be quite easy to mistake a flight to Florida with a European flight to a city of the same name–the price and length of flight would likely be pretty close. From there, I think it’s pretty plausible for circumstances to have led to no one noticing until it’s too late–the execs were tired and/or distracted, the hotels that came up had neutral hotel-y names, etc.

  6. Aphrodite*

    What confuses me a bit is that you didn’t mention a passport. Was your boss asked for one at the airport, or was she asked when she showed up at the airport? Didn’t she notice that when the flight was called that Italy might be mentioned. I say this while pointing out she didn’t have to notice those things, but didn’t you? It’s really the passport that throws me, but please know I am not laying blame.

    I agree that it’s time to look elsewhere.

    1. velika*

      If they’re in Canada, they’d be asked for a passport regardless if they were travelling to the US or Italy.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      The last time I was in Italy, they were extraordinarily lax about passports. i seriously think I could have waved a square of blue paper at them and they would have let me in. Literally, nobody checked. I didn’t even get a stamp.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        I’ve had similar experiences. Italy is a fun place.

      2. Michelenyc*

        Switzerland is the same way. Last time I flew to Zurich, I had a long layover so I spent the afternoon in the city. When I arrived back at the airport the customs agent waved me through and continued the conversation he was having.

        1. NW Mossy*

          Many years ago, my dad also had time to kill in Zurich’s airport and decided to ask what it would take to get your passport stamped. After a few hours and descending into some long-forgotten sub-basement somewhere, apparently they did uncover a stamp.

      3. PizzaDog*

        I had to ask for my passport to be stamped both times I visited recently. I rarely travel, I’m getting those stamps when I can.

      4. KL*

        That happened to me and some friends too! I was on a study abroad trip when I was in college (fun fact – it was a garden tour through Italy and France) and caused issues when we were going to leave France. Because Italy didn’t stamp our passports when we arrived and there was no checkpoint when we crossed the border into France by bus. It took us a while to get through the airport in Paris because we had no proof of how we got on the continent.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      LW mentioned that they are based in Canada–I assume that means the boss would have needed a passport to go to Naples, FL anyway, so that would not have flagged anything.

      1. Bdarlin*

        True, but being from Canada , the boarding area in most airports for US flights is completely separate from the International flights area.. so I wonder….

        1. Justme*

          I flew from CA to FL out of the international terminal of SFO. So that’s not always a giveaway. And FYI, they had the best gift shops.

          1. I used to be Murphy*

            But when you fly from Canada to the US (not the other way around) you clear American customs in Canada and are then in a separated area (it’s essentially a domestic flight after that). So if they were flying out of any major Canadian airport the fact that they have didn’t go through US departures and clear American customs in their home city is a flag (unless they’ve literally never travelled to the US before).

          2. Evan Þ*

            I flew between Washington State and SFO once, and both landed in and took off from the international terminal. (No, I didn’t have to go through customs or border security; the terminal layout’s used to domestic flights.)

            Meanwhile, at the smaller airport near where I grew up, they move one door when the one-per-day international arrival comes in, to direct passengers to customs. The rest of the time, it’s just another normal gate.

          3. lfi*

            depends on the airline. there’s some who fly out of international even if they are going domestic (i think its true for jet blue.. unless they moved them to terminal 2).

        2. Browser*

          Depends on the size of the airport. A smaller one will have US flights lumped in with international ones, or there may not be a separate terminal at all so all flights go out of the same boarding area.

    4. Bobbocio*

      Op said they were flying from Canada, so whether to Italy or the USA it’s an international flight that requires a passport.

    5. Lucy Honeychurch*

      You need a passport to travel from Canada to the US, right? So she would have had the passport anyway.

      But yeah, I can’t fathom the boss not noticing the destination was wrong until after the plane took off…they have the little back-of-seat screens with your flightplan on them! Who doesn’t check those before takeoff???

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        I don’t. I travel for work often enough that I have adequate things to do or I plan on sleeping.

      2. gmg22*

        A few other commenters hinted at this above: It’s possible the boss figured it out earlier than we (or the OP) are told. All the more reason they might have flown off the handle even more by the time they arrived at their very incorrect destination — they had as much as 7 hours to stew about it. (For all we and the OP really know, they figured it out 30 seconds after the plane door closed, ie, the point of no return.) I would love to read some true-life tales of flight crew dealing with passengers realizing they are NOT headed to their correct destination.

    6. Mona Lisa*

      The boss was supposed to be scheduled to an international destination already (Canada->US) so it wouldn’t have been odd to show the passport. I’m more surprised that the boss didn’t notice the error when checking in for the flight or when looking up the location of the hotel.

    7. Meredith*

      Doesn’t the pilot or flight attendant mention where the flight is going before the plane leaves the gate or pretty soon thereafter – also in the airport wouldn’t the sign at the gate mention Italy? I just find it hard to believe that the error wasn’t caught earlier? Did they not look at the flight itinerary either?

      I feel for the OP. I make reservations on rare occasions and this is my worst nightmare. Often you choose flights by airport code and it’s easy to select the wrong one.

        1. Z*

          Wow, yeah, that’s a big difference. I was expecting something more similar, like HNL and HLN (Honolulu, HI and Helena, MT).

          1. AKJ*

            I had to fix a ticket once that was booked to YEG instead of YWG – YEG is Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, YWG is Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The customer was very unhappy he’d been booked to Edmonton when he wanted to go to Winnipeg.
            It’s a good thing it was caught before he actually flew to Edmonton.

          2. Violet Rose*

            I think Birmingham is the really notorious one – BHM vs BHX for Birmingham, Alabama and Birmingham, UK. To make matters worse, both seem to be international airports, so “Birmingham international” wouldn’t tip anyone off

          3. J*

            Yes, I remember a co-worker who happily thought his flights would be on time because his layovers were all in Orlando, so no bad winter weather. They were through Chicago (ORD, Orlando is MCO).

      1. Tuckerman*

        I was wondering this as well. This was a big mistake, no doubt, but I bet part of the boss’ strong reaction was because he felt embarrassed he did not catch the mistake. If he had paid the slightest attention to signs at the airport, or his boarding pass, or emails with travel info, he would have caught this and his colleagues likely know that.

      2. Lauren*

        I always look flight duration, this sounds very odd to me – but airline apps don’t always say what country or what year your ticket is for – so it is possible.

    8. Rowan*

      On the other hand, when flying to the US from Canada, you usually go through pre-clearance for the US (i.e., you go through US Customs & Immigration while still in Canada, before you get on the plane). Only a handful of small airports in Canada don’t have pre-clearance. So the fact that they had to go to the “International” gates and not the “US” gates, and didn’t go through pre-clearance, should have been a big clue!

  7. New Bee*

    Allison, do you think it would be worth it, if the call doesn’t result in OP getting his job back, that he should try to negotiate his future reference? Maybe they’d be willing to say, “The financial ramifications of the mistake left us no choice but to fire OP, but outside of that major mistake he was generally X, Y, Z.”

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Agreed. OP would be much better off not mentioning the mistake, especially the financial ramifications, to prospective employers. Would you want to hire someone who cost their last employer that much money?

    1. Jesmlet*

      Better to ask them to just stick to dates. “Made a mistake that cost us tens of thousands of dollars” would not be taken lightly and would not be ignored regardless of what the X, Y, and Z were.

  8. Barbara in Swampeast*

    I am sorry this happened, but please put your effort into looking for a new job. If I were your boss and took you back, I would be looking over EVERYTHING you did from now on. Move on and remember to double check every detail.

    1. Sugar of lead*

      Yeah, I got fired for a single mistake too, and I agree with their decision. They said I could reapply later, but I figured that I’d be combating my reputation every step of the way, and it’s better to start fresh.

      OP, I don’t know about Canada, but in the US we get unemployment benefits, which could help cover your costs while you job-search.

      1. FDCA In Canada*

        Employment Insurance in Canada is available to those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own, but this would probably be a Category M Dismissal and I’m not sure if that qualifies for EI.

        1. Canadian Cate*

          The OP would likely qualify for EI. If you are downsized, restructured, or fired, you are still eligible for EI, unless you are fired for misconduct. “If you are dismissed for misconduct, you are not entitled to receive EI regular benefits. Misconduct can include voluntarily committing an inappropriate action, a violation, or professional misconduct.” The OP made a mistake, but admits that it was an error, not an intentional act. The Record of Employment should reflect that, and it would be the first thing that I would check, to make sure that you can file for benefits. It will take several weeks before your first cheque.

          Good luck!

  9. Matilda Jefferies (formerly JMegan)*

    Oh, ouch. I’m so sorry. I think the ship has probably sailed for getting this job back, but it definitely couldn’t hurt to apologize to your boss. And the good (?) news is, I can almost guarantee that this is a mistake that you will only make once. Because it’s such a big one, it’s going to be pretty memorable for you, and you’re going to be double- and triple- checking all your bookings from now on to make sure it never happens again.

    Good luck, OP, and best of luck with the new baby.

  10. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Lots of sympathy, OP. This is a surprisingly easy mistake to make – sometimes our brains make a connection and run with it. (I didn’t even know there was a Naples in Florida!) It’s a shame they chose to deal with it this way. If you can’t get your job back, I hope they’ll at least agree to give you a good reference.

    Good luck with the job hunt and congratulations on being a father. Sending you all the good thoughts!

    1. Troutwaxer*

      I didn’t know there was a Naples in Florida either. And I’m really curious about what the OP’s Boss said. Did she say, “Send me to Teapots Expo 2017?” Or did she say, “Send me to Naples?” I know that if I wanted to go to Major-and-Famous-City that was not actually the major city everyone thinks about when they hear the name I’d be very specific, i.e. “Send me to Naples Florida. Be very careful when you book the flight and make sure I don’t go to Italy by mistake.” And then I’d check the itinerary carefully. In short, I think this is probably the boss’s fault.

      In short, I suspect the O.P. qualifies for unemployment (or would in my state of the U.S., where you sometimes don’t qualify if fired for cause.)

      1. Aveline*

        “In short, I think this is probably the boss’s fault.”

        It would be comforting to think that b/c we all feel bad for OP, but we have zero evidence either way.

        It could be 100% bosses fault and 100% OPs fault or somewhere in between.

        We don’t know. It also doesn’t matter to OP. He’s fired either way.

        1. Jesmlet*

          Yes, in fact I’m inclined to believe we have evidence to the contrary.

          [I] should have paid more attention when the list of hotels came up. It was completely my fault.

          In terms of “fault”, I’d say 100% OP. In terms of “responsibility”, I’d say probably 90% OP and 10% boss, only because this was a mistake that could’ve been caught by the boss but should’ve never happened in the first place. But I know I’m sort of splitting hairs here.

          1. Bwmn*

            In the sense of investigating the fault divisions – the one thing that I really question is whether or not the OP was given the address of the conference. Because when I’m making travel plans to conferences, 90-99% of my hotel thinking (after price) is around location to the conference/meeting. In the past year I went to a conference for work where our hotel (not booked by me) was about a 45-55 min trip away from our hotel (combined public transportation and significant walking), and that choice utterly baffled me.

            So if even if the OP was told “we’re going to the Naples Teapot 2017 Expo”, then based on that alone – the OP should have discovered the address of the conference and then hopefully would have taken that into account while choosing a hotel and thus teased out any Italy/Florida differences. Now, had the only misstep been booking the flight to Naples Italy, but the hotel in Naples Florida – I’m more inclined to be sympathetic to “accidents happen”. But the hotel situation does make me wonder if the boss gave far too little information (i.e. Me and C-Suite are going to Naples from X to Y, book us flights and a hotel – but without any context to where the hotel in Naples should be in context) or the OP got into autopilot and didn’t check the location of where the conferences was in comparison to the hotel.

            1. Jesmlet*

              Yeah the hotel situation makes this very weird. Given what info OP included, it doesn’t seem that the ‘far too little information’ explanation is correct though. This thing does seem very screwy no matter how you look at it. I think it’s probably just extreme carelessness/autopilot or (since z100 got me this morning about a fake Ed Sheeran as Peter Pan April Fools day story) this is not real or is exaggerated.

              1. Bwmn*

                Right – I mean, this is not to take away from a reality that mistakes do happen and the OP has taken responsibility for this error in the letter. And it could very well be that that when the OP was told “book at hotel for me and C-Suite in Naples,” the OP did ask follow up questions and was given terse or back handed answers to the effect of “just pick something downtown” that did not help.

                But I think my pointing this out is that the magnitude of the mistake (flying people to the wrong country/missing key events) combined with the boss’ response to that embarrassment (immediate termination) – is that this is a scene I think would be best to leave. I would also add, I hate traveling with my superiors at the best of times. So to combine multi-hour travel with a superior in the context of a mistake……uff…..

      2. Borne*

        Yes, I think the LW might be eligible for EI as I think it is when one is fired with cause such as stealing that you wouldn’t qualify. A mistake is not a deliberate action such as stealing.

    2. Allison*

      I think I vaguely knew about Naples, FL, but only because I used to work for a company with an office in Florida and I needed to be familiar with the area. When someone just says Naples, I’m going to assume they mean the one in Italy unless they’ve specified somewhere in the conversation, most of the time I wouldn’t think to ask for clarification.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        That makes a lot of sense. I told a friend of mine this story and he had the same response as you: he knew there was a Naples in Florida but he’d still assume people were talking about Italy unless they specified otherwise. (There’s apparently a Lebanon in the US as well – I got really confused the first time I saw that!)

  11. SeptemberGrrl*

    You’re not getting your job back and I think spending time and mental energy entertaining the fantasy that you might will do you more harm than good. Though you didn’t ask for it, I think your needs would be better served by getting advice from Alison and the comments on how to talk about this job when you are interviewing for your next one. THAT is the issue that is of utmost importance in getting you to your end goal of having a job. “Why did you leave your last job?” is the first thing interviewers will want to know so you need to decide on how best you are going to deal with this difficult answer. I wish you the best – I’m unemployed and I know how much it sucks looking for a job.

    1. Miss Nomer*

      I’m inclined to think that it wouldn’t take a ton of time and might possibly allow you to discuss the kind of reference you get if you reach out and apologize. I know for me, I’d spend a lot of time wondering “What if?” on something like this, so it may be worth it to reach out expecting nothing.

      Best of luck to you, OP.

  12. Not Today Satan*

    Not to absolve the letter writer, and maybe I just don’t get it because I’m not a bigwig, but I would think they would at least glance at their travel info (tickets, itinerary etc.) before actually… landing in Italy.

    1. my two cents*

      Or like, who doesn’t at least take a PEEK at the hotel website to ensure they’re within close proximity (addresses would have been in Italian!) and have ‘expected’ amenities(hair dryer? gym?). At the very least, you’d want to know how far you’re schlepping it to the conference.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        IDK, I definitely would, but I’m a peon. Our executives travel every week, all week, and don’t make any of their own plans. They just go where the itinerary the admin hands them says to go. Then they sit in the airport at the gate the boarding pass says to sit at and talk on the phone until the last possible second. I hope they have enough awareness to not end up in the wrong country, but I could see it happening.

        1. Jeff A.*

          I’m not kind of hoping some poor, abused admin will read this and think “Most epic way to quit ever”…

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          This is true of at least a couple of my past bosses — they would just go where I told them to go without question. I could have sent them anywhere. I used to marvel at one boss in particular, who would let me write his script for events he was speaking at, and would never even look at the script or even touch the script until he was at the podium. I always laid a file on the podium containing his script, and it always amazed me that he would just walk up to a podium and expect it to be there. I found out after I left that job that he had a big falling-out with my successor because the new guy put the script on the podium and the boss started speaking from it, and it was all kinds of screwed up.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        My boss travels more than I do, and he doesn’t look at any of those things. He runs, so there’s no need for a gym. He is pretty low-key in clothes and such so amenities aren’t a big deal. His attitude is that he’ll figure out the rest when he gets there.

        1. Aveline*

          This is what DH used to do.

          There are 1000 scenarios in which it would be reasonable for Boss not to know…

        2. Oryx*

          Sounds like my dad. He travels at least once a month, all over the world, for work and has been doing that for decades. He’s incredibly laissez-faire about traveling (which bothers my Type A mother and I when we go on vacations). He wouldn’t care about the details or look up his hotel or any of that.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          On reflection, I can see this happening to my husband. He would be head down and concentrating on work–the only reason he would double-check anything is past incompetence from the person doing the booking.

      3. paul*

        I don’t usually bother. I dont’ travel internationally but do 3-4 times a year (mostly in state but at least once out of state a year). Work tells me I’m at X hotel, I’m at X hotel and I’ll figure it out.

        Plus hotel names don’t really tell you much about where it is most of the time if your’e staying at a business traveler orientated chain (a lot of Sheratons At X, Crowne Plaza at Y). Just a city or local place name appended on a chain name

        1. Marillenbaum*

          I can understand that. I used to do a fair amount of work travel, and I would always just look for a hotel in my travel city that belonged to a network where I could get loyalty points (oh, those sweet, sweet points).

    2. Kj*

      Yes. I cannot imagine how this mistake was made, on so many levels. Was no one looking at the destination beyond the first word? Was no one seeing that the hotel names were in Italian? This is nuts. I can see accidentally booking the wrong flight- careless, but possible, but I can’t see booking the wrong hotels or the boss getting on the flight thinking everything was fine.

    3. Bonky*

      I always, always check. But I do so because an incident a few years ago made it clear to me how important it was to do so: the name on my passport is my full name, but everybody knows me by a shortened version. (Think “Margaret Bonky” where everybody actually calls me something like “Maggie”.) My PA, who hadn’t been with us for very long, booked tickets – with my passport in her hand – for an international flight with a budget airline within Europe, under the name Maggie. Which is not what it says on my passport.

      I did, eventually, manage to get on the plane, but it cost the company a new ticket at the highest price the airline offered. My PA was mortified, it’s never happened again, and it wasn’t anything like as large a sum as poor OP’s situation lost. I didn’t discipline my PA, who was ready to sink into the ground and die (punishment enough!), but I ALWAYS check my ticket when it turns up now.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Making a mistake like this is my biggest fear even when I book personal travel, so I also always double- and triple-check reservations to make sure everything is correct. At my last company, the person responsible for booking travel would always send out the itineraries with a note to check all info to make sure it was correct, which helped.

        Frankly, I can’t believe the manager didn’t notice before boarding the flight that the destination was wrong. Like others have already noted, I suspect part of the reason the OP was fired was because the manager was embarrassed that she actually landed in a different country before noticing the error.

        1. the_scientist*

          I have an international vacation booked next week and this thread has inspired me to quintuple-check (or even sextuple-check?) my flights.

          Also, I used to have to book travel arrangements, but I guess one advantage of the private sector is that approximately 1,000 people need to review and sign off on everything before you actually put any money down.

    4. Aveline*

      Not necessarily. I’ve posted this elsewhere. DH is a semi-retired C-level IT officer. When he was working as a CIO, he would often travel off to parts unknown without knowing where he was going until he got to the airport. So if the tickets told him “Naples, Russia” that’s where he’d go.

      We are assuming a lot of facts not in evidence. We have no way of knowing whether or not the executives knew where they were supposed to be going.

      Three scenarios:

      (1) Boss says “book me into X con” and leaves it totally to OP. Boss has no idea where X con is. Just that it is going on.
      (2)Boss says “book me into X con in Naples, Florida.” OP messes up.
      (3) Someone else says “book Boss into X con.” Neither Boss nor OP know where X con is.

      What I get from OPs letter is that he knew it should have been Florida, but spaced out when doing the reservations.

      There’s a huge, huge difference in whether OP knew it was Florida and spaced it or if he didn’t know it was Florida.

      Even if the Boss knew it was Florida, but spaced it at the airport, that doesn’t excuse OP if they knew Florida and booked the wrong ticket.

      They can both be in the wrong, both be in the right, or split in either direction.

      1. Evan Þ*

        Or two more scenarios:

        (4) Boss says “Book me a flight to Naples for X con,” OP’s never heard of X con (or maybe the Naples in Florida either), and concludes it’s the Naples in Italy.
        (5) Boss says “Book me a flight to Naples,” not even mentioning X con, and OP does just that.

        But I don’t think it’s that profitable to speculate about what situation this might’ve been; it’s now the same for OP however it happened.

        1. Lady Blerd*

          Having such scenarios is good for those who insist this situation isn’t possible. I’ve booked flights to Sydney, Nova Scotia and had to pause to make sure I wasn’t not sending the traveller Down Under (ok that sticker shock would have clued me in), same when I’ve looked up tickets for London. Even within Canada I’ve had to make sure I was sending someone to Vancouver city an not Vancouver Island.

          I’ve travelled to the US from a Canadian airport and I can see myself explaining away the discrepancies like having no US Border agent at the airport (yes even in Canada) if I was the traveller, much like you get on a train or bus heading the wrong way. Now I would assume that LW’s boss would have been surrounded by Italian travellers at the departure gate but if like me you love your noise cancelling headphones, even that could go unoticed. The only part that, to me, is not a factor is OP being a native French speaker but that, to me is minor quibble.

    5. KR*

      I agree. I can’t get over the travelers not noticing they were going to Italy before the plane took off! I might going for business travel in a few weeks and as soon as the potential plans were emailed to me I was googling where the office was in relation to where I needed to be at work, what restaurants were near by, where the closest coffee shop was, what kind of room it was. Granted, I’m very new to business travel but I’m like this even with flights for personal reasons (I fly fairly often) and with it being so easy to forget something important or miss a flight, I would think the travelers would pay more attention to detail themselves about where they were going!

    6. Been there, Done that*

      Yea I agree with Not Today Satan, I mean really too busy to read your own itinerary. It NEVER hurts to look over arrangements that affect you!

  13. caryatis*

    Keep in mind that if you stay at that workplace, everything you do will be double-checked and second-guessed for the entire rest of your tenure. This is the sort of mistake that is hard to move past at a workplace where everyone knows you as “the guy who sent the executives to Italy by mistake.”

    1. Matilda Jefferies (formerly JMegan)*

      I think so too. Even if they do take you back, it’s likely going to be next to impossible to live this down. As much as it sucks, I think you’re going to be better off starting with a clean slate somewhere else, than trying to get everyone else to forget it where you were.

    2. K.*

      Exactly. I absolutely understand needing a job, but I think the emotional costs of this outweigh the benefits of being employed there. Everything you do will be nitpicked to death, people will be talking about you, it’ll be a HUGE hurdle to gain back any credibility, and if I were in those shoes, that would make me MORE stressed and nervous and likely to make a mistake. I think you need to consider this a bridge burned, OP. Take stock of whether or not your attention to detail needs work, and look for a new job. I’m sorry.

    3. Karen D*

      Yeah. At my first “grownup” job I made a giant, huge mistake like this.

      Put in context, it was easy to see how the mistake developed and why I was so distracted, but it resulted in MAJOR embarrassment for my employer, made an already fraught situation worse and earned us some significant long-term enmity in a significant portion of our customer base. I was not fired; in fact, I was promoted a few times in the next few years. But until I left that job, I felt like I had a giant bubble with the words “SCREWUP” floating right over my head and people would still use little reminders of the incident to get their digs in. (The worst was when some very vocal elements of that portion of our customer base learned I’d been promoted and used it as an opportunity to drag the entire incident up again.) Nothing I did could roll things back; leaving was the only way I could clean my slate.

  14. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Ooooh, I’m having secondhand mortification. I’m so sorry, OP.

    I once made a mistake somewhat similar to this (in that it related to travel). I managed a lecture series and, on the day of an event, realized that nobody had made travel arrangements for the speaker, who lived in another state. 250 people had paid to come to the talk, and 20 minutes before it was scheduled to start we had no speaker. Luckily for me, the speaker had made his own arrangements and strolled up right as I was trying to figure out a solution.

    (In my defense: Another person, at another organization that co-sponsored the talks, usually handled travel arrangements. She assumed that, because this speaker was a personal friend of the ED of my org, that we would handle arrangements. I assumed that she handle the arrangements like she did in every other case. But regardless: I was the manager overall and should have nailed those details down.)

    There was no repercussion for me because the speaker showed up anyway. But my mistake was the same. I wonder whether the OP’s boss would have fired him if she had noticed the mistake two weeks before the flight.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Ha. We had a lecture series where each admin was supposed to make travel arrangements for their department’s speakers. A new admin mistakenly thought that I was supposed to make arrangements for the whole lecture series, so she was freaking out that she had done nothing for the lecturer who was supposed to arrive that day. It all turned up okay: the speaker had made his own arrangements and turned up at the airport, got himself a cab to the campus hotel, and booked himself a room. It was a little embarrassing that there wasn’t anyone to meet him at the airport nor a room ready at the hotel for him, but he didn’t seem to think anything of it.

      Another time, an invited lecturer called me that morning to say that he’d missed his flight out of LAX because he didn’t leave his house in time and was stuck in traffic while his flight took off. I was irritated by that because we would typically insist that lecturers arrive the night before to prevent such occurences, but he was such a busy, important bigwig that we let him make arrangements to arrive the morning of instead.

      One more — one guy forgot that he had been scheduled for nearly a year to lecture on a certain date, and he’d double booked himself. So he sent his twin brother to do the lecture for us. They were both architects, but not for the same practice. The twin took his brother’s PowerPoint and presented it as if he were the guy.

      1. flasker*

        Amazing use of a twin! And very fortunate that he was in the same business as the original speaker. If the twin were in a different line of work — say, a chef or a historian — that talk could have gone very differently.

      2. Jen S. 2.0*

        That twin story is too awesome. I often tell people something like,”I don’t care how it happens, just make it work.” That might be the ultimate just-make-it-work ever, ha.

  15. Squeeble*

    Oh man. As an admin, this is one of my nightmares. I’m sorry, OP–I really don’t think there’s a way to come back from this. I sympathize entirely, though.

  16. Sooverit!*

    Oh please, no one noticed they were boarding a plane to Italy? This isn’t even plausible.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      We’re requested to take letter writers at their word, per Alison. Also, considering that these folks spoke English as a second language (so maybe wouldn’t have picked up on some details) and were intending to board an international (Canada-US) flight, they’d have had their passports and so on with them.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        That said, given that there’s no direct flights to either the Naples, FL or Naples, Italy airports from anywhere in Canada, and given all the details OP would have had to miss (hotel bill in Euros, address in Italian, Italian phone number, cost, flight time, connection cities), I’ll admit that the benefit of my doubt is stretched as well.

        1. SeptemberGrrl*

          When going to conferences, you’re normally (not always, just usually) booking at a hotel affiliated with a conference and getting a conference rate. That alone is a massive red flag.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            It’s possible that the hotel was actually in Florida – OP could have booked that separately. So on second thought, it’s possible that he marooned his boss in another country….without even a hotel to go to.

          2. Bonky*

            I often request a hotel that’s not the conference hotel so I can decompress without being surrounded by conference attendees in the off-hours, or so I can use/earn more points with chains I have an account with. I don’t think that’s particularly unusual.

            1. Lora*

              Yeah, there is a sharp division in a couple of places I have worked between Hilton Honors vs Marriott. Some of the sales people have enough points to stay free and get massive upgrades to the rooms. Which, honestly – when I had to travel even half as much as the sales people, every tiny little thing that makes you feel even slightly better helps. JetBlue direct flight (Delta has gotten a lot better recently too), room stocked with water bottles and with a little fridge to stash my snacks, per diem instead of reporting every little receipt, pre-paid shuttle between the airport and the hotel, pre-paid hotel, flying in the day before, the $$noise canceling headphones$$, pop a Benadryl so I sleep on a long flight, all of that makes frequent work travel tolerable. Frankly I’d be delighted to go to Italy for work travel – it’s usually somewhere you don’t particularly want to be. Not to rag on St Louis or RTP, NC, but most of the work sites I’ve traveled to weren’t much fun. Even in NYC, the conference for my industry is held in the Javits Center, and there’s a bunch of nothing around it.

          3. Just Jess*

            This is a serious mystery and the cost difference is what first had me scratching my head. But OK, maybe OP left out a critical distinction that his boss just said “Book our travel for a conference on month/day. The location is Naples.” Boss didn’t know or care which Naples and was clueless until landing that the conference was somewhere else while OP was responsible for figuring it out and wasn’t diligent.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              The cost is actually pretty similar if you’re coming from Quebec/Toronto, so I’m not surprised that OP may have mixed it up.

          4. Troutwaxer*

            As I noted above, I think the red flag points out that the OP’s boss didn’t specify which Naples she wanted to visit. If you assume that the boss said, “Send me to Naples” and nothing else, then the whole thing becomes much less fantastic.

            1. kb*

              That would change my perception of the situation, I think. Because I would say Naples, Italy is the better-known Naples. It’d be plausible to not even know there is a Naples, FL, especially for someone who doesn’t live in FL or even the US.

              1. Troutwaxer*

                And I do live in the U.S. and I have visited Florida (Tampa, to be exact) and I didn’t know there was a Naples Florida. And I’m well-past forty too!

                1. kb*

                  I just recently found out there is a Vancouver in Washington state! I found out by browsing hotels there rather than the BC Vancouver, so I feel for the OP.

                2. anonderella*

                  nesting-user fail. This was supposed to go here:

                  @ kb
                  oh for f’s sake; my SO and I are planning a trip to Portland, OR in ~ a week. We’ve been google-mapping our way to a plan around the city. He mentioned “wouldn’t it be cool to just be able to just *go* to Canada? (we’re both from more southernish US)”, so we immediately hit the google-maps. Vancouver, WA is immediately north of Portland, OR.

                  I see Vancouver and start muttering “but where the f does Washington state go??”
                  seriously had to reconsider my mental map of the Pacific US before zooming out to see that WA was still safely above Oregon.

                3. Bramble*

                  I live in Vancouver, WA, and work for a large international corporation with a site here. I have personally met at least once person, but have heard anecdotally of others who end up in Vancouver, BC instead. Usually people coming in from out of the country, but we do try and make it clear that they need to book their flights into the Portland airport. Luckily our internal travel system lets you select the corporate site you want to visit first, and then fills in the rest, so it doesn’t happen too often. And when it does its not that long of a flight to get to the right location. (Although I suspect trying to explain it all to the customs officer in Canada might be trying.)

                  P.S. We had the name first.

                4. Anna*

                  @Bramble I didn’t even really know there was a Vancouver, WA until I moved to Portland. :p

                5. DArcy*

                  Vancouver, WA actually predates Vancouver Canada and is technically also the larger of the two cities — the land area of the city proper is slightly greater, although it only has about one fourth the population. The overall metropolis of Vancouver USA is also in fact vastly larger than that of Vancouver Canada; it’s just that Portland is the dominant city of said metropolis.

              2. plain_jane*

                oh, I once booked flights for Hollywood Florida. Correctly, but there was a great deal of stress at each step to make sure everyone (about 10 people from different areas of the country) was booked for the correct location & hotel.

            2. Jesmlet*

              I don’t think that’s what happened though. OP did say he should’ve paid more attention when looking at hotels which means if he had paid more attention, he would’ve caught that it was the wrong Naples.

            3. anonderella*

              @ kb
              oh for f’s sake; my SO and I are planning a trip to Portland, OR in ~ a week. We’ve been google-mapping our way to a plan around the city. He mentioned “wouldn’t it be cool to just be able to just *go* to Canada? (we’re both from more southernish US)”, so we immediately hit the google-maps. Vancouver, WA is immediately north of Portland, OR.

              I see Vancouver and start muttering “but where the f does Washington state go??”
              seriously had to reconsider my mental map of the Pacific US before zooming out to see that WA was still safely above Oregon.

              1. kb*

                I was doing my cursory hotel search, so I had just googled “hotels Vancouver.” I was looking at the results on the map and wanted a wider view, so then I noticed Portland. I thought, “Wow, I never knew Portland and Vancouver are so close! We could add an extra day to see both!” Then I was like, wait, what happened to Washington??.”

                1. anonderella*

                  hahaha I know! I really thought there was some small bridge of US territory connecting Portland, OR to Washington state, with Vancouver Canada sort of jutting in there, adjacent to Portland.

                  You obviously don’t want me on your trivia team, if I can talk myself into rearranging US geography rather than accept there are two Vancouvers that close together.

              2. Anna*

                And really, getting to Vancouver, BC from Portland via train is not that long a ride. :)

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I was wondering about the direct flight thing. There aren’t a lot of those these days, especially internationally. It’s very odd that the executives made it all the way to Italy before realizing there was a problem.

          1. Kate*

            Does it really change anything if they realized halfway over the Atlantic that something was wrong? It’s not like they can demand the plane be turned around!

            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

              I’m savoring this mental image like a fine wine. Boss has been dozing, wakes up, looks at the little inflight map, loses his mind when he realizes he’s somewhere over the North Atlantic.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Well, no. But I’m wondering if they didn’t have to change planes somewhere before flying across the ocean.

              1. Evan Þ*

                I momentarily misread your comment and imagined executives having to change planes somewhere over the ocean. I assume the whole operation would be done very, very carefully.

          2. m00nstar*

            Good point! in Canada, if you are in an airport big enough to have ANY kind of direct flight to Italy, it’s a big enough airport that you’d fly to the US through a US gate, not an international one.

            I think they also got confused/didn’t know where it was.

        3. Chickaletta*

          This is what I wondering too – they layovers should have been a huge clue. Unless there really are direct flights from Canada to Napes, Italy and Naples, Florida? Nobody noticed that the first flight was to, say, Frankfurt rather than Atlanta?? The people who were taking the ACTUAL flight with the first city printed on their tickets? lined up at a gate that said “FRANKFURT” or “LONDON” above the door??? Heard the announcements? Then actually arrived at the layover city and decided to proceed to Italy?????? It makes no sense.

          1. gmg22*

            I am now wondering whether this is indeed the case, and was done to protect the OP’s identity (how many people have possibly committed this particular error with these particular places?). A quick spin with the Google seems to indicate that there are, in fact, no direct flights from any North American airport to Naples. They COULDN’T have not noticed it before boarding — they would have boarding passes to whatever European city they were changing planes in.

        4. J-nonymous*

          I just pretend booked travel and typed my home city to Naples. We use a large, well-known travel site to book our travel. The site suggested both Naples, FL and Naples, IT as dropdown options for destination airport – and interestingly, the airport codes are not *that* far off between the two. So if you’re not paying the greatest attention to it, you might not catch it. Also, when it came time to confirm tickets, the price was displayed in my currency — not Euros. Even the first airline option presented was one that is an American airline.

          Honestly – I think this mistake, while significant, isn’t outside the realm of believable.

      2. Corisande*

        Am Canadian and speak a decent amount of France. ‘Naples, Italy’ and “Naples, Italie’ sound virtually the same.

        Also – every Canadian international airport I’ve been in makes boarding announcements in English, French and any other related language.

        1. bridget*

          Furthermore, a flight attendant probably would have said “Napoli, Italie.”

          I would be Very Unhappy if this had happened to me, but for this mishap to have happened, both executives would have had to have been almost willfully oblivious to at least a half a dozen clear indications that they were on their way to the wrong country. I agree with most people that because execs who travel a lot are very busy and rely on others to book travel that it is perfectly *plausible* that they would have been so oblivious, but I still really think that grown adults who are this competent should be expected to notice their basic surroundings. OP certainly made a big mistake, but the execs are not blameless here.

        2. Grant*

          Really? YHZ, YVR, YYZ and YTZ all don’t habitually make boarding announcements in French…

      1. AMG*

        And it’s always the clueless ones who fly off the handle (no pun intended) about other people making a mistake.

      2. TL -*

        My boss isn’t clueless but I could see this happening to him and several of the bigwigs on our floor – their admins do all the booking and they just go. I could even see them thinking that the Naples was the Naples in Italy and not realizing until they got there that it was in Florida – if it’s a conference they go to every year that changes locations, they might have just been thinking, oh, it’s in Naples this year and not done any further looking.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Especially if you don’t realize that Naples is a pretty small city in Florida, as most foreigners would not.

    2. velika*

      My predecessor once put my boss on a flight to the wrong city in the wrong country (New York vs Toronto) and my boss didn’t notice until he got there. So it happens.

    3. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I was googling around a bit based on some earlier comments, and this kind of thing does seem to happen from time to time. If these were executives who travel frequently, they may be relying on their assistant to keep track of where they’re going when and why. Add in a language barrier and it’s even more plausible.

      In any case, even if the executives were partly “at fault” for not noticing, part of an assistant’s job is to make sure their boss doesn’t embarrass themselves. It really stinks, but I understand why the LW was fired.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        And in ANY any case, the LW wants their job back. Telling their boss that they should have noticed the mistake in advance is highly unlikely to achieve that goal.

    4. Aveline*

      They may not have know they were supposed to go to Florida instead of Italy. That’s entirely plausible.

      It’s also beside the point. It doesn’t matter if they screwed up as well. It only matters if OP screwed up.

      We are all so sympathetic with OP we are trying to blame shift this onto other parties. It’s not going to help him, even if it is true.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Agree with this. I suspect they all assumed the event was in Italy, and thus Boss did not know / realize it was the wrong destination until she got to Naples and there was no conference. I would not be surprised to learn they ALL assumed they had the correct Naples until it was way too late. But regardless, it doesn’t matter who deserves what percentage of the responsibility. The head that rolled was OP’s.

  17. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Oy. One thing to note: there is only a very teeny tiny airport in Naples, FL. Anyone going to Naples usually flies into Ft. Myers (RSW), which is closest. Punta Gorda is becoming popular, and some souls fly to Miami and drive across the state. So, like, for a second I didn’t believe this, but on further consideration… now I do.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Point being that someone who is unfamiliar with Southwest Florida might book a flight to “Naples Airport” without realizing it’s not actually in Naples, FL.

      1. Sooverit!*

        Naples airport doesn’t have an International terminal so its impossible to book a flight there.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Not necessarily! If you’re flying in from Canada and connecting in ATL, for example, you would go through customs at Hartsfield and fly on to Naples.

          1. Sooverit!*

            Then you would notice you were in Atlanta, the OP said they didn’t realize they were in Florida until they landed.

            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

              Toronto has direct flights to both Atlanta and Rome.

            2. Sooverit!*

              Whoops, I got my cities mixed up. If they had any connecting flights, then they’d have noticed they were in the wrong country.

              1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                That’s the thing. A connecting flight would have been unavoidable.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Oh, could be! I thought Delta flew there, but I could be mistaken. (My parents live in Naples– I have always flown in and out of RSW.)

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think you can fly commercial on a puddle jumper through Gulf Coast Airways, but regardless, you’d have to transfer. My impression was that the Naples, FL airport is tiny, like the New Haven (Tweed) airport and Santa Monica airport.

        2. Creag an Tuire*

          Which is probably exactly how this started. “Book flight to Naples, FL” DID YOU MEAN FT MYERS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT? “No, stupid computer, I meant Naples. Jeez.”

    2. Lily in NYC*

      My mom lives in Punta Gorda! Anyway, a person in accounting returned my expense report for a Long Island Rail Road train ticket ($12) to Jamaica. He told me I needed to fill out an “out of town travel approval form” since I went to Jamaica. He thought I went to the tropical island Jamaica, not the one in Queens. And I somehow got there by train for 12 bucks and had no other related expenses.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Oooh, this cracks me up!!! Especially since… aren’t you in NYC? Everyone knows Jamaica! That’s awesome.

        My mother keeps pushing the Punta Gorda airport on me, but no airline will book me from my current city to PGD, not even through ATL. It’s weird. So I just connect and go to RSW like usual. It was soooo much easier when I lived in NYC, though! Remember Song, Delta’s hip, new, low-cost service? I had a few delightful non-stop flights when that was around.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Eh. There are people in the Bronx who don’t know Jamaica. I grew up in Brooklyn and barely knew Jamaica existed. I was vaguely aware of it, but not really.

          Add all the people who move here, and yeah, the $12 should have been a clue, but it’d be really easy not to know that Jamaica, Queens, exists.

          On other hand – given the $12…. I would have to assume the guy was joking. Because if not, he was totally missing the opportunity to ask how he could get a flight for that price….

          1. Lily in NYC*

            He was not joking and is a nyc government employee, which means he should know where Jamaica is. It was a receipt with “Long Island Railroad” written on it. He used to find reasons to reject reports all the time just so he could get them off his desk.

            1. gmg22*

              This is amazing. It reminds me of when I lived on Long Island and had the following conversation with a local:

              Him (commenting on my baseball cap): “Why are you a Red Sox fan?”
              Me: “I grew up in New England.”
              Him: “Yeah, but did you grow up here?”
              Me: “No, I just said, New England.”
              Him: “Yeah, but was it here?”
              (Punchline: Yes, this person had lived his entire life in New York and thought New York was one of the New England states.* Great job, tri-state-area public schools!)

              * Note for non-US commenters: a) It is decidedly not; and b) Ideally one completes elementary school in one’s home state having learned what region of the country said state is or is not located in.

                1. animaniactoo*

                  No, it’s pretty much all the territory North/East of New York.

                  Remember, Virginia was also one of the 13 colonies and it is decidedly not part of New England.

                2. gmg22*

                  The New England states are Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

                3. LBK*

                  Nope, only 6 states are part of New England: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The Thirteen Colonies spanned more or less the entire East Coast down to Georgia, which is most definitely not part of New England.

                4. Lora*

                  Nope. New England is Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

                  New York is just New York. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware are the Mid-Atlantic. Virginia and everything south of it is The South.

                5. Lucy Honeychurch*

                  Nope, New England is six specific states: Massachusetts (the best state), Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

                  In the 18th century (back when we were still part of Old England), it was more general, but today the meaning has changed.

                6. LBK*

                  Ha – wonder how many of us who jumped in to clarify the membership of New England are from here…

                7. Zahra*

                  To everyone: thanks!

                  My history classes spoke of Nouvelle-France and Nouvelle-Angleterre, then the 13 colonies, then the US. The distinction was never made between contemporary New England and colonial New England. I wouldn’t have put Georgia or Virginia in New England. But any state north of Maryland that was in the 13 colonies? I would have said New England without hesitation (before today).

                  Yes, I’m Québec, why do you ask?

                8. gmg22*

                  No explanation necessary, Zahra! I feel quite sure the number of Americans who can name all the Canadian provinces and territories, or honestly even more than two or three of them, is shamefully small.

                  As a matter of fact I thought Newfoundland was considered one of the Maritimes until about six months ago, when I happened to read up on why it is not. #Irony

                9. Humble Schoolmarm*

                  But to make life even more fun, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick are all the Atlantic Provinces.

            2. animaniactoo*

              Ah. So, he wasn’t joking, but he was being a jerk and likely wasn’t really that oblivious…

        2. Lurker*

          I grew up in the rural Midwest and learned of Jamaica, Queens via the LL Cool J song, “The Bristol Hotel.” (“The Bristol Hotel, Room 515. Where that at? Jamaica, Queens!”)

          1. LBK*

            Heh – to be honest I only learned of it from Nicki Minaj, who references it regularly since she grew up there.

      2. 2 Cents*

        Hahahaha, makes you wonder what this accounting person was thinking, right? If you’ve ever ridden on the NYC subway system or LIRR (or hear one of the ubiquitous Resorts World Casino ads), you know where Jamaica, Queens is.

      3. DCGirl*

        I once asked a former boss how he’d ended up living and working in New York. He said that when he an undergraduate at Notre Dame, the Christian Brothers came around to recruit students to teach for a year or two in the high schools that they run. When he heard that one of their schools was in Jamaica, he signed up immediately, only to be sent to Queens.

  18. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    So….OP, sorry dude, but the screwing of this pooch was so epic that I’m pretty sure you’re not fixing things and going back to work for this company.

    I don’t want to dogpile, but the thing you have to understand, I think, was that this wasn’t just one mistake. There were several: booking the wrong ticket. Not noticing that said ticket was a great deal more expensive than a simple Canada-to-Florida ticket would have been. Booking an Italian hotel, which I’m certain had an Italian name, address, phone number, and other details. There was just so much you missed. I’m also not a fan of firing after one incident, but this is one where I’d probably do it – particularly if I was realizing what had happened while standing on the wrong continent. And consider the financial impact to the company, which I’m certain extended well into the tens of thousands of dollars when lost orders are included. It was a pretty bad series of mistakes and ignored details with significant impact.

    I will say that I have no idea how the boss didn’t notice that they were on a flight to Italy. Generally, international flights include announcements in both languages, and the captain comes on with a hearty “thanks for joining us on Teapot Airlines Flight 102 with service to Naples, Italy” and so on.

    1. Admin Assistant*

      I totally agree with you – I think that the number of mistakes involved in booking flights, hotels, etc. in Italy instead of the US warrants this immediate firing. I feel bad for OP, and of course I think the execs could’ve paid way more attention throughout the process (it simply baffles me how one could not notice they were flying to Italy & over the Atlantic Ocean), but this series of mistakes is pretty egregious.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        In fairness, OP might not have known exactly when they figured it out. I can just see them dozing off, waking up, looking at the little flight map, realizing that they were somewhere over the Faeroe Islands, and promptly losing 100% of their shit.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          This mental image will sustain me through the day. :D

          1. Creag an Tuire*

            I had figured it was the other way around: “We looked out the window, saw a suggestively shaped peninsula, and assumed all was well.”

            1. Lora*

              Hahahahahaha ohhhh noooo that’s too funny. “Suggestively shaped peninsula” is killing me.

              If I were the boss I would be mad but also never stop laughing at myself. It’s one of those things that is going to be a good war story: “So Joe and I get on the plane to Hotshot Conference after an 80 hour week putting slides together, and we were soooooo nervous that we took some Dramamine and had a couple drinks and went to sleep. When we woke up, completely bleary-eyed and disoriented, we staggered out of the airport. Then Joe bought a flower from a Roma lady whose children picked my pocket. And we stopped and looked at each other like, wait, what?”

        2. Admin Assistant*

          This is true — they could’ve realized mid-flight. And as someone who doesn’t travel for work/only travels for pleasure, and is generally very type-A and would NEVER make this kind of mistake in my personal or professional life (I confirm that the airport code is correct, Google Map everything, etc), I guess it’s conceivable that an exec that travels a lot for work and relies on their EA to take care of all of the arrangements for them could go on a kind of autopilot, so to speak. I could see an exec lining up for their flight, firing off emails on their phone, getting on the plane, putting on headphones, and taking a nap. The EA’s mistake is so nuts that I could see why you would just coast through the travel process and not stop to be like “wait, am I accidentally going to Europe?”

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            Yeah, I think the reason this seems so incredible to me is that I plan any travel – work or pleasure – to a fare-thee-well, and I can’t conceive of missing that many details. But a lot of people aren’t planning types.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              I think it’s pretty incredible too, but ultimately irrelevant. Pointing out that the bosses should have caught the mistake will definitely not get the LW his job back.

          2. Arjay*

            I think too we’re used to so much nonsense with travel that it’s easy to just get caught up in the process. From taking off my shoes and opening my laptop, I then get told to go stand in this line or that line and show more random people my documents… The process is more designed for following instructions than for engaging in critical thinking.

      2. Aveline*

        Maybe they didn’t know what the destination was supposed to be. That’s not uncommon for executives. My husband travelled like this for years.

        Add a language barrier and I can see this happening.

    2. Badmin*

      Agreed and I’m so sorry OP. I book travel for my boss and it’s not only stressful, but I check it multiple times to make sure everything is correct, airport, flight times AM/PM, cities, the correct credit card, etc. It’s just one of those duties that’s easy but so so important not to mess up because of the ramifications if you do mess up.

      Best of luck and hopefully you will find something.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Actually, I assumed the OP somehow heard “Naples” but not “Florida”, and just assumed the whole thing was in Italy until it blew up in their face.

      Signed, someone who misremembered the *date* of their very first work flight ever, but was lucky to get a sympathetic gate agent (pre-9/11, they had a lot more flexibility) to help them out and get them where they needed to go anyway.

      1. Kj*

        That I could see more easily than the other scenario, which makes no sense to me. Maybe the bosses thought the conference was in Italy too until they arrived and looked at the conference registration and went “Wait, this says Naples, Fl?”

      2. AKJ*

        We had some flexibility after 9/11 too. A sympathetic gate agent is your best friend. We could move mountains if we really wanted to.

        Signed, former airline ticket/gate agent who worked from ’97-’05

    4. Manders*

      As someone who takes sedatives to fly, I can definitely see how someone can get through an airport and onto a plane while missing certain obvious details.

      I feel bad for the OP, but it sounds like booking flights is a significant part of the job and the boss is just not going to be able to trust them to do it correctly after this.

    5. MK*

      You mean there are people who understand what the pilot is mumbling at the start of the flight? Most of the time I can only make one word in five.

    6. Bookworm*

      In fairness to OP, the price difference for a flight from Quebec to Naples, Florida and Naples, Italy is only about $100 CAD, per some of the research done on this thread. That’s not nothing, but it’s hardly double the price or anything.

    7. A Good Jess*

      I can see how the boss didn’t notice– my husband has to travel for work a lot but absolutely hates to fly, gets anxious and all that. His standard approach is to board the plane, settle into his seat, and fall asleep as quickly as possible so that he completely misses the door closing, pushback, taxi, and takeoff. If he managed to miss all the hints on the itinerary and the screen at the gate and got on the plane, the announcement wouldn’t have done it for him.

      (But I’m pretty sure he would have noticed before that, for all the reasons everyone is listing here.)

    8. DCGirl*

      I have been on flights where we people pop on their headphones and zone out the minute that they sit down and don’t take them off till they stand up to retrieve their luggage out of the overhead bin on the other end. Yes, they should listen to all the announcements, but the reality is that some people don’t.

    9. emmylou*

      I agree that the OP has burned their bridges with this job, but as a Canadian who is all too familiar with the weirdness of pricing, I will point out that last year I went to Uganda with an air ticket that was $600 cheaper than a flight from Toronto to Regina I did the next month lol. The price differential wouldn’t be remotely a red flag.

    10. Liz2*

      I was an admin to a genius in his field, on lots of boards, articles out the wazoo, lots of tv news interview requests, very much in demand superstar of his field. He was upset because I didn’t remind him to take his golf clubs to his club fitting appointment. Things happen.

      The worst mistake I ever made was when I made air, hotel, car reservations for an exec. I triple checked the numbers and called directly to confirm since it was a new position for me and a first trip I planned. Somehow even in all that I missed that the car reservation dates were for MARCH instead of FEBRUARY because the days were identical. Thank goodness they had a car to take and worked out, but that burned deep for a long time!

      Even the best have the rough times.

    11. Arduino*

      Actually a lot of travel software packages air hotel and car so I can totally see all three being messed up in one mistake.

  19. Jessie the First (or second)*

    OP, I am having lots of trouble seeing how this mistake could have happened. I do not doubt you at all – obviously I believe it *did* happen and that it was a mistake and you feel awful. It is just that there are so many points during the booking process where it’d be hard to not notice the error: the name/location of the airport are right there, plus the travel time, the airline itself, the hotels, the cost… So my guess is that is why this is the time that one mistake = firing. Basically, to blow past all of those points and proceed with booking may have just been too much. Everyone makes mistakes, even big ones, but the nature of this particular mistake may just have been too difficult for your boss to imagine trusting your work going forward.

    I know you need this job. But there are other jobs – do not lose hope, get right on job hunting. You can do this. I’m so sorry for this stress at such a big time in your life!

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Even just the fact that the hotel bill was in Euros should have been enough!

      1. Admin Assistant*

        Also, when I book travel for my higher-ups, I make sure the hotel I’m booking is near their meeting place/conference venue — it’s nuts that one could book Albergo di Napoli or whatever and not Google Map the walk from that hotel to the Naples, FL Convention Center and be like “oh whoops, that’s a little far!”

        I know OP must feel awful, but I really could not imagine NOT being fired in this situation. It’s a pretty big deal.

        1. Princess Carolyn*

          This is the detail I’m getting stuck on as well. It’s entirely possible OP didn’t think to check how close the hotel was to the event, but it’s awfully surprising. Maybe this was OP’s first time booking travel?

          1. Admin Assistant*

            Yeah, it would also be troubling if OP just booked a random hotel in Naples, FL and didn’t check where it was in relation to the event. I book travel and would never book a hotel in another city without Google Mapping it.

          2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            But wait! The hotel could have been in Florida! Maybe OP booked the flight and hotel separately, so the reservation was correct and in dollars, but the flight was wrong.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t know if OP’s company uses a travel booking service, but I know that our platform for booking travel auto-populates a list of hotels near the airport. Sometimes the map is zoomed in, so it’s harder to realize you’re in the wrong place based on geographic context. But typically people ignore the map so long as the hotel is within “0.X miles” (or I guess in Canadian, o.X km?) of where they think they need to be; instead, they focus on the cost and select that way.

            [Aside: Although I think I probably would have noticed that the hotel names were in Italian? But I guess someone could think that Naples, FL is trying to be charming by naming their hotels in Italian, too.]

            1. Oryx*

              I did a test of this, looking up Naples, Italy hotels through a third party booking website (which seems the most likely way this happened) and it’s all in English and several large chain hotels pop up. If you’re just going based on price, amenities, reviews, etc., and not really paying attention I could see how you wouldn’t realize it’s not in the US.

      2. StudentPilot*

        Not necessarily would the price be in euros. I travel a lot, and I have a bunch of hotel booking websites set to Canadian dollars, it’s easy enough to specify which currency you would like the price displayed in.

      3. Mephyle*

        Can we assume the hotel bill was in euros? Many of the consolidated hotel booking sites allow you to set the currency; in fact some of them detect your location and when you open the page it automatically shows the prices in your currency.

    2. blackcat*

      The time zone would be the biggest give away, but the other things, not so much. Quebec is in the same time zone as Florida.

      Naples, FL has a tiny airport, so it could be cheaper to fly from Montreal to Naples, Italy, than Naples, FL.

      (For example, it was much cheaper and faster for me to fly from Boston to a conference in London than from Boston to a conference in Sacramento).

    3. Troutwaxer*

      But this assumes that the boss said, “Naples, Florida” and not just “Naples.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It seems clear that OP knew he was supposed to book travel to Naples, Florida, but simply messed up.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          The OP wrote, “It was completely my fault.” but without knowing what the boss said it’s very hard to evaluate this statement. People blame themselves all the time even when it should be obvious that they are not to blame. What the boss actually said is the key to decoding this.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            But he said he “should have paid more attention when the list of hotels came up”

            That makes it pretty clear that he knew the intended location (otherwise, if he thought they were *supposed* to be in Italy, how would paying attention to the list of hotels been helpful?).

            1. Troutwaxer*

              I’d have to give you that one! Barring the OP weighing in on this issue you’re almost certainly right.

              1. Troutwaxer*

                I still don’t have much sympathy for the boss, however. How could she be doing anything like due diligence and not notice?

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I don’t know; I think this is part of why you have an assistant. You expect your assistant to be competent enough to handle the logistics because it’s not a good use of resources to spend your time on it. Although you should probably double-check, I likely wouldn’t notice until the night before or the day of travel, at which point the problem becomes much more difficult to fix.

                  I wouldn’t want to have to do “due diligence” every time my admin does something on my behalf, because that defeats the purpose of having an admin to do these tasks.

                  I have to do this level of review right now because my admin is extremely bad at her job, and I can’t fire her. She has screwed up in massive and costly ways, including jeopardizing a grant that provides 85% of our funding. I handle all the admin I’m allowed to do because paying my much higher rate for time-consuming logistics is still less expensive than letting her “assist,” which is always done incorrectly and requires hours of my time to fix. It’s a massive waste of resources, and if I had the authority, I would fire her.

    4. Atexit8*

      To expand on your point, Jessie the First (or second), there are no non-stop flights from Canada’s Toronto or Montreal to Naples, Italy. Depending on the airline chosen, the OP’s bosses would be routed through Paris, Brussels, Munich, or Frankfurt. This information gleaned from Expedia.com.

      And as others have noted, to get to Naples, Florida, Expedia immediately tells me I have to fly to Ft. Myers, Florida.

  20. Summerisle*

    Oh no, how awful. It’s easy to overlook things sometimes, especially when very busy, and it’s a shame such a good tenure has been tainted by one mistake (albeit one with big consequences). I hope OP gets a new job very quickly and is able to enjoy his new arrival.

  21. I Herd the Cats*

    This …. baffles me. What you’d need to book to get to either of these places is so wildly different. It’s not like you just book “Naples FL” vs “Naples Italy”. For Naples FL you’d fly to someplace like Ft. Lauderdale, or Ft. Myers. Naples, Italy?! From north America that’s probably some connecting flight through a major hub (London, Frankfurt) or maybe Milan. Then you’re booking hotels… in Italy.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I think that’s why this could be plausible. You type in “Naples” and it only would bring up Italy. If you are in Canada and not aware that you should be going to Ft. Myers, FL, you could assume it’s the right Naples since it’s the only Naples.

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      There’s direct flights from Toronto and Ottawa to Rome – Fiumicino….but there really aren’t any direct flights, and there’d have been a connection or two.

      1. Chickaletta*

        This is what doesn’t add up. The executives who took the flight didn’t initially get on a plane to a Naples; they got on a plane to Rome, or Frankfurt, or maybe London. Their tickets, the name of the city at the airport gate, the announcements on the plane, landing in the freakin’ connection city and still taking the next flight (seriously), they had PLENTY of opportunities to realize the tickets were wrong before actually getting to Naples, Italy.

        1. gmg22*

          Someone else above suggested it’s likely that the OP changed the names of the cities for privacy’s sake. You’re right, I checked too and it’s actually not possible to fly direct from any North American city to Naples, Italy.

          The other possibility, which is that everyone involved wrongly thought the conference was in Italy until the bosses actually arrived there and realized it wasn’t, is interesting too but kinda moot. If that error was on the OP (as the conference attendance/travel planning person), well, even bigger whoops. If that was on the bosses (and they blamed it on the OP), who would want to keep working there?

        2. Anonymouish*

          Except that they might have gotten on a plane to JFK, or Hartsfield-Atlanta, or even LAX, depending on where in Canada, before they got on their ‘connecting’ flight to Naples.

        3. zora*

          The OP says they figured it out when landing, not that they landed *in* Naples. Maybe they figured it out in Rome.

          Alternatively, they flew from Canada to JFK or Logan or BWI, and then had a direct flight from there to Naples, Italy. They would have had a connection before going on to Florida as well, so that first flight they only saw the connecting city, checks out. The only flight that was the problem was the second one, which landed in Italy.

          1. gmg22*

            There are no direct flights between Naples, Italy, and anywhere in North America. I checked. They could not have intended to fly to a US city without noticing at some point prior to their final leg of the trip that they were leaving or had left North America.

            I think we’re down to three possibilities here:
            1) The OP changed the details of destination to protect his privacy (because this kind of error at this level is pretty rare). Understandable.
            2) The OP’s bosses were really, really not prepared for this trip and, in fact, actually thought Italy was their correct destination until they got there and realized there was no conference (or at least not one they wished to attend). This is either due to the OP compounding his own error (in which case yeahhhh, no way he is going to get his job back) or their own failure/an overarching company failure of communication/organization (in which case, consider this a blessing in disguise, OP).
            3) Today’s date is April 3 and this letter was submitted two days ago.

    3. kb*

      They may not have booked the hotel in Italy, though. It seems more likely that they would only mess up the flight and havw booked a now-useless hotel in FL. I’d say it’s easier to mess up a flight than a hotel because generally you search the hotel on a map to make sure it’s close to things

      1. kb*

        My bad– they booked the hotel too. That’s more interesting to me than the flight? Because I would want to make sure the hotel is close to where I/my bosses are meeting.

        1. Honeybee*

          I don’t know what kind of company travel booking they have, but at my company you can book all travel costs – flight, hotel, car, a couple other things – on our company’s travel website. So you can do the flight and then the company automatically will generate hotels within a certain radius of that airport (you can change it to other locations if you want to as well). I suppose I could see how someone on super autopilot would’ve booked a flight to Naples, FL and then just selected the cheapest hotel that was still available without double-checking the location, but that’d be pretty hard because the top of the page has a map and there are lot 3 different confirmation screens.

    4. Sadsack*

      And if if I were looking for a hotel, I’d be looking to get a room where the conference is, or looking for a hotel nearby and one that has shuttle service to the conference location. Or what if you’d have to rent a car? All of these things would be considered and you’d have to see clues about the error during this part of the process. What happened here?

      1. kb*

        Yeah, I’mean actually more confused by the hotel booking than the flight. Because even for personal travel I Google map the hotel and distance to activities/food, so I’d expect for business travel the first priority would be ensuring the hotel is somewhat close to the main event.

    5. Slow Gin Lizz*

      My thought is this: didn’t OP think to go to the conference website before booking the tickets to see if they had travel recommendations on their website…or more likely, a conference hotel or recommended lodging?

      Sorry, OP, I know you’re probably going over this in your head and thinking the same thing, but we’re also all trying to figure out how this could have happened (likely so we can avoid making the same mistake ourselves, which is entirely possible). I hope you can find a new job soon and good luck with the new kid!

      1. Troutwaxer*

        But was the OP told there was a conference, or did the boss simply say, “I need to be in Naples from the 19th to the 23rd.”

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Based on OP’s letter, it sounds like he was aware that boss + exec were going to a conference.

      2. Honeybee*

        To be fair, I wouldn’t do that myself. My company requires that we book all of our travel through our travel website, even if the conference hotel has cheaper rates or recommended hotels. So I don’t even bother looking at the conference’s recommended hotels; I just go straight to our tool. (To be fair, though, I do usually try to find a hotel close to the conference.)

    6. Sarasaurus*

      I wonder if the actual destination is different, and OP just used Naples as an example for the letter (like giving coworkers fake names).

      I can also totally see Boss saying “I need a flight in hotel for a conference in Naples,” and never specifying. Granted, OP should still have clarified, but that would make much more sense to me.

      1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

        I was wondering that too. “Naples” could be shorthand for “egregious mix-up between two similarly-named places.” Like Springfield, Illinois vs Springfield, Oregon.

        Otherwise, not sure how the employee didn’t notice hotels were in Italian, hotel prices were in Euros instead of U.S. dollars, flight time was way too long, etc. And as other posters noted, there aren’t even direct flights to either of those cities from Canada–so the boss would’ve had a layover at some point.

      2. kb*

        If the boss never clarified which Naples or provided any context, I don’t know if I would have expected OP to clarify. Especially if they’re based in Canada, I wouldn’t expect anyone to know Naples, FL exists. Naples, Italy is the far better-known Naples. If someone simply asked me to book them a hotel in Vancouver, I would have until recently just assumed they meant the one in British Columbia, not Washington state. I guess this gets us into the “how can you be expected to ask a question you have no idea is a thing” territory, which has been debated here before. But I suppose this is a lesson for everyone on both sides of the equation to always clarify the country any time you are booking anything (or are asking someone to book something for you).

        1. Honeybee*

          I live in Washington and if someone asked ME to book them a hotel in Vancouver, I would still assume they meant the one in BC, not Vancouver WA. From Seattle people are much more likely to be going to BC than the southerly Vancouver.

      3. Drew*

        Given that OP is Canadian, it could have been London, Ontario vs. London, UK. And then they wouldn’t have had to deal with customs until they landed, so they wouldn’t have had a reason to question it until then – AND there was no language barrier.

  22. Faith2014*

    I can see them firing you over this, but honestly, they had a responsibility to check where they were going.

    1. Aveline*

      No. A LOT of executives travel without knowing the destination or agenda. A LOT.

      This is not at all uncommon in the business world. You have to trust your people. That’s what they are there for.

      1. Honeybee*

        Is it really that common in the business world for executives to just hop on planes and have NO idea where they are going or what they are going there for?

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        How do they know what to pack? Seriously, you always need to have a general idea, no matter how much you trust your people to manage the details. You absolutely might not know the specific airport (some areas have multiple ones – I could fly out of Boston MA, Providence RI, Worcester MA, or Manchester NH from where I am). And you could absolutely not know the specific hotel or perhaps even city – but you need to know which hemisphere you’re going to, and which country. You’d pack differently for Norway than for Egypt, Spain than for Nova Scotia, etc. You have to have some semblance of a clue about your general destination. So sure, trust your people. But know which country you’re going to.

      1. lurking and such today*

        I replied how I would a normal letter taking the LW at their word but I admit I did so with a raised eyebrow knowing 4/1 just passed.

        1. Leatherwings*

          That doesn’t really change the spirit of what you’re saying – which isn’t constructive.

    1. Mike C.*

      This happens fairly frequently. I ran across a BBC report this past weekend about a student looking for a vacation flying to Sydney, Nova Scotia rather than Sydney, Australia.

      1. Admin Assistant*

        I saw a great story a few months ago about how this poor English couple accidentally booked their return flight from the US to the UK to Birmingham, Alabama and not Birmingham, UK. The Birmingham tourism board rolled out the red carpet for them and gave them a great welcome and a tour around town for the day while they waited to board their correct flight and everyone had a good laugh.

        1. Mel*

          Of course, these stories are about folks who make a mistake about vacations. Similar mistakes for business travel often don’t work out as amusingly. (But then again I know a professor who showed up for a conference in Japan ONE YEAR EARLY.)

          1. Admin Assistant*

            At that point, you just gotta laugh at yourself and enjoy your surprise vacation to Japan.

            I hope that OP’s bosses at least got to go lay out in Positano with a limoncello and diffuse their frustration before heading back home!

          2. misplacedmidwesterner*

            My husband once did a last minute flight to the middle of nowhere on the wrong week because it was communicated to his boss as “we need that engineer to do a site visit next Monday”. And next monday to the client meant a week from Monday whereas to my boss, my husband, and the admin who booked the trip it meant the Monday that was coming up next. (I believe this all started on a wednesday). So my husband gets out there, the other guy he is supposed to meet isn’t there, and he has to go back the next week.

            You would think they would communicate with number dates. But really.

      2. DouDou Paille*

        There was a similar case a while back of a European guy who ended up in Sidney, Montana instead of Sydney, Australia due to his own booking error.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Whether the letter is fake or not, there is still value for the general readership in whatever lessons could be learned here. There were so many moments when OP could have caught this mistake. The biggest question for me is why he didn’t do a Google search for the distance between the hotel and the conference location. I know my boss would want to know that info, so that she could figure if she would be able to walk there versus take a cab or other transport. This simple piece of info would have immediate clued the OP in on this mistake, even if the other items (flight duration, hotel name, currency, etc.) did not strike a chord.

      1. Allypopx*

        Exactly what I was coming to say. People search the archives here for advice to situations similar to their own, and should someone do so in the future this isn’t the kind of constructive dialogue that would serve helpful.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have no way of verifying the truth of any letter sent to me, but I don’t run letters I believe are fake.

      Regardless, the commenting rules here require you to be kind to letter-writers. This is not. This is, in fact, a crappy thing for an upset letter-writer to read, which is why it’s banned here.


  23. AnotherAlison*

    That’s pretty bad mistake, but I’ve seen people granted forgiveness for $1M mistakes, so yeah, every situation is different. But, I think this ship has said and you’re not getting your job back. I would use this opportunity to assess your skills and fit with the last role. Was there a pattern of lack of attention to detail? My husband has never flown us to the wrong country, but he has screwed up booking flights 3 times. He is now no longer allowed to book our travel. I would never recommend him for a job where he had to juggle a lot of tasks and be highly detail-oriented. It’s just not for him. You may want to consider whether it’s one of your strengths as well.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      That’s a really good point about using this as an opportunity to assess which skills and tasks to which OP is best suited. I booked a lot of travel at my last job (for myself, thankfully), and while I did a reasonably good job, I also found it incredibly stressful (multiple countries, appointments the same day as travel, etc.) Going forward, I know that’s a thing I really want to avoid, which has been a helpful thing to know about myself.

    2. Minerva McGonagall*

      Yeah – there’s a famous quote (legend) that an early IBM employee made a big mistake and thought he would be fired, but instead the founder says, “why would I fire you? I’ve just invested $$$ in your training!”

    3. Construction Safety*

      At OldJob they had an account manager send a quote to the wrong Tom Wilson, probably cost the company +$10M, but didn’t cost the AM her job.

    4. finman*

      I had a $1MM mistake, granted it was found in the middle of a huge restatement in a file I was given (2 predecessors before me created the file and it had been in use close to a year by that point) to use for booking some journal entries was incorrect and when I found the mistake during a subsequent update it caused a $1MM swing negative in our books. 8 months out of college and getting a phone call from the corporate controller and VP of financial reporting at 4 on a Friday is not an experience I recommend to anyone.

  24. CoffeeCoffeeCoffee*

    I do think this was a pretty big mistake- but how did your boss not notice ahead of time? They presumably had to check in for their flight, then check their gate, flight time, etc. and all of this time they never noticed they were headed for Italy instead of the US? I understand that they were upset with you, but this is a lot on them as well.

    1. Murphy*

      I’m confused by that as well. I could see not knowing until you printed your boarding pass or got the gate or something like that, but not at all?

    2. Salyan*

      Yeah… I’m with you. The OP may have messed up, but it’s the bosses who deserves a side-eye for not realizing they were boarding a transatlantic (!!!) flight. Anyone who’s paying that little attention to their destination deserves to miss their conference.

    3. Aveline*

      (1) Language barrier
      (2) A lot of people travel without knowing the destination or agenda – the higher up you are the less likely you know the details.

      (2) seems ridiculous to anyone who has never experienced it. DH used to do it a lot. I’d ask “where you headed” he had no idea. Just went to airport and was handed tix by his assistant.

      1. gmg22*

        Re No. 1, I don’t buy it — French-to-English is not that big of a barrier when you are talking about names of cities, etc. It’s not like his bosses only speak/read Chinese or Arabic. And we’ve already established that there is no way to get from North America to Naples, Italy, on a nonstop flight, so they would have had to have seen “London Heathrow” or “Frankfurt” or “Charles de Gaulle” or “Fiumicino” on a boarding pass. If light was not dawning on Marblehead by that time, well, hmm.

        The more I read the comments from readers who have seen this approach from execs, No. 2 seems like the much more likely possibility here. Which I hope is a good learning experience for OP if he gets another job involving travel planning: Never assume the boss knows any of the details about where he/she is going (or, apparently, why).

        1. Kat A.*

          Actually, it’s possible to fly to Naples without a stop. I’ve flown from NYC to Asia via the Atlantic nonstop. Doing so from Canada to Italy is possible. Perhaps the OP can clarify if there were any stops on the flight.

          1. gmg22*

            Yes, you can fly from, say, Montreal to Rome. I know that because I took that exact flight a year ago. It was very nice! It also has nothing to do with whether you can fly DIRECTLY to Naples (which is what would have had to happen for this mixup to make sense — there would have had to be ONE boarding pass and it would have HAD to say “Naples” and the boss would have had to not be paying any more attention than that). I’m even more confused as to how “I’ve flown from NYC to Asia via the Atlantic nonstop” somehow proves that there’s a direct flight to Naples. Don’t take it from me, though — take it from the Naples airport arrivals list: http://www.aeroportodinapoli.it/en/on-departure/today-s-flight

          2. gmg22*

            I don’t understand how your examples, which are not of direct flights from North America to Naples, prove that such a flight exists. The Naples airport website, which I can’t seem to link to here but has a full list of arriving and departing flights, makes pretty clear it doesn’t. (I did fly from Montreal direct to Rome last year — great flight on Alitalia, I recommend it.)

            The OP’s bosses could not have gotten to Naples, Italy, from Canada without first getting on another plane TO EUROPE. If they knew they were supposed to be going to Florida, this point should have stopped them cold. The only possible answers here are a)OP changed the names for privacy or b)bosses never knew where they were supposed to be headed in the first place. (Or c, the possibility we’re not supposed to mention due to comment policy.)

        2. Honeybee*

          And I just can’t wrap my head around #2. I aspire to climb the corporate ladder, but I am far too neurotic to be told I am headed somewhere but not to know where I am going or for how long or for what reason until I show up at the airport. How the heck am I supposed to pack appropriate clothing?

  25. WC person*

    Maybe I’m missing something, but the travelers bear some responsibility to make sure their reservations are correct. How do you not know you’ve gotten on a plane bound for Italy? Would the travel time not alert you to that? The location/address of the hotel? The cost of the actual tickets/hotels are identifiable, but the revenue from the orders – how do they know they were guaranteed? Something is off.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      The hotel piece surprises me the most, both for the OP and the boss. Wasn’t the website in Italian? Or the address something like 3 Via del Corso?

      1. k*

        They likely booked it through a third party travel website and never been on the hotel’s actual site. Often you can book the hotel and flight through the same website, so after the flight was selected they listed hotels for the same city.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Yeah, I get that. Maybe I’m just more paranoid than most, but I always also go to the hotel website and check it out. (Although maybe not if it’s just a Holiday Inn or whatever.)

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        I have weeks where I don’t really check the hotel address that well and figure I’ll do that when I’m waiting for my luggage.

    2. Tulips*

      It’s a bit of a stretch but I can see how they could possibly not realise they were on the wrong flight. Airport flight info doesn’t usually state the country, just the airport destination so Naples would be Naples whether the flight was going to Florida or Italy.

      Plenty of people board flights put on noise cancelling headphones and start watching movies or go to sleep straight away and ignore announcements.

  26. Gabriela*

    No doubt this was a big mistake, but the fact that the boss made the immediate decision to fire you makes me think they were reacting/responding to their anger/frustration in the moment. Since people often regret decisions they make in those moments, I don’t think you lose anything by reaching out as long as your expectations are realistic. At the very least, it will remind them that you were usually more conscientious and could offset some of the damage to your reputation.

  27. Marissa*

    This scenario was so interesting, I just had to Google flights to Naples from a couple major Canadian airports. It looks like it is not possible to fly to Naples, Florida from Canada (you probably need to land at another Florida international airport and either drive or take a domestic flight to Naples). This is probably why the OP made the mistake, as there was only one “Naples” and they chose that one.

    I feel so, so badly for the OP. I hope they can find work elsewhere soon.

    [Side note] I find it really strange that the OP’s boss didn’t clue in at all until she landed. You have to go through US security when flying to the USA (at least at Pearson), so you’d think it odd if you bypassed US security at the airport and still thought you were headed to Florida. Not to mention a longer flight time and the flight tracking they usually show on the airplane. There have been stories on the radio recently about people flying to the wrong city with the same name, so this letter really intrigued me.

    1. Sarasaurus*

      I thought this was weird too, and wondered whether maybe OP just used Naples as an example for her letter.

      I agree that it’s SO bizarre that nobody noticed until they landed in Italy. You have to be a dangerous level of oblivious to somehow miss the US security checkpoint, longer flight time, overhead announcements, destination on boarding pass, and in-flight tracking.

    2. Kj*

      My current way of thinking about this is that the OP saw Naples and assumed Italy. Then she told her boss to have fun in Italy at the conference and the boss didn’t check the conference webpage or anything and no one realized the conference wasn’t in Italy until boss arrived. That seems more plausible.

      1. Just Jess*

        Ditto. OP is referred to as a dude about to become a father though so “he” and “his” would be more accurate.

        A key lesson here would be to double check hotels near the conference as many other people have pointed out.

        …Wait, how did boss not check the conference website if they were going to market products?

    3. Intrepid*

      Something I wonder– but haven’t looked into– is if the layover might be at the same place for either flight. If you can fly Toronto – NYC – Italy or Toronto – NYC – Florida, which would let the big bosses get well underway before they realized their mistake (and go through US customs either way).

  28. RVA Cat*

    I feel really sorry for the OP, and hope his job search goes well.

    Considering he will become a father in a month and I would imagine his job search may take quite some time, I’m wondering if being a stay at home father might be a temporary solution?

    1. misspiggy*

      That forces the mother to go straight back to work after having a baby, and makes breastfeeding very challenging. Not a great solution in most parts of the world.

  29. lurking and such today*

    OP, sorry this happened to you and I wish you all the best with the new baby. Mistakes happen and I would be lying if I said I didn’t understand the position your employer took. We learn from them and become better people and employees, may your next job be awesome with an additional bump in pay.

    Pardon going OT but I am genuinely curious – how does one book travel in 2017 to the wrong destination? Is a third party person/website part of the mistake? I ask because when I need a flight or hotel or rental car or any combination, once I enter the city in the search (Kayak, Expedia, etc.), I am inundated with ads/links about various things to do in the destination city. Not to mention pictures. Also, I would think in some cases, the price of the travel would raise an eyebrow. For example, Paris, TX and Paris, France have vastly different hotel pricing. Also, I have never traveled for business or personal reasons without doing a thorough once-over of my itinerary so I am truly surprised the executives traveling didn’t notice.

    1. TL -*

      I have definitely booked the wrong date (by an entire month) and could easily see myself booking the wrong city and not realizing it until it was paid. I don’t look at ads.
      In fact, I’m off to check my international ticket, just in case…

      1. emmylou*

        I am a big traveller (for work and pleasure) and well-seasoned — as in, I go places by myself a lot of people wouldn’t — and yet I have *often* booked for the wrong date. I showed up for a work related air bnb reservation a day early last year, accidentally booked flights for a friend’s wedding from Chicago/Toronto and vv instead of the other way around, and booked my re-entry visa at a land border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda for the wrong day last year and had to deal with the the officious border guard who wanted me to stand at the border for 9 hours until midnight clicked over and it was the right day. Shit happens lol.

        1. zora*

          Yeah, I booked my AirBNB one day off one time on work travel. Ugh, it was so not what I needed to deal with on top of the stress of my work meetings. I had booked it arriving one day earlier and leaving one day earlier than i had planned. So, I had to pay her for the first day when I wasn’t there yet. Luckily, the host was super nice, and stayed with her boyfriend on the last night I was there and let me have her bedroom, but I had to get up super early to pack all of my stuff and move it into a different bedroom. That situation is why I obsessively check dates approximately 200 times every time I book travel now.

          1. emmylou*

            Sadly with mine, the airbnb was booked that night, so I had to wander the streets of vancouver with my bag looking for a hotel.

            1. zora*

              Aaahhhh!!! That sounds so stressful! especially if you also have to do work stuff the next day and actually function.

              My slip up was in a town where I know lots of people, so I probably could have found a couch to crash on, but I would have been useless for getting any work done that day because I would have been so scattered and stressed out.

  30. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I must confess that I literally laughed out loud when I read the headline. OP, that’s not directed at you, I swear, but your mistake sounds like something straight out of The Office or Friends. (I can see Erin Hannon or Rachel Green doing this.)

    The only thing I have to add is…

    While the OP had multiple opportunities to catch the mistake (the country is usually listed in a hotel reservation confirmation), these two executives did too even before they left Canada. I get The most prominent indicators are at the airport where country destinations are listed on the ticket and departure screens as well as announced multiple times before, during, and after the boarding process. The local time at the destination is announced during boarding and is posted in front of every passenger’s face on the individual screens.

    But the best part is even if their English wasn’t that great…the French word for Italy is Italie!

    To be sure, I get that these two are busy executives, but don’t tell me they lack so much self-awareness, they couldn’t/wouldn’t realize prominent details of their surroundings. Airlines and airports go out of their way to ensure these accidents don’t happen.

    Anyway, you’ll recover, OP, and when you do, I hope this is a story you’ll be able to look back and laugh about. Not now for sure but hopefully in the future.

    1. Not Karen*

      Yeah, I don’t buy the language barrier being sufficiently a problem to cause this mistake (on the boss’ part). I’ve successfully booked travel in Japan without speaking Japanese, and that’s a different written alphabet altogether.

    2. LawBee*

      This actually makes ME feel better, because I laughed, too. Then felt like such a jerk about it, when I realized that the boss actually took the flight.

      This is why I book all my own travel, tbh. Not because I’m worried my assistant will do it wrong, but because I had a temp job for a month or so which included booking crazy complex travel for the owner of the company, and it was incredibly stressful. OP, you’ll move past this but ugh this sucks hard now.

    3. Aveline*

      We need to please stop presuming they should have known. It is not at all uncommon for executives to travel without knowing the destination or agenda.

      DH used to show up at the airport, be handed tix, and head off. He often had no idea where he was headed until he got to the airport.

      The higher up you are, the less likely you are to know the details.

      We are also presuming these two people weren’t sent on the orders of some third party who could have told both minimal details.

      We have no evidence one way or the other as to whether they should have known.

  31. FDCA In Canada*

    I have personally, with my very own eyes, seen a couple in total meltdown mode at the London, Ontario airport–having landed there when they had intended to fly to London, England (I think they were coming from out west somewhere). I am an enormous people-watcher, and these people were very loudly declaring that their travel agent in Saskatoon or wherever had booked them the tickets and they hadn’t been aware of the mistake and they needed to get to London forthwith. You would think they would have figured it out on leaving from the domestic wing of the terminal, or maybe on getting on board the flight that says a zillion times “London, Ontario,” but regardless of when they figured it out, the problem remained–they were stuck somewhere they really did not want to be, having left their travel arrangements in the hands of another and poorly-communicated.

    So the fact remains: is the fact that it was a mistake enough to mitigate the response? In some cases, yes–honest mistakes happen, and sometimes big ones. But this one is so large, expensive, and may have come with serious injury to client relations, that I don’t think the “mistake” part of it can salve anything. Time to move on and focus on a new job rather than try to scrabble this one back.

    1. Anonygoose*

      Darn Canada and our place names stolen directly from Europe… Southwestern Ontario is particularly bad.

      London, Paris, Windsor, Oxford, Perth, Waterloo, Vienna, Copenhagen… the list goes on (and on, and on).

      1. Admin Assistant*

        Kentucky (where my in-laws live) is also pretty bad about borrowing European names. I can vouch for the fact that Versailles, KY (maddeningly pronounced VUR-sails) is not quite as spectacular as Versailles, France.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            We have a town called Limon in Colorado. From the Spanish. Lee-MOHN. Know how it’s pronounced around here? LYE-mon.

            Aaaand let the twitching commence.

            1. Victoria, Please*

              My grandmother was born there!

              And I used to live near Ver-sales, Kentucky. It always made me cringe.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            That’s how North Versailles in the Pittsburgh metro area is pronounced :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I can beat that. In Arkansas, there is a small place called Toad Suck. There is some dispute about the name, but some people think it came from the corruption of a French term, something like “Tote d’sac” or something similar.

          Can you imagine being from there and having to answer the question, “Where are you from originally?”

          1. The Not Mad But Sometimes Irritable Scientist*

            Yes, I can, and my answer would be “Little Rock.”

        2. Erica B*

          ugh. try living in new England. it’s not all just beaches and maple syrup over here.

          In Mass. most of our towns are named after British towns, but we also have a Florida and a Peru! also beinga native New Englander when folks say “Portland” my default presumption is ‘Maine’ not ‘Oregon’, even though most folks outside of our region mean Oregon and not Maine.

        3. Zathras*

          I know we’re straying OT here but my favorite is Calais, ME – which is pronounced “callous.”

    2. PollyQ*

      There’s also an Ontario in southern California, so also Ontario CA. I assume people mix this up with the Canadian Ontario All. the. Time.

      1. zora*

        Oh yeah, forgot about that one! I was within 10 seconds of booking someone into Ontario Canada, when they were supposed to be flying to Ontario, California. Was going too quickly and it took me a minute to realize I was looking at the wrong city.

        For the London story above, I wonder if the passengers saw the “London, Ontario” sign and thought it meant “London via Ontario”? Or something like that?

        Anyway, so many stories.. they are all going to give me huge anxiety when I go to the airport for my flight next week haha!!

  32. animaniactoo*

    OP, if I’m looking at this from the perspective of your boss, here are my red flags that the issue was one of more than “made a single mistake”:

    • Flight prices and travel time. There is likely a significant difference in both of these for flying to the U.S. And flying to Italy. That you either aren’t aware enough to know what that difference is, or didn’t catch it at that stage is an issue.

    • Hotel selection. Generally, conferences have a hotel or selection of hotels where they have arranged rates. But even if you go outside of those for a better quality hotel, it’s still about location, location, location, and needing some proximity to the conference. So it would be just about impossible to make this mistake *unless* you weren’t checking the location of the hotel against the location of conference and determining how close they were to each other and what travel arrangements would be needed for going back and forth and how much more or less it would cost as part of whether this nicer hotel or that nicer hotel that both have the right amenities would be better.

    Doing that is a key aspect for making these kinds of arrangements, so the idea that you essentially just skipped it when selecting the hotel is bigger than “selected a hotel in the wrong city”.


    Given those red flags, my tendency would be to believe that your handling of all of this is somewhat cavalier and you’ve been lucky up until now not to have had an issue before. Or there were slight issues, but I didn’t really think they were your fault rather than standard inconvenience and now I have to rethink that given this.

    Probability as your boss, I would want to have a sit-down with you and go through how you handle such arrangements. But… it’s also possible that I might feel that this is the kind of stuff you should *know* in your position and if you don’t know it, I can’t risk what else you don’t know or don’t care enough about to be buttoned up in making sure it happens.

    Before you go talk to your boss, take a harder look at how you handled all of this. Because if it really was that off, I would still weigh your chances as slim, but they’ll be a smidgen better if you can demonstrate that you recognize that the mistake came not from a moment of inattention rather than your approach to handling these kinds of arrangements.

    1. Myrin*

      Yes, I really think that’s the crux of the whole matter.

      “A single mistake” would be something like having to book a reservation at Albergo della chiesa in Naples and instead booking rooms at Albergo della chiusa in Naples. Not ideal and should have been double-checked regardless but I can’t imagine OP would have been fired for a mistake like this.

      But this whole situation consisted of multiple mistakes that could have been discovered at several instances and took a good amount of not-doing-your-due-diligence to actually happen. I am reminded of the OP in one of the linked letters who attended a conference she was told she couldn’t go to – she took multiple unauthorised steps of which a single one would already have been questionable but coming togehter, there was just no way at all to just attribute the behaviour to a momentary lapse in judgment. It’s basically the same thing here; questioning the OP’s attention to detail is a reasonable thing for for the boss to do in such a situation (not to mention that she was probably extremely stressed out, annoyed, maybe even panicked right when it happened).

      I agree with others that a fresh start at another organisation is certainly the way to go. I’m so sorry for this conundrum and wish you all the best for the future!

  33. City of Lights*

    We just opened an office an Paris, KY. I look forward to getting mistakenly sent to Paris, France. Hopefully not Paris, TX.

      1. Elizabeth S.*

        Hey! We’ve got an Eiffel Tower with a red cowboy hat on it. What more do you want?

          1. Nerdling*

            Eh, depending on the kind of business, that might just be part of the work day. ;)

            Signed, someone who has visited that area many, many times.

    1. Rocket Roy*

      There is a Paris, OH too – it is about 4 blocks long – don’t blink or you will miss it

    2. knitting fiend*

      Paris, Maine, doesn’t have an airport ~ but the neighboring Oxford and nearby Naples do {although no commercial flights are scheduled to them}.

      1. Badmin*

        Hey, I don’t think it’s fair to kick when they are down. I fear making a mistake every time I book travel for my boss and it’s somewhat easy to do especially if you are racing against a timer from a travel website to make sure your boss gets where they need to be.

        1. Squeeble*

          Agreed. OP seems to be fully aware of how big a mistake this is–no need for us to keep reminding them.

  34. cocobean1109*

    So wait, if you booked the hotel, wouldn’t you have checked where the hotel was in reference to the location of the conference? I mean, when I book travel to a conference I try and make it closer to the event itself, so if you looked at the event address, you would have known that they weren’t even in the same country.

    Either something is fishy about this letter, or the OP blew through so many red flags in the booking that I would have fired him too.

  35. EA*

    On the plus side, Naples, Italy is likely to be a much more interesting city than Naples, Florida.

    1. LBK*

      Ha, I was thinking the same thing – missing the conference aside, I don’t think I’d be too upset at the upgrade in locale.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      I’ve been to Naples once. The beach there is lovely. I got sunburned in about 15 minutes in February prior to a beach wedding for a friend. The water is very clear. Clear enough to see the things in said water that might like to eat you. (Please ignore my irrational JAWS fear.)

  36. EA*

    This is my worst nightmare as an executive assistant. Travel STILL makes me nervous.

    As far as it being fake. A woman at a former job sent people to Sweden instead of Switzerland. It was caught before they left, but the tickets were non-refundable.

    1. Princess Carolyn*

      I get Sweden and Switzerland mixed up pretty often, tbh, but it seems like the city/airport would give this one away. Did the person not need to be in a specific part of Switzerland?

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I’m guessing this would happen when they mishear/read their instructions. So boss shoots you a note saying “book me a flight to our office in Switzerland”, your brain thinks “Sweden”, and you’re off to the races.

      2. Anonygoose*

        One of the people I support once told me she needed a flight to “Switzerland, or Sweden or one of those countries in that part of Europe. Denmark is kind of close too, check there”. She had to be there and back within three days!!!! I mean, I know that Europe’s small and easy to get around, but I had to explain to her that she couldn’t just fly into Switzerland and then just be in Sweden (by train) for a lecture two hours later. She genuinely thought they were basically all the same place.

    2. CA Admin*

      As an EA who does a lot of travel, this is nightmare fodder for me too. I can totally see someone doing this, if the executive gave super vague directions (“book me flights and hotels for a conference in Naples on x dates”) without details on which Naples it is or what the conference name is. That said, it’s a pretty big miss because one of the jobs of an EA is to anticipate issues and critically think about the directions you’re given and not just follow blindly. In the case above, you needed to proactively ask/find out the conference info, so you could verify location and make sure that what you were booking worked for the conference itinerary.

      The OP is not getting her job back. Something that often happens with EAs is that when the boss gets embarrassed, we’re usually the sacrificial lamb to placate him or whichever outsider is making the stink. It sucks, but it’s a reality of the job. Oftentimes it just means a scolding, but since this executive works at your firm, your boss couldn’t exactly say “absolutely”, then ignore the directive and give you a stern warning. It’s probably the shittiest part of the job–even when we’re right, we’re the most common scapegoat (or at least, the least impactful for the team).

      1. EA*

        I agree.

        I didn’t want to pile on, and I don’t if the OP is an EA or if he just made travel reservations once. But you really, really need to call and check the conference website before booking anything. I try and verify as much stuff as my boss says as possibly. I think that and the hotel issue is pretty bad. I also don’t know how experienced the OP is. A lot of EA stuff is not intuitive (at least not to me). You are really expected to be there to catch your exec when they fall, find problems before they exist, etc. It took some work and experience to get where I am now.

        Scapegoating is a thing to. Sometimes I feel like I just have to take everyone’s bad mood. Last Friday I was told my pants were not appropriate (they were) (and I’ve been here for 1.5 years wearing them probably 2x a month) because my director is stressed about selling her house and needs to take it out on someone.

        1. emma2*

          I was wondering if booking travel was actually a part of his job or if he was just stuck with that task being a lower-level employee. I’ve never done stuff like this, so if my boss stuck me with booking travel, I could easily see myself making mistakes because I wouldn’t really know what I’m doing. However, if his career is administrative work, I would expect more competence.

    3. Yorick*

      This doesn’t make sense. You can’t book a flight to “Sweden” or “Switzerland” or “Canada” or “USA.”

      1. Honeybee*

        Well, it depends on how it was done. Imagine a large multinational company and a boss who says “Book me a flight to our office in Switzerland.” The EA thinks “Sweden,” and runs off to book a flight to the office in Stockholm instead of the office in Zurich.

    4. zora*

      Another EA here! I’ll give you 1:1 odds that I actually have this nightmare tonight. So nerve-wracking!!!!

    5. chomps*

      Ha! When I studied abroad in Sweden, some people were curious about why I wanted to go there and they would jokingly ask if I’d meant to go to Switzerland.

  37. Quaggaquagga*

    I know the letter is not written this way, but I wonder if everyone involved assumed the conference was in Naples, Italy, and the bosses only realized their error once they landed and tried to locate the conference venue?! If I were a cranky exec who couldn’t admit to screwing up, I might not admit my mistake to those around me and try to pin it on the person who booked the flights and accommodations.

    1. Boo*

      I was thinking the exact same thing.

      OP, I’m so sorry. I book travel and this is my absolute nightmare, I can totally see it happening.

      I don’t think you’ll live it down there tbh, let alone earn back your boss’s trust. I’d suggest using the upcoming addition to your family to take some time out, and cite that as a reason for the employment gap on your CV when you get interviews.

      Good luck!

    2. Kopper*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. Especially if someone else had booked the meetings for the executives, they may have all just thought it was a conference in Naples, not realizing the Florida part.

    3. Aveline*

      It could also be some third party said to both the execs and the OP “book travel to Naples”.

      It could be no one in it knew.

      However, I read OPs letter to mean he knew it should have been Florida, but didn’t see he was booking Italy. I hope he writes in and clarifies.

      1. Myrin*

        He did clarify right in the letter, though: “I should have been more careful when I was booking the flights and should have paid more attention when the list of hotels came up.” That sentence only makes sense if he actually knew the execs were supposed to be in Florida, because if he had honestly thought they were to go to Italy, paying more attention to the flights and hotels wouldn’t have helped him in any way.

  38. AMT*

    There really needs to be a Worst Boss-style award for submissions like this. Like, say…Person We Feel Most Terrible For? Worst Luck of the Year? Person Who Should Just Go Ahead and Buy an Entire Shop-Rite Birthday Cake to Eat While Sobbing?

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      My vote: “Person Who Should Just Go Ahead and Buy an Entire Shop-Rite Birthday Cake to Eat While Sobbing?”

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Amen. I’m kind of gobsmacked at the chain of events that must have led to this error, but I also feel incredibly bad for the OP.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          And, as someone who has chiefed an entire cherry pie while crying on a particularly awful day, that award title just speaks to me.

    2. Carmen Sandiego JD*

      …”Person who most deserves a bouquet of painfully-adorable kittens…”
      …”Annual Unicorn Poop Award”
      (random ideas)

  39. AlwhoisthatAl*

    caryatis is right, that’s how you will be treated OP. It’ll become the office joke and you’ll never hear the last of it. Hunt for a job elsewhere. To be honest it was a daft mistake, but the fact that the manager’s never noticed they were going to Naples, Italy… I think they need to take responsibility for that one. That’s why you were fired in my opinion because they felt so stupid themselves.
    And I would freely admit the mistake if anyone asks me because it was just one genuine mistake and I think another company would accept that…. and if it was me I’d find it funny that the managers actually went there especially as every single flight I’ve been on going to a non-English speaking country duplicates the announcements in that country’s language. Also they would have had the full safety demonstration complete with life jackets because they were flying over water…. in Italian as well as English.

  40. Doodle*

    I did something similar once — booked a set of flights for x:00AM instead of x:00PM — sending the group home before the main event that day. It was a costly mistake, and I had to eat a lot of crow at work, but it’s definitely something you only do once, and I’m near positive that the logistics-related anxiety it inspired has saved me from making other mistakes in the future. Best of luck in the job search!

    Other versions of this I’ve heard about:
    – booking flights the “opposite” way (say LAS-NYC instead of NYC-LAS) — my mother has done this,
    – booking out of the “wrong” airport when there are two options (apparently people arrive at O’Hare all the time with flights out of Midway).

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I was returning from a business trip once with a colleague who had accidentally booked her return flight for 4 months from that date (it was April, her return was in August). At least she booked it herself and there was no question of blame. But anyway, yes, stuff definitely happens– however, there are levels of “stuff” that I can understand. Forgetting to book a rental car (my own worst offense). Booking into LGA and out of JFK and not noticing (or reminding whoever is traveling). Booking the Westin when someone wanted the Wyndham. Booking the wrong Marriott. To me, that’s annoying but definitely not a major deal (except the rental car, but it got resolved very quickly). Booking travel to the wrong country is much more of a Big Deal, and I hope the OP focuses very carefully on logistics in her next position! Or, better yet, doesn’t have to deal with travel. I learned a lot about travel when I was the assistant to a man who traveled constantly, but I never want to do it again. Nor do I want someone else to be responsible for my travel arrangements!

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      I’ve also seen confusion between day-month and month-day, so booking flights for August 4th instead of April 8th or something.

    3. Tau*

      I totally booked my flight home the wrong way once. I thankfully caught it two weeks before I was due to fly, but I could easily have turned up at the airport the day of and wondered why they wouldn’t let me on the plane.

    4. AMPG*

      I booked a flight home the opposite way once – luckily I had the itinerary sent to my mom, who happened to be online and caught it immediately, and Southwest was always pretty cool about making changes.

    5. Beancounter Eric*

      Reason to use a 24 hour clock – wish more reservation websites allowed for it. That and UTC (Universal time)….makes it much easier when spanning multiple time zones, days, etc.

      This from the weirdo with a G-Shock on each arm showing a different time zone (one displays local and UTC at all times).

      Back to topic – at the expense of piling on, OP, begging for forgivness will probably do nothing but refresh the bad memory, and splash gasoline on the already flaming bridge. Start your job search, give things some time to blow over, THEN make contact to discuss references.

    6. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      I’ve made two similar errors: 1) showed up at LGA when my flight was out of JFK; 2) booked Thanksgiving flights a week early (and was so proud of myself for finding such cheap tickets). Fortunately, this was just personal travel, but I can definitely see this scenario happening.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Every single time I fly in or out of NYC, DC, or Chicago, I obsessively check my ticket to make sure I’m going to the right airport. It is so easy to get that wrong.

        1. Honeybee*

          Yeah, one time I didn’t realized I was booked out of EWR until about a week before my flight.

    7. Anon attorney*

      My late husband once misread the flight number as the departure time (think BA1430) and missed his flight to see me when we were long distance :(

  41. Employment Lawyer*

    Yeah, sorry but I would have fired you too. And it’s probably best not to work there; you’ll probably never regain your credibility with anyone.

    I don’t actually agree that it’s an “easy mistake to make.” The weather is different; the locations are different; the hotel names and restaurant names are different; every address for a hotel will show the country name…. I think you messed up.

    1. emma2*

      It sounds like the OP thought the Naples they were going to WAS Italy, not Florida, so none of that would seem weird to him. Not that he saw all the Italian names and didn’t realize it wasn’t Florida. At least that’s what I’m interpreting.

      1. Myrin*

        He says himself that “I should have been more careful when I was booking the flights and should have paid more attention when the list of hotels came up.” which means he knew the execs were supposed to go to Florida because otherwise paying more attention to the hotels couldn’t have prevented this error.

  42. Tulips*

    I can see how you could mess up the flight booking (I once booked a flight backwards e.g. NY to DC instead of DC to NY and didn’t notice until I went to check in at the airport) but the hotels too makes this a somewhat astonishing error. I could see how your boss would view that as more than just one lapse in attention.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      Just last month I booked a ticket for February 14 – 18th instead of March 14-18. Days of the week and dates lined up….I didn’t realize it until the gate agent called me on the 18th to let me know they were getting ready to close the boarding doors and wanted to see if I was going to make my flight. Imagine my surprise as I was sitting at my desk.

      Great customer service, though!

  43. WS*

    Oof. While I agree with commenters that your boss probably should’ve been able to realize they were going to Italy instead of the US… honestly, I could see myself very easily ending up in the wrong country if someone else made the travel arrangements for me and I assumed they were correct. It would be very easy to think, “No I misheard that announcement, LW *obviously* wouldn’t have sent us to Italy…” until you get off the plane and realize that something was wrong. (Especially if your boss doesn’t fly or doesn’t fly internationally very often, they might have been unfamiliar with the entire process and just assumed everything was as it should be until it was obvious that it wasn’t.)

    Unfortunately I think that means you’re probably not likely to get your job back. Yes, your boss probably should have paid more attention to their travel but if they had absolute faith that the arrangements were correct then this isn’t just a matter of lost money/lost clients/bad PR for the company, it’s a huge violation of that trust that your boss had in you. I don’t think that’s going to be recovered and I’m truly sorry about that, because this does sound like it was a one-off terrible mistake.

    1. Tomato Frog*

      Right! I could imagine myself doing what the boss did, too (though I would be extremely embarrassed, of course). The comments all find this situation incredible, but that is exactly why you would ignore the warning signs. It’s very easy to be alert to common mistakes, but when something seems very unlikely — like that one is booked for Italy instead of the United States — it’s much easier to dismiss the clues.

    2. Aveline*

      It’s also possible the bosses did not know where they were supposed to go, just that they were supposed to go.

      It’s not uncommon for executives to travel without knowing all the details. DH used to travel without knowing the destination till he got to the airport.

  44. JK*

    I once had a meeting in Bethlehem, PA with coworkers who were driving together.

    I got there on a few minutes early, and kept getting messages from my coworkers– they were running a little late, drive was taking longer than expected, etc etc.

    Finally, 20 minutes AFTER our meeting was supposed to start, coworkers realized that they had blindly followed directions on their iPhone to Bethel, PA, which required them driving for an hour and a half in what should have clearly been the wrong direction. Prior to the meeting, both had mentioned that they had been to Bethlehem (even to the very office we were meeting in!) many times, were very familiar with the area, etc.

    While not on the scale of driving to the wrong country, my point is: people can be astoundingly unobservant if they think someone else has arranged the details.

    1. Thumper*

      When I started reading your comment I was afraid you were going to say they’d been sent to the original Bethlehem.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        I hear lodging is hard to find there if you’re a traveler without reservations.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      You ever watch Parks and Rec? The episode where Tom had all of his devices taken away by court order and got lost on the way to work? Yeah.

    3. blackcat*

      This happens frequently when people intending to visit Wake Forest University (in Winston-Salem, NC) end up booking hotels in Wake Forest, NC, about 90 miles away. My coworker booked a flight into Greenville, NC for a conference in Greenville, SC, and those are something like 300 miles apart–one is far east and one is far west.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Poor coworker. I would much rather accidentally end up in Greenville, SC than in Greenville, NC. MUCH RATHER.

        1. blackcat*

          You know, now that I think of it, it might have actually been the other way around (Greenville, SC instead of Greenville, NC). But apparently that particular one happens all the time.

      2. Evan Þ*

        A little context for people unfamiliar with North Carolinian history: Wake Forest University originally was in Wake Forest, NC; it moved to Winston-Salem in the 1950’s for financial reasons and sold its old campus to Southeastern Baptist Seminary. I haven’t been to the new campus, but I’ve been to the old one, which is very beautiful.

        And now I’m wondering if any of those prospective students decided to check out the seminary instead…

      3. Marillenbaum*

        Oh my God, THIS! I used to work at that university, and we would get so many calls from people saying “I’m on your campus, but I can’t find Teapots Hall!” and I would have to ask what exit they’d taken. Once they told me, I’d have to explain that they were on the old campus (now a Baptist seminary), and that they’d need to get back on the highway and drive for another two hours!

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Thank you for posting this, and the various follow-ups. Yes, it is possible to assume things are going smoothly up until you are in the completely wrong spot. Even if perfect triple-checking of everything at each stage would have prevented it.

  45. Katy*

    April Fools? Are there direct flights from any Canadian city to Naples? Is there an airport in Naples FL?

    1. Morning Glory*

      There is an airport in Naples FL, and since there are direct U.S. flights to Europe, I don’t believe a direct Canada flight to Italy is so crazy.

      1. Katy*

        I’m sure there might be direct flights from, say, Toronto to Rome, seasonally. I’m in Boston and there are such flights. But to a smaller city like Naples? Also, if the OPs boss’s first language is French, I imagine they’d be well-served at any Canadian airport where the signage is generally bilingual. Even a code share flight would have you changing planes in a big European hub, like Frankfurt, Paris or Amsterdam.

        1. Morning Glory*

          I mean, I’m not going to spend my time researching it, but I don’t see why it would be crazy, if the OP’s original airport is a hub in Canada.

          I’m not sure if you’ve ever coordinated international travel as a regular part of your job, but I do, and mistakes can happen.

          People aren’t their best selves all the time. Overworked or distracted assistants don’t catch travel agent errors. Executives rely heavily on printed itineraries from assistants; they double-check by flight number instead of by country. Two colleagues travelling together are often engaged in conversation at the gate. Or they are on a conference call until the very second they need to hop off to board their flight. For all we know, they realized as soon as the plane took off – but it was too late at that point. Or they took a sleeping pill to avoid jet lag. Or they do what execs at my org do and were glued to their laptops working the entire flight.

          I’m not saying it’s 100%, without a doubt true, but why choose to be suspicious about this letter and not other unusual letters on this site?

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      There’s direct flights from Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver to a variety of cities in Italy. Naples has no direct flights from North America, but you can get there with a codeshare flight on a European airline.

      1. LVeen*

        I live in Ottawa and I wish we had direct flights to “a variety of cities in Italy”! The only direct flights from here to Europe are to London and Frankfurt, and the Frankfurt one is seasonal.

    3. Murphy*

      Even if there aren’t direct flights/isn’t an airport, you wouldn’t know that until you went to book the flight. I had no idea about Naples, FL’s airport status until today.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        And if you were trying to book for Naples, having no idea that it’s a tiny airport, you might go, “Wait, Ft. Myers? That’s not right, they’re going to Naples!” and try again.

    4. LoiraSafada*

      I wondered the same, since isn’t there a commercial currently running for some travel site where the guy thinks he’s going to Naples, Italy and ends up in Naples, Florida? (Or maybe it was Athens Greece/Athens GA). Either way…

  46. Jeannalola*

    This seems very odd to me. I travel all the time for business, and they always make an announcement where the plane is going, and to deplane if you don’t want to go there. I’m not Canadian, but don’t you get travel docs, and maybe a visa (maybe not, due to EU.). The board at the gate states where you are going. Where were the travelers heads at!?!?!?

    1. LoiraSafada*

      Agreed. This is too egregious of an error on the ground for OP to be fully at fault here.

    2. Artemesia*

      I fly all the time and have heard this kind of announcement maybe a handful of times in 45 years. It is not standard. I flew three times last week and none of the flights made such an announcement.

  47. Jessica*

    Maybe the conversation went something like:

    “Hey, we need a flight and hotel for 2 people to go to Naples for a conference.”
    “Okay, do you want me to look for one close to where the conference is held?”
    “Nah, we’ll just take a cab if we need to.”

    That’s about the only conceivable way I could see this happening. Otherwise, yeah–just the question of finding a hotel near the conference location would have revealed the discrepancy. Hopefully everyone involved has learned to do their due diligence before booking travel now.

    1. Morning Glory*

      “We’re landing late/flying out early so book a hotel as close to the airport as possible.”
      “The conference is going to be held at Big Chain Name, there’s only one in the city”
      “The conference is going to be held at Local Florida Hotel, but I’m a platinum member of Big Hotel Chain so book me there instead so I can get the points.”
      “We’re on a tight budget so do a search by price and keep it under $200 CAD, even if it’s inconvenient”

      I have had a exec say each of the above to me when I’ve arranged their travel. If I’d just passed the note along to a travel agent with a request for a flight to Naples, they would book according to the directions and send an itinerary back – that’s where the OP *should* have reviewed for errors before forwarding to the exec, but likely did not, or else only skimmed to confirm flight times, etc.

  48. Disa*

    I agree that this is yet another post that sounds made up and/or too clickbait-y. There have been several lately and it’s affecting the site’s credibility, because even if this really happened it’s a bit ridiculous. Alison, please don’t make AAM a caricature of itself.

    1. Leatherwings*

      This just isn’t a constructive or useful thing to speculate on at this point. Other people have expressed the same sentiment and Alison has expressly asked that we don’t engage in this kind of thing here. It’s enough.

      1. Heather*

        Plus, given the number of exec assistants & admins who have posted that this kind of thing is their worst nightmare, I think the “made up” theory has been thoroughly disproven.

  49. Leatherwings*

    I book a lot of travel and have very narrowly avoided some disastrous mistakes before so I can definitely see how this could’ve happened. Last year I nearly booked a ticket in my name instead of the CEOs and a coworker told me about how she booked a red eye at 12am instead of a 12pm flight. Nobody ever noticed and the manager showed up at the airport twelve hours late. She didn’t get fired, but people have double checked her work vigorously ever since. Good luck with the job search, OP it’ll be okay!

    1. Morning Glory*

      Same here – booking travel regularly over the years has led to a few near-misses, and one $200 change fee for an error I luckily caught in advance, where a ticket was booked for JUN instead of JAN.

      Combine that with 2 travelers who are not native English speakers, where both flights were international, this is something I could easily see happening.

    2. yasmara*

      Airlines don’t do this anymore, though. Flights are pretty much always at 11:59 p.m. for exactly this reason.

      1. Leatherwings*

        Yes, it was around that general time. The red eye was something like 12:03am and they thought it was 12:03pm.
        Not sure what your point is, but my story is real.

        1. Natalie*

          I think you two are talking about two different ways to get confused – you’re co-worker mixed up am and pm, which could really happen with any time when using 12-hour clock.

          Avoiding midnight as a start time seems to be because it’s unclear what date is being referenced – is 12:00:00pm 04/01/16 Friday night/Saturday morning or Saturday night/Sunday morning?

          1. Leatherwings*

            Yes, you’re correct. My coworker accidentally booked a red eye because the manager had told her to book something around noon. Coworker saw the red eye as the cheapest flight and just booked it without noticing that they had mixed up the am and pm flight.

            1. Artemesia*

              I did something like this just last week and only caught it when I couldn’t check in 24 hours ahead (because it was 36 hours ahead) which gave me time to rebook — although it will be costly us about 400 bucks.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I guess that’s why trains and such use 24-hour time. I had to teach it to myself prior to my 2014 trip, as I was booking a lot of train travel in the UK and all the timetables were in 24-hour format. I changed the clocks in my computers and the one in my car so I’d get used to it. They’re still like that, which confuses folks when they ride with me, haha.

            I can easily see someone making this mistake if it’s 12-hour time.

            1. vpc*

              I’ve used a 24-hour clock for years — comes from working with a lot of people internationally, where we base everything off Greenwich mean time anyway! “The conference call starts at GMT 14:30” means I don’t have to explain “yes, the time difference was five hours last month and it’s six hours this month and in another four months it’ll switch back to five again.” Each individual is responsible for figuring out their own local time for the meeting from that reference point, which is great, because half the time I don’t even know what time zone some of my people are in — Africa’s a pretty big continent with a lot of zones…

      2. Allison*

        Yup. The movie theater I go to a lot has a lot of midnight movies (mostly horror films, screenings of The Room, weird stuff from the 80’s and 90’s, etc.), but even though it’s called the “After Midnite” series, all the movies are scheduled to start at 11:59PM so there’s no confusion over which night it is.

        Although I once got in trouble with work when I was in college, I was doing overnight security shifts and they switched to a new schedule system, and suddenly it was unclear whether my shifts were listed on the dates they started or the dates they finished, and I missed a shift because of it.

        1. Oryx*

          I can sympathize: I worked overnight shifts at one of our dorm’s front desks and showed up 24 hours early for my first shift because of how it was phrased.

          What made it worse was I had picked that shift thinking it wouldn’t matter if I got off at 4 am because my first class that day was around lunch time. But I ended up working until 4 am and then having a 9 am class. So that was a fun semester.

        2. Drew*

          I was working the night desk at a hotel during school and had a family – a LARGE family – come in a day early for their booking. The central booking agent heard “we’re coming in at 1:30 Saturday morning” and assumed they meant Saturday night/Sunday morning.

          They did not.

          I had no rooms. I ended up calling hotels within a 50-mile radius to try to fix this problem that wasn’t of my making, with cranky toddlers and semi-coherent Grandma making it a fun time for everyone. It took me almost half an hour just to convince them that we got bookings from the central reservation number through the computer, not a phone line transfer directly to our desk.

          I quit that job shortly thereafter.

    3. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Yeah, all of the comments saying that this seems highly implausible are missing the point. Like the one-in-a-million chance, highly implausible things happen every day.

  50. Vicky*

    I didn’t read all the comments so not sure if this was addressed but – I don’t understand how your boss didn’t realize they were flying across the Atlantic until they landed.

    1. Dot Warner*

      My guess is that boss either took a sleep aid right after takeoff and slept for the entire flight, or s/he did realize prior to landing but couldn’t do anything about it until after the plane landed.

  51. TwinCitiesHR*

    Wow! I agree with everyone to cut your losses and focus your attention on new employment. Mistakes happen but would you really want to go back to that place with this incident hanging over your head?

    However, this reminds of something similar that happened last year at my former company. A client was suppose to meet us at a hotel in Bloomington,MN and their assistant booked them to Bloomington, IL. The client didn’t even realize where the were until they were in their rental. Whoops.

  52. La Revancha del Tango*

    How did the boss not realize he was going to Italy vs Florida when he 1) looked at his boarding pass 2) was at the airport and went through security and 3) arrived at the terminal saying the plane was going to Italy!?

  53. anon in the uk*

    Well, I have a friend who was supposed to go to Genoa for a conference, knew the Italian name was Genova, and booked himself to Geneva. But the airline agreed that was an easy mistake to make.

  54. hbc*

    For those wondering about the execs not noticing, I’m guessing they do a lot of travel and were on complete autopilot (no pun intended). Check in prompt=yes, flying tomorrow (if they even check themselves in.) Go to gate and haven’t gotten notifications of gate change = at right gate. Boarding process = bury face in smart phone until butt in seat and then put on noise-cancelling headphones to avoid all airplane noise, including announcements.

    Given that level of assumption that things would just happen smoothly around them and the immediate response, I don’t think OP can get back in. Either it was a big enough mistake that it is really impossible to recover from at that company, or Boss fired out of embarrassment, which means s/he won’t be looking to compound the embarrassment and admit the firing was a mistake.

    OP, as disappointing as it is, I would focus your energies on trying to get the best reference possible.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        So….this is weird for me. Why do you go aut0-pilot? How can you bring yourself to be reacting automatically to unfamiliar surroundings, especially when so much is on the line? I just can’t imagine being that unplugged during travel.

        1. Adam V*

          For me, a big part of it is that pretty much as soon as you get to the airport, you’re not in control anymore. They take your bags, they run you through the lines, etc. I always pretty much I assume I did everything correctly ahead of time, so I can turn my brain off until I arrive at my destination and pick up my luggage.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            But….you are still in enough control to be a failsafe, and even if you did everything correctly ahead of time, no guarantee that they did. Maybe I’ve flown into and out of places like Kathmandu often enough that I just default to vigilance, but I’ve averted a couple of major screw-ups, and had some fun exploring airports and so on, with my brain turned on.

            But this does explain some friends and family’s epic travel FUBARs.

          2. Allison*

            I’m the type to be hypervigilant about details, and that’s probably why I get anxious even thinking about traveling. Being able to turn my brain off and just trust that everything is working the way it’s supposed to might be the only way I could enjoy traveling . . . but that doesn’t sound possible. Thanks, anxiety.

        2. hbc*

          The thing is…it’s not unfamiliar surroundings. You’re in an airport again, going to a kiosk to enter your credit card and confirm that yes, you’re flying today and no, you have no bags. You put whatever the security person tells you to put on the conveyor (which sometimes changes for no discernible reason), give the next security person in the little booth whatever they ask for and answer their questions (which range from 0 to 20) and you follow the signs to your gate. And of course, all airplanes look the same.

          To those who travel infrequently (or who’ve had a huge mistake recently), this is infused with lots of anxiety and double checking. But it’s human nature to assume that the thing that has gone swimmingly one hundred times before is going to work out this time.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            I travel internationally very frequently, including Europe, South America, and Asia. It’s not unfamiliarity or anxiety that leads me to pay basic attention and be present in the moment when I’m traveling internationally. And I’ve never had a huge mistake. Double checking and basic situational awareness is just kind of a thing I do, by default, whether I’m taking a road trip or an international flight.

            1. hbc*

              Fair enough. Some people by their nature check out more easily, and there are certain situations that make it more likely for your higher brain functions to basically shut off while you focus on the task at hand. For example, if they were sleep-deprived from prepping for a new product launch or something, they might not have had the extra brain cells to spare beyond “go where I’m told, wait for next instruction.”

              I tend to be a triple checker kind of person myself, but I bet the flight attendants could be juggling flaming bowling pins during the safety instructions and I wouldn’t have a clue.

        3. Natalie*

          Anything we experience repeatedly gets shuffled into the background noise of the brain; one of the primary ways our brain works is by noticing the exceptions rather than the minutiae of every single second.

          1. Natalie*

            Since you commented right above that you travel a lot, I should clarify – I’m just saying it’s not unusual or unexpected, not that it is universal.

        4. LawBee*

          An airport is an airport is an airport. I check in the day before, get to the airport about 30-45 minutes before boarding, zip through the TSA Pre-select, go to my gate, and get on the plane. They’re not unfamiliar surroundings, it’s just another airport, and they’re all the same really.

          When I started traveling for work, I was hyper-vigilant, was at the airport one to two hours early, obsessively checked everything. But I do it so much now that it gets as much attention as my daily commute. I’m a lot less stressed when I just trust that everything is correct and go with the flow.

          And having all those people around is really draining, so I am that person who never takes her noise-silencing headphones off.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            “They’re not unfamiliar surroundings, it’s just another airport, and they’re all the same really. ”

            Which is, I suspect, exactly how these bosses got on a plane for Italy without realizing it. Your assumption that they’re “all the same really” is just true enough to be reliable…until it isn’t.

            1. LawBee*

              True. Another point is that I’m generally flying through the same airports, and am usually using the same gates. I could probably get through BWI with my eyes closed at this point. I did pay more attention when I went to Greece on vacation, but generally – headphones on, autopilot engaged, long-distance “don’t talk to me” gaze in full effect.

        5. Marillenbaum*

          If you do a lot of business travel, it isn’t an unfamiliar environment, though. It’s an airport–exactly like all the other airports you’ve been in that week (although if you’re lucky, maybe this is the one with the good burrito place, or the one with the massage place at the terminal). Airports are weird, because they are in different places but functionally they resemble each other more than their location, and that can do weird things to your perception, assuming you aren’t jet-lagged, or still working at the gate, or making multiple trips in a day.

        6. Honeybee*

          It’s weird for me too. Getting on the wrong plane or making a costly error is a worry of mine, so I feel like I am always double-checking and triple-checking all the way through. I even listen to the announcements once I’m seated on the plane and buckling in just to make sure the city the flight attendants say is the one I’m supposed to be going to!

    1. Aveline*

      Or that they even knew the destination.

      It is not uncommon in executive travel to have no idea the agenda or even the destination.

      DH used to travel a lot and not know where he was going to until he got to the airport. This is particularly easy in the age of digital boarding passes and calendar items.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        And see…I can’t imagine doing this. It’s not anxiety or unfamiliarity, I just would want/need to know where I was going, what kind of restaurants/bars I could check out, where the airport was in relation to where I was staying, that kind of thing.

    2. Admin Assistant*

      I’m honestly surprised that more people don’t fly to the wrong destinations — all it takes is one misread of a boarding pass scanner, or a gate agent with their back turned, not noticing who just walked on the plane, and you could be going to Portland, ME instead of Portland, OR.

  55. boop the first*

    I’ve never been on a plane. Do tickets not say where they are going? Signage on the gate? announcements? That’s very scary. I thought the Greyhound was bad enough (never knowing which bus to board, every bus always super late… but at least they tell you where you’re going)!

    I don’t really buy the idea that learning english a bit later than someone else means they don’t know where Italy is.

    1. Natalie*

      Sure, but if they had assumed the conference is in Italy when they first heard about it, seeing the location on their tickets wouldn’t cause any alarm. It’s not going to say “Naples, Italy, not the home of the Teapot Conference 2017” or anything.

    2. Honeybee*

      Tickets, gate signage, and announcements all say the final destination, but sometimes announcements do not have states or countries attached to them because the attendants assume people know that. So a gate announcement might say “We are now boarding Flight 202 service to Naples” and not necessarily “Naples, Italy”. Tickets are more variable – I’ve seen some with the airport code, some with just the city and some with city and state.

  56. I used to be Murphy*

    OP, this sucks. I’m sorry.

    You mention that you’re about to be a father soon and can’t afford to lose your income. One possibility you may want to look into while you job search is claiming federal EI parental leave benefits. That would at least get you some cash while you’re looking. It would shorten the length of time your wife can get her share of the EI benefits (so may be financially hard on the other end), but it’s not nothing. Just something to think about from a practical perspective.

  57. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    Wait wait wait. What if everybody involved thought it was Naples, Italy from the get-go? Boss, OP, everybody. Then they get to Italy, try to figure out where the venue and hotel is, and realize that it was actually Florida – say, when someone finally opened the emails they got but never read with the venue details?

    That involves a lot fewer oversights and seems a lot more plausible.

    1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

      That’s what I was thinking–until I reread the letter, and noticed the OP said this:

      “I should have been more careful when I was booking the flights and should have paid more attention when the list of hotels came up. It was completely my fault.”

      So it sounds like the OP knew the conference was in Florida.

    2. LoiraSafada*

      Seems plausible to me. I’d certainly be more pumped about a conference in Italy than Florida.

  58. Wrong-Way Corrigan*

    As the late Tom Magliozzi used to say, this is bo-o-o-o-o-o-o-gus.

    I could see someone booking a ticket to St. John’s, Newfoundland, when they meant Saint John, New Brunswick, or to Bloomington, Indiana, instead of Bloomington, Illinois, but even the dimmest of dimwit executives would realize they were boarding an overseas flight instead of one from Canada to Florida. I mean, c’mon.

    This letter is a hoax.

    1. LawBee*

      We don’t call hoax here. We take the letter writers at their word. Alison wouldn’t play a joke like that on us, and it’s a pretty dumb joke to play on her.

    2. Adam V*

      There was a story in Buzzfeed *this weekend* about a Dutch student who took what he thought was a cheap flight to Sydney, Australia, only to realize when it landed that it had taken him to Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. These things happen.

      1. Electric Hedgehog*

        Honestly, the student’s unfortunate screw-up just makes me feel like this is a copycat hoax situation.

        If it isn’t a hoax, I’d have fired the OP as well. There are just so many checkpoints that he would have had to breeze right past. Even if it was an honest mistake instead of negligence, I wouldn’t have had him book my travel ever again – which it sounds like is a pretty big chunk of his former job.

        OP, good luck finding something else soon. Parenting is hard enough without worrying about income.

    3. Admin Assistant*

      I think you vastly underestimate the stupid things that humans can do, and how oblivious humans can be. Never underestimate what you can do with your brain on autopilot.

    4. Emi.*

      Please don’t call letters hoaxes. Alison has said repeatedly that she doesn’t want us to do this–it’s rude and unkind, and it’s terrible for the people who wrote the letters. (If the letters are fake, it does … nothing, so why bother?)

  59. burnout no more*

    Concuring with everyone else here. What a doozy of a mistake. I’d have fired you, too. Sorry.

    Your best bet is to hit the ground running and find another position. I wouldn’t want to go back there, mainly b/c I would not want to work for a boss who can’t figure out where they are flying to when they see their boarding pass, etc.

  60. LawBee*

    You know, I book my own travel for work, and I travel a lot, and often to the same places. And yet, two trips ago, I got off the plane at my layover, used the restroom, grabbed lunch, then tried to board my connection – and THEN I realized that I’d booked a flight with TWO stopovers instead of one.

    It can happen with flights. The hotel booking is what gives me pause, but I can see a tired stressed brain just making that leap.

    Oh, OP. A $25,000 mistake (or series of mistakes, really) is a lot. This job is gone forever, I think, but you’ll get another one. Hang in there, and try not to beat yourself up too much.

  61. Erin*

    As a new parent, I’m so sorry. What an incredibly stressful time for this to happen.

    Although it’s a long shot, I agree with Alison that you have nothing to lose by trying. I’m betting that your boss and the executive were hugely embarrassed, even with the English-as-a-second-language thing, that they too didn’t realize what was going on. Perhaps now they’ve had time to calm down about it and can see it for the major but one-time mistake that it was.

    I’m concerned, though, about their walking you out like a perp in front of everyone. It would be very difficult to rehire someone, I’d assume, after doing that. What kind of a message would it send to the rest of the company? Hm.

    If you do reach out, and it doesn’t work, maybe you could then ask for a good reference given your trek record before this mistake.

    Ugh, I’m sorry I don’t have better advice, only sympathies. Please write back and give us an update. Best of luck to you.

  62. Allison*

    While I’ve been vaguely aware that some major cities share names with lesser-known cities in other countries, this thread has made me realize how easy it is to mix them up when booking travel! Yikes! If scheduling is your job, double checking details is important, but how much geographical information can one person have memorized? Most of us think Italy when we hear Naples, just like we think France when we hear Paris. Who made sure to clarify with LW that the flights were going to Florida? Who said, after they were booked “and the tickets are for Florida, right?”

    It might be helpful if travel booking websites clarified these cities for people. Some sort of alert or pop-up saying “Are you sure you mean Naples, Italy? There’s more than one Naples out there!” could make a huge difference, especially for travel coordinators who may develop tunnel vision when they’re swamped with work.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      I think you’re overrating how easy it is to make this mistake, and how many people it could potentially affect, and therefore how much energy the travel sites need to invest in making sure you’re going to the right airport. I’m willing to believe it’s possible, but rare.

      What I do believe is that OP and everyone else involved believed initially that the conference was in Italy and that nobody checked up on the details from the registration paperwork until too late.

    2. emma2*

      I don’t blame anyone for not knowing that there is a Naples in Florida if they have never been to Florida. I’ve never had to book flights for other people before, so I have no idea how this mistake could have happened. Did the execs just send a one-liner e-mail like “Hey, book us a flight to Naples”, or was the OP so absentminded that he didn’t notice the state name or what? It’s such a bizarre situation.

      The sad thing is, even if it was really the management’s fault, they are so humiliated that they are going to take it out on their assistant (which they did.)

  63. HisGirlFriday*

    FWIW, when I book travel for my job, I am required to book through National Association of Teapotians Spout Designers Institute website. I input my special Teapotians Spout Designers registration number (because I have to register first before I can book a hotel room), and it auto-populates the fields with my information, which then lets me book at any one of a half-dozen hotels that have room blocks. I don’t know which hotel I’m getting (lottery system) until after I go through the process. This process is entirely separate from booking my travel to the location, though.

    I’m not sure that’s what happened to OP — and that certainly doesn’t answer all the other questions about the mistaken travel — but I routinely have no idea which hotel I’m staying in until after I’ve booked it because that’s how the National Association of Teapotians works.

  64. memboard*

    I am with the others that don’t understand how execs can fly to Europe instead of the US and not notice. This is an expecially egregous error when you consider that to travel to the US you are precleared in Canada whereas flying to the EU involves non of that hassle. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_border_preclearance This is a rookie flying mistake on their part.

    I can’t emphasis this enough, Flying to the US vs. Europe is done from a completely different wing of the airport (in Montreal) if not an entirely different terminal (in Toronto). And going through the friendly US customs on your departure is enough of an event that it’s hard to miss even if you are a blazé sleepy traveler. It’s hard not to notice that difference.

    And there is the business of departure time. US bound flights are often morning or afternoon affairs where as EU trips are all evening departures (so you land in europe the next morning). Right there, the “wrong” time of day for the flight should have raised an eyebrow when they got the reservations!

    Trivia: People mentionned Sydney NS vs Sydney AUS, but I have also heard of:
    St-John NFLD vs. St-John NB
    but it’s funny I have never really heard about London Ont vs. London UK

    1. fposte*

      And probably none of those would have raised flags for me, especially if I hadn’t precleared from that airport for U.S. travel previously. I’m on autopilot and meds at that point.

    2. Canadian here*

      I have never flown before, or traveled outside of the country. I would have no idea about preclearence or what wing of the airport was the American one vs. the international one. If I had to fly, especially in a place where the language was not my first language, I could easily see myself making a mistake like this.

    3. Symplicite*

      Actually, FYI – I’ve flown internationally AND domestic within Canada from the same terminal at Pearson International Airport (in Toronto) (terminal 3), so the terminal is not always the best way to distinguish where you are flying. If the exec’s didn’t have Nexus cards and just used their passports, they might not have known the difference, either.

    4. Evan Þ*

      “…where as EU trips are all evening departures “

      Not all of them. I flew from the US to Britain via Toronto once, and my connection took off around 10 AM.

    1. Allison*

      Yup, I can see myself having this dream, and waking up by sitting up in bed with a sharp intake up breath.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I did, too! My co-workers had to ask me what was wrong, because I read the title and gasped.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            When I first started my first admin job, lo these many years ago, people would check and re-check my flight itineraries because my predecessor had once sent a guest instructor for the summer studio to the wrong airport in Mexico.

  65. PizzaDog*

    Sadly there was a huge financial link to your mistake, and I’d agree with the other commenters who advised to take this as a learning experience and focus on searching for new employment.

    Maybe it’s because I’m from Quebec as well, but unless they’re really not paying any attention, how did this even happen? The set up to fly to the US vs internationally to Europe, etc is completely different. They’d have noticed from the airport that they were going to the wrong place. You don’t mention the city, but isn’t all airport signage bilingual in Canada? Surely they noticed at check in that it was to a different country. Italy and Italie sound pretty different from Florida and Floride, any way you slice it.

  66. Viola Dace*

    I can sort of see making the initial error. But with the blizzard of confirmation emails one receives for travel, I simply cannot see how this wasn’t caught at that stage.

    1. NW Mossy*

      I often don’t give more than a passing glance to confirmations/automated emails of any kind. Between work and personal, I get a ton of them, and very very rarely do I ever need to even read them. It trains me not to pay attention to them because it’s so rare that there’s information in them that is relevant, which is one of the downsides of relying on them to point out issues in a process.

      1. LawBee*

        Same here. I check to make sure I get a confirm, but I usually don’t even open them – just send them straight to my admin. (And no, she doesn’t know my travel schedule until I tell her what it is, so she wouldn’t catch any mistakes.)

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        This. The more volume from everyone making sure that I am constantly updated, the less attention I can pay to any of it.

  67. NW Mossy*

    I’m with the other commenters who mentioned that a fresh start at a new organization is your best bet, OP. And while I’m sure it doesn’t feel like it now, in some ways, this is the sort of learning experience that can make you better than before. A falling-face-first failure tends to sear itself into one’s memory and you’re vastly less likely to make a similar sort of error in the future because of it.

    It might even be a helpful spin to put on the situation in an interview – you made an oversight, the implications were huge, and you’ve since put together a strong double-check/confirmation process to prevent mistakes. We’re all human and know how awful it feels to make a mistake that was both big and our own fault, but demonstrating maturity and a growth mindset in response helps turn the story from “I am a screw-up” to “Here’s a time where I screwed up.”

  68. Dizzy Steinway*

    I think they bear at least some responsibility for actually going there, language barrier or not.

    1. Artemesia*

      But this increases the odds of firing the admin — because the boss was stupid and careless too and looked that way to his own boss or C suite peer — making the boss look stupid even when s/he is stupid is the main firing offense for an assistant.

  69. Marisol*

    I am not sure the OP has any real chance of getting his job back. However, I will give this piece of advice: in your negotiations, OP, you must *agree* that the powers that be made the right choice in firing you, by saying something like, “I would have done the same thing in your shoes.” From there, you can articulate the value you brought to the company prior to making that mistake, the likelihood that the mistake was a one-off, why your employer is better off hiring you back, etc.

    If you frame their firing as something they shouldn’t have done, they will want to defend that choice, and it will reinforce the idea in their mind that they are better off without you. So you must show that you see their side and that you agree that their reasoning is valid. Don’t push against it. As far as you’re concerned, they made the right choice, and now you’re going to demonstrate why bringing you back is also the right choice.

  70. JennyFair*

    I went to college with a woman from another country who thought she’d applied to a college in Washington, D.C. but had in fact applied to one in Washington State, and then had to spend an extremely disappointing year there, and I suspect reconsider her entire plan, since the area we were in had a much, much lower cost of living and tuition than D.C. Enough folks native to the US have assumed I mean D.C. when I say “Washington” that it’s not surprising someone from elsewhere would make the same mistake, but I felt very bad for her.

  71. Noah*

    While Boss is certainly entitled to fire OP and it was a very big mistake, I think OP is letting Boss off the hook more than she deserves. I get that Boss’s (and C-level co-worker’s) first language is French, not English, but this is a pretty ridiculous mistake. Even assuming flights from Canada to the US are in the international terminal in whatever their airport is, a French-Canadian should speak enough English to have plenty of chances to identify this issue. If OP was really told that Boss didn’t realize she was going to the wrong airport till she got to Italy, then somebody is lying to OP or Boss is incredibly stupid given the difference in flight times. I suspect part of the real story here is that OP is being thrown under the bus to help minimizes Boss’s role in the mistake. That’s not going to help OP, it’s just an upsetting part of the situation.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      It’s upsetting, but I honestly feel like it won’t help the OP to get indignant or feel like they were wronged. They made a mistake, their bosses made a mistake, they got fired. Part of the role of a great assistant is making sure your boss doesn’t make embarrassing mistakes.

    2. Jane*

      Yes, the boss and exec should probably have noticed at some point that they were going to the wrong place but it’s possible they were just not focusing on that until some point after they boarded. I was on a plane once where the flight attendant announced the city and said something like “if that is not your destination, it is now” because they were not allowed to open the doors of the airplane after that point, so it didn’t matter if someone got on the wrong flight and just caught their mistake at that announcement, as it was already too late. I don’t know that the boss and exec can really be blamed for OP’s mistake unless they gave him wrong information (doesn’t sound like they did – but if so that would be a big piece of information to leave out of OP’s letter).

    3. memboard*

      Those french speakers would have flown out of french speaking Canadian airports. Language would not have been an issue at departure.

    4. Gilmore67*

      Yes I tend to agree. I can’t think of any way that the travelers had absolutely no clue they were on a flight across the Atlantic Ocean to Italy. And yes I think maybe they just wanted to throw the OP under the bus for them not seeing it before hand.

      If they have traveled before they should know the routine. Even the basics of getting your baggage tagged for stowing has a tag that shows the destination. You have to look at the monitors to see the terminal that shows destinations, the ground crew and aircraft crew are always talking…. ” flight for flight number for 1123 heading to…..” There had to have been, at some point, a clue that their flight was going to Italy.

      The fact that the OP was fired before they came back (?) tells me maybe they did not want the OP to say anything at all for his defense? Like… I messed up but how can you have not known you were going to Italy?

      Good luck OP….

  72. Menacia*

    Just for future consideration, there is also a Venice, FL. :) I have actually been to both Naples, FL and Naples, Italy, both are wonderful cities.

  73. Jane*

    The letter makes it sound like OP knew the conference was in Naples, FL but booked the wrong tickets anyway. Sure, if it had been one of the other scenarios mentioned in the comments (e.g., boss told him it was in “Naples” and didn’t give any additional information other than the dates), it could have been the boss’s fault for not being more specific. If the boss gave him incorrect or incomplete information, that would be the boss’s fault (and he may have still fired OP anyway, but that would be a much different scenario). But it sounds very much like it was a matter of OP being careless. Assuming that to be the case, this was a big enough mistake to warrant firing. I think the biggest thing OP needs to do is forgive himself. He’s a human being who made a mistake. A fair amount of money was lost and people may have been embarrassed at not noticing they were going to Italy vs. the U.S. (can’t underestimate the power of a bruised ego or the OP’s boss being embarrassed in front of a C-Suite exec) but it’s not like something tragic resulted. OP isn’t a doctor who screwed up in a surgery and killed a patient. Firing him may have been an overreaction, but what’s done is done. He needs to give himself a major break, be kind to himself, move forward and find a new job. OP, I agree with those who say your old job is probably a lost cause and would be an unpleasant place for you to work.

    1. Leatherwings*

      This is a valuable perspective! OP, mistakes happen everyday with varying degrees of seriousness. This one will set you back, but it’s not going to ruin your life forever and allow yourself to move forward. You don’t have to kick yourself forever because of this.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      Thank you for a sensible and compassionate response. When you make a mistake at work, at can feel like the end of the world–I once biffed up a booking for myself that cost $700 to fix and I wanted the ground to swallow me whole! But at the end of the day, the company survives. You will also survive, OP. With time and some solid cover letters, you’ll find a new job, one where you won’t have to be known as “that guy who sent the execs to Italy”–you’ll be “the guy with the great client base” or “the one who knows all about X software” or “the one who does excellent teapot inspection reports”, which is a much better position to be in. But for now, be as kind to yourself as you can–take a few days, get ready for that baby (!), and dust off your resume. You got this!

  74. The Rat-Catcher*

    First of all, let me say that I can easily see myself in your shoes, OP, and that is horrifying. I have nothing but sympathy for you, especially with a baby on the way (and I know, I know that parents shouldn’t get special treatment in the workforce, but this is still awful timing when you’re about to take on the financial supporting of another person).
    That said, while this was a huge mistake, I’m not really sure why it was a fire-the-day-of mistake? OP didn’t compromise secure information or commit a gross infraction like assault, and your post doesn’t make it sound like the day-of perp walkout is industry standard in this case. I understand maybe not giving you international travel, but would a couple of weeks of some of the more menial EA tasks have been such a burden for them for an otherwise good employee?

  75. MuseumChick*

    OP, I feel for you, I really do. I can totally see myself doing something like this when I have a million other things on my plate. Others have given excellent advice but I haven’t read everything so this may just be repeating.

    I would reach out and apologize but I would not ask for the job back. Rather I would approach as “Hi Jane, I wanted to let you know how sorry and embarrassed I am about what happened. I really loved working with you/the company, I was hoping, in light of my work outside of this huge mistake, you would be willing to be a reference for me.”

    Good luck in your job search!

  76. Jaybeetee*

    Soooo let’s try to put together the circumstances where this could happen:

    1) OP booked everything through a website that he uses often, everything is already pre-set to Canadian dollars and Canadian English, not tipping him off to the incorrect destination. He prints the airline ticket without looking at it, fails to see hinky time zones or anything else that would tip him off. Books at some giant international hotel chain like Marriott, so that doesn’t tip him off either (though this is the stretch for me, as you’d think he would have checked the address at some point, working out how Boss would get there from the airport).

    2) Boss may not have been aware of where they were supposed to be at all, being one of the “go where you’re sent” bosses mentioned in previous comments, and only realized that their conference was in another country when they landed and got confused.


    3) Boss only gave a cursory glance to the ticket and hotel reservation, assuming them to be right, had to go through customs in Canada anyway, plugged in some earphones on the plane and didn’t hear any Italian announcements, the layover was in NYC or somewhere, so Boss didn’t see anything amiss, either had no window or flew over cloud cover so didn’t see the ocean, flipped to in-flight movies or slept the whole time so didn’t see the map on the back of the seat…and literally deplaned and saw Italian signage and realized what was going on. I do think all that is possible…but it does seem pretty disconnected from surroundings.

    Overall, I’m guessing this must be someone who travels A LOT, so much so that both the boss and the OP were more or less autopiloting the entire process and not paying much attention.

  77. Bad Candidate*

    Oh, no. One time in my life as an AA I booked a red eye flight for someone including a car to pick them up to take them to the airport. The trip got cancelled and I remembered to cancel the airfare and the car rental, but forgot about the car pick up. And since it was a red eye, the car service rang the guy’s doorbell at around 2:30 AM. Luckily I did not get fired for that, but I made myself a checklist after for booking and cancelling.

  78. emma2*

    OH MY GOD. This sounds like an absolute nightmare – I feel so sorry for the OP. It actually sounds like something I would do. Naples, Italy IS the more well-known Naples, so once you get it in your head that is where they are going, you’re not going to think to check twice. However, I am also surprised that the execs themselves didn’t catch the mistake since they new it was Florida (like they actually boarded the flight, and went through a 12 hour flight not knowing the whole time where they were going? I find that hard to believe.)

    BUT, if there is anything I learned from reading this website, it’s that if you are going to make a mistake, don’t make one that: A) costs the company money; and/or B) makes management look bad. Even if it is an innocent mistake, management is very unlikely to forgive you for it.

    However, I’m sure you will find another job soon, so good luck!

    1. Artemesia*

      The fact that it was a long flight either way and international either way i.e. Canada to Florida or Italy, makes it easy to imagine the execs not noticing they were heading to the wrong Naples.

      1. emma2*

        Canada to Italy will be a much longer flight than Canada to Florida. Honestly, this one is on the execs – I can see the assistant interpreting Naples as being in Italy and then making arrangements accordingly, but HOW does one not notice what COUNTRY they are traveling to? So bizarre.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I just don’t see how it’s helpful or relevant to put this “on the execs”. The OP was fired – do you think that if he explains to his bosses that it was really their fault, not his, they’ll give him his job back? If he’s asked in an interview why he was fired, do you think it will look good to the interviewer if he explains that it was really his boss’s fault for not catching his error?

          1. emma2*

            I agree with you…I was just thinking out loud as to how this whole scenario could have happened (though it is not useful advice-wise.)

            I like to think that the OP is still hirable…provided he doesn’t apply to any more jobs requiring him to book travel.

          2. bridget*

            No, I think we’re trying to reassure the OP that this situation is not 100% his fault and on him. At least three people missed several important cues that something was amiss, and OP is only one of those people. If it were me, I would find that a little bit comforting in the midst of a terrible time in my life.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              I feel super bad for the OP and wish he hadn’t been fired. However, it was his mistake whether his bosses caught the error or not, and trying to convince them that it wasn’t 100% his fault isn’t going to get his job back.

              1. bridget*

                It won’t get his job back, but if it were me I’d feel a little bit better knowing that this was a confluence of multiple failures, not just my own. YMMV.

            2. emma2*

              Same here. He KNOWS what mistake he made, and he’s certainly not the first person to make this type of mistake even though he is being held accountable for it. I’m just going to repeat what other people said that while this is a big mistake, it is harmless in the grand scheme of things (like, no one got hurt or died, and it doesn’t demonstrate some major flaw in personality or morals. And hopefully, the execs got somewhat of a good vacation out of it? Italy is not a bad place to be stranded.)

              I’m not a hiring manager, but I like to think that if he explained it properly, and the future jobs he applies for doesn’t involve booking flights, the mistake won’t be a huge obstacle in his career.

  79. Artemesia*

    This is a pretty catastrophic mistake, but you know, your boss also apparently has no sense of humor at all. I think if this happened to me, I’d see what was playing at la Scala and it would be a story I would be telling for the rest of my career. I doubt if I would fire the admin unless it was a last straw.

    Having just booked a flight from Seattle to Chicago at 11:30PM instead of 11:30 AM as I intended I can imagine this kind of screwup. Sorry it happened to you and I agree with the consensus that given your boss’s reaction, you need to be scrambling for a new job.

    1. Manders*

      I think part of the lack of humor on the boss’s part is how much profit was lost by missing the conference. At a small company, that could be a pretty significant chunk of the month’s or even the quarter’s income.

      Years in the future, I think this is going to be a hilarious cocktail party story for everyone involved. But I do see how it just isn’t possible to keep an admin who screwed up a task that sounds like it’s pretty crucial to the company’s bottom line.

    2. AMPG*

      I think if it hadn’t resulted in $25K of lost business, there might have been more forgiveness involved.

    3. SL #2*

      Yeah, I’ve been imagining a scenario where I am the OP and I do this to my executive director. She would also laugh her head off about it for the rest of her life… but I’m not so sure if she wouldn’t have fired me as well. Likely not, she’s not that type of boss, but the financial implications of this are severe…

      Either way, OP, your chances at this company are pretty shot. Even if a C-suite executive steps in for you and explains that it was a mistake, we’re all human, let’s give him another chance, you’re gonna be carrying this baggage for the rest of your time at the company. It may be a funny breakroom story, but it also has real impact on your reputation and chances of future raises, promotions, etc., and you’ll likely never have your boss’s trust again. You can’t be an effective admin if your boss doesn’t trust you with the little details.

    4. kb*

      I think this is one of those mistakes where the boss has to take this very seriously in the present for business reasons, but will definitely tell for the rest of their life as a hilarious anecdote.

    5. LBK*

      FWIW I could maybe see that if I ended up in the wrong city in a familiar country, but unexpectedly ending up in a country where there’s even more of a language barrier than I was anticipating and having to try to make arrangements to get home (and/or get a hotel) would be extremely stressful for me. I went to Europe last summer with some friends and after the lengthy process of transatlantic flight, we were exhausted and irritable to the point that we nearly strangled each other just trying to figure out transportation to our hotel, and that was with arriving at our planned destination.

      Never mind the fact that they missed the conference they presumably wanted to attend, and there’s the lost business to account for. It would probably be a while until I found it amusing; my initial reaction would definitely be to freak out.

  80. spek*

    Sorry for the OP, but man, I wish my company would inadvertently send me to Naples! Pretend to be horrified for the exec, then check in to the hotel and hope you can’t get a flight out for a day or two…

    1. The Rat-Catcher*

      Maybe they do so much international travel that they weren’t impressed at Naples, but I am SO with you on this. What’s done is done and I am in Naples!!! TTYL!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I get the fantasy, but you’re probably so ear-deep in trying to figure out what the fallout is and how to address it that “Relax with a gelato” just is not an option.

  81. Beth Agen*

    I think the travelers have equal responsibility in the error. Sitting in the airport, waiting to board, I’m certain it was announced multiple times that the flight was going to Italy. When they checked their bags, I’m certain the airline staff said “Checking your bags through to Naples, Italy.” I think the overreaction of the firing was due to the boss’ own embarassment of not noticing. That having been said, I doubt the employee will get their position back. An idea if you are asked to do a task you’ve never done before is to ask a valued coworker to check your work before presenting it to the boss. Sorry this happened to you.

  82. Kat*

    Wow, I really feel bad for you. I hope you’re able to get your job back or that you find another very quickly. Maybe your former company should implement QC checks on tickets. This isn’t the first time it’s happened (I heard of a woman who ended up in Sydney, Nova Scotia, instead of Australia) and I find it very hard to believe that your bosses didn’t realise something was weird by being surrounded by Italian speakers, possibly a European airline, etc. They also should have checked before even getting to the airport!

  83. Anon Accountant*

    I’m so sorry. Collect references from others and prep a lot for interviews. Be able to calmly explain why you aren’t there anymore. Sending good thoughts your way.

  84. AstroDeco*

    OP, I’m sorry you were sacked for this, especially if it wasn’t part of a pattern about which you’ve been told. Your letter specified that your recent review was good, so I don’t think your mistake should have caused you to lose your job.

    The good news is that you’ll probably never make this mistake again!!

    If you do appeal your firing, include what you would do to prevent this mistake in the future.

    Your initial error is one most of us have made. That said, from booking two people on a flight, for hotels & perhaps transport…?
    My bet is there were many fact-check opportunities that you missed [other than price or flight time].

    that said…
    The travellers are just at fault as you are, although arguably for the flights alone.

    They missed the fact-checks, too, perhaps even more than you did. A manager *and* an executive… neither one knew the locale of the conference or noticed the Italian references or… there’s a lot they missed. Regardless of how much one travels, the onus is on the traveller to ensure the tickets are properly booked [especially for flight because of security measures]: names, dates, destination. I can understand not checking hotel reservations as it would be ridiculous to reverify the work done by trusted assistants… yet I also think the traveller should at least take a quick glance at the name, dates & locations for hotels. Various hotels have various security requirements for checking in, so to me it makes sense to ensure I have the proper credentials for the name on the reservation.

    For some reason, my mind is analogising this with the person who was fired for not wearing proper business attire when she fetched her boss & an executive from the airport in the middle of the night. I know these scenarios are quite different, yet that other letter is tugging at me.
    It might be from the update: the manager had other performance issues & was sacked. If I recall correctly, the employee was rehired.

    Good luck & congratulations on becoming a father!!

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Right? I mean this was OP’s mistake, to be sure, but how do you not know you’re traveling to Italy vs. traveling to the US? For what it’s worth, I’m Canadian and have traveled to both countries, and the experiences were so different right from the start.

      But also the thing I don’t understand is this: when they realized the mistake (even if it wasn’t until after they landed) could they not still salvage the conference? People back out of those things all the time and have other people attend in their stead or do the product pitch on their behalf, etc. I understand it would still have been a financial loss, but I don’t know that they needed to miss the opportunity to pitch the product as well. Was there nobody else that could have done it? Maybe it wasn’t possible, I guess, but I might have gone the route of trying rather than firing OP (in fact, I likely would have made it their job to make it right) and throwing up my hands in frustration.

  85. Valkyrie*

    Oh, I did something similar very recently (but not quite as severe). I booked my boss a flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia–totally fine, the conference was great, UNTIL I had to check her in for her return flight and I noticed that I booked the return flight for March 3rd not February 3rd. I had her scheduled to come back a solid month too late.

    I was convinced she was going to fire me, but we worked it out, and now I obsessively quadruple check every booking I do.

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, OP!

  86. Dr. Doll*

    If I had someone to plan my travel and my life and all I had to do was show up at an airport, I’d be so grateful that I might forgive this *once* if otherwise things were good. But 1) I am a mid-level manager and one of the things I manage is my own little self, and 2) I would never for one second trust the person on my team who would be the obvious person to take on this role. I’d end up in Murmansk.

    Really, there are people who have support to this level? Mind-boggling.

    And, I’m really, really sorry, OP. Mistakes happen, it was terrible luck that in this case the consequences were so epic.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Is it really mind-boggling to think that someone who travels frequently for meetings and the like might not book their own flights/cars/hotels? It wouldn’t even have to be all that high up in the food chain – lots of mid-size and larger companies use travel agents – as far as I can tell, they’re the only reason travel agents still exist.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Even at my husband’s non-management level, he’s not permitted to book his own travel. All company travel has to be through the internal person responsible for it.

        1. Bea*

          Yep. It’s because they’re trained to find deals and nobody is tempted to purchase above the expexted level. Having a centralized person in charge of travel arrangements makes a whole lot of business sense.

      2. NW Mossy*

        I’m a front-line manager and even I tap into the departmental admin when I need bookings. I travel about once a year for business and our system is not easy to use, so her expertise in it is a huge help. Plus, my boss would rather have me doing the things our admin can’t do (liking managing teams and projects) than sifting through hotel options by our secondary office.

    2. Bonky*

      Factor in what the frequent-flier boss is earning versus what their assistant is earning. (It could be ten times the salary.) Now cost the time spent booking for each person, and the high-value activity the boss will be missing out on if they’re booking their own tickets versus the assistant’s day-to-day work. Multiply that across many trips in the year…that’s why people have support to this level.