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Oakland vs Auckland Confusion Lands Student In New Zealand

April 3, 1985 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ It was a long trip home for a student bound for Oakland who instead ended up in Auckland, New Zealand - and airline officials said Wednesday it was just a case of misunderstood pronunciation.

Although Michael Lewis, 21, traveled half-way around the world and back after he boarded the wrong plane at Los Angeles International Airport, Air New Zealand won’t charge him for the extra mileage, said spokeswoman Nancy Belcher.

The trip would cost a regular passenger $1,032 one way, $2,064 round trip.

″He misunderstood,″ she said of Lewis, who had arrived in Los Angeles on an Air New Zealand flight that took off Sunday from London.

After leaving the plane he should have gone through customs and then caught a connecting one-hour, 400-mile flight to Oakland on World Airways, she said. Instead he accepted a transit pass to reboard the Air New Zealand flight after an airline employee asked him, ″Are you going on to Auckland?″ said Ms. Belcher.

″They figured out that because they (New Zealanders) pronounce Auckland like Oakland, I probably got a boarding pass without them checking,″ the Sacramento Community College student said Tuesday night while waiting in Los Angeles for his flight home.

When continuing passengers disembark from an international flight, a transit pass allows them to wait in a lounge without going through customs and then get back on board before takeoff without showing their ticket, Ms. Belcher said.

Lewis said he heard a flight announced on Air New Zealand for what he thought was Oakland; he said he had trouble reading the name of the airline he should have taken on his ticket.

Two Air New Zealand agents directed him to the lounge and he later boarded the airline with his transit pass.

He said he didn’t realize his mistake until the plane was airborne and the pilot began his announcements about the flight.

″I got all panicky and told the stewardess, who didn’t believe me at first,″ Lewis said.

After the 12-hour, 6,500-mile flight, with a stop in Tahiti, Lewis spent about eight hours in Auckland, where he took a bus tour of the city before flying back to Los Angeles.

″It (Auckland) is a really nice city. I wish I could have stayed a week or so,″ he said. ″I made some friends on the flight who offered me an opportunity to stay with them, but I ran the risk having to pay for my flight.″