London - Two families heading off on holiday to Spain ended up on a plane to Latvia after bungles by airport staff.
Their documents were checked – three times – but they were still allowed to board the wrong Ryanair flight.
Instead of a sunshine break to Almeria, they were set to go to Riga, 1 850 miles away.
The budget airline was investigating just how the mistake at East Midlands Airport happened.
One of the passengers, Stephen Pritchard, told how he and his son Jake Kelly, 14, were even shown to their seats by a stewardess.
The crew only realised the error when the correct occupants of the seats arrived.
Spain-bound holidaymaker Jo Housley, 29, was also seated on the wrong plane with her baby and two children.
By then, it was too late for the families, who do not know each other, to catch their correct flight.
They decided to share a £70 (about R1 300) taxi to Birmingham Airport 37 miles away, where they were booked on the next available Ryanair flight to Spain.
They did not have to pay extra for the plane later that day but it took them to Murcia, 107 miles and a £130 taxi ride from Almeria.
Mr Pritchard, a painter and decorator from Cannock, Staffordshire, said his boarding pass was checked at the gate, on the airfield and on the plane but he was still able to get on the wrong flight.
“I could have been a terrorist or anything,” he said. “They are supposed to be tightening security. It’s unbelievable.”
The confusion began when two queues formed close together at adjacent gates for the flights to Almeria and Riga.
Miss Housley, 29, from Rotherham, was travelling with her four-month-old baby Erin and sons Jordan, 10 and Charlie, seven, to visit a relative in Spain. The full-time mother declined to comment.
Mr Pritchard was taking Jake to stay with his grandmother during the school holiday.
Ryanair has offered to pay the families’ additional expenses.
The mix-up occurred less than a month after another Ryanair passenger flew to Spain from the same airport unwittingly using her late husband’s passport. Pauline Briggs, 64, showed the document at two security checks but the error was only noticed when she landed. She had to pay £120 for a temporary passport.
Then, Ryanair said it would ask its handling agent to “investigate to ensure it does not happen again”. After the latest bungle, a spokesman made the same pledge and also apologised to the families.
He added: “It is the responsibility of each customer to ensure they board the correct aircraft.” - Daily Mail