tourist heading ‘Down Under’ winds up in Montana

BILLINGS – A long-awaited dream vacation was in Kingsley Burnett’s future, a cruise from Sydney, Australia.

The New Yorker could hardly contain his excitement on the first leg of his journey until he looked out the window of his plane.

“I saw a mountain peak covered in white snow… At that point I knew I was in trouble,” Burnett, 62, said Wednesday.

When he landed in Billings last week, the snow and the little Cape Air jet waiting to take him to Sydney, Montana, were the signs he’d made a mistake.

“It’s about acronyms. The SYD as opposed to SDY. Someone has to fix this,” he said, referring to the airport codes used for each destination (SYD is Australia and SDY is in eastern Montana).

Burnett said he tried to be frugal when buying the tickets and should have focused more on the final destination rather than booking the cheaper flight.

Without going to Sidney, Burnett instead went to the American Airlines ticket office in Billings and met Carol Castellano.

“He was really funny. Kingsley came up and said, ‘I have a problem,'” Castellano said.

This isn't Australia: New Yorker books trip to wrong Sydney, ends up in Billings

Kingsley Burnett

Kingsley Burnett and Carol Castellano

She took him away from the desk, sat him down and helped him out. He would not have made it to real Sydney in time to catch his full cruise. So instead, Castellano booked him a flight home and a hotel room at the Boothill Inn for the night, and he rescheduled his trip to Australia to June.

“It wasn’t a paycheck for Carol. It was a person she was dealing with,” Burnett said.

After his night in Billings, it was time for him to head back to the airport. Boothill Inn General Manager Shelli Mann was happy to help Burnett back to catch his flight.

“Imagine what it would feel like to think you land in Sydney, Australia and here you are in Billings, Montana,” Mann said.

Mann said Burnett laughed at the situation he got into and kept calling Castellano his “angel.” And believe it or not, in Mann’s 20 years running the hotel, this isn’t the first time she’s seen such a mix-up.

“This is the second time we’ve had a guest trying to get to Sydney, Australia,” she said.

Castellano and Mann said Burnett mentioned to both women that he was really looking forward to his trip to see one thing, kangaroos. But maybe he got something better, an everlasting friendship.

‚ÄúThere were no kangaroos in Montana. It had Carol. And that was good enough for me,” he said.



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