Auckland, New Zealand, is very far from Oakland. Matt Dwen/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A Sacramento student’s 6,600-mile travel blunder

In 1985, a California man made a travel blunder so epic that it put him 6,600 miles off course.

Michael Lewis, a 21-year-old college student from Sacramento, was returning home from a vacation in West Germany. He arrived aboard Air New Zealand’s London-to-Auckland flight at Los Angeles International Airport, where the passengers disembarked so the plane could be cleaned.

Lewis was supposed to hop on a connecting flight to Oakland. But as he left the plane, he heard airline agents direct passengers bound for Oakland to wait in a lounge. What they were really saying was “Auckland.”

Lewis reboarded the plane. His first clue came shortly after takeoff when he heard the word “Tahiti” over the intercom. “They didn’t say Auckland,” Lewis later told the L.A. Times. “They said Oakland. They talk different.”

In New Zealand, the airline agreed to fly Lewis back home free of charge. The misadventure yielded some perks: a chance to tour Auckland for the day during his layover, and a run of media stardom that included an appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.

L.A. Times

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