BILLINGS — A long-awaited dream vacation was in Kingsley Burnett's future, a cruise departing from Sydney, Australia.
The New York man could barely contain his excitement on the first leg of his trip, until he looked out the window of his airplane.
"I saw mountain top covered in white snow...At that point, I knew I was in trouble,” said 62-year-old Burnett Wednesday.
When he touched down in Billings last week, the snow and the small Cape Air jet waiting to take him to Sidney, Montana, were the giveaways that he made a mistake.
“It’s a matter of acronyms. The S-Y-D as opposed to S-D-Y. Somebody has to fix that,” he said, referring to the airport codes used for each destination (SYD is Australia, and SDY is in eastern Montana.)
Burnett said he was trying to be frugal when purchasing the tickets and should have focused more on the final destination rather than booking the cheaper flight.
With no need to head to Sidney, Burnett instead went to the American Airlines ticket desk in Billings and met Carol Castellano.
“He was really funny. Kingsley came, and he goes, 'I’ve got a problem,'” Castellano said.
She took him away from the desk, sat him down and helped him out. He wouldn't have made it to the correct Sydney in time to catch his full cruise. So, Castellano instead booked him a flight home and a hotel room at the Boothill Inn for the night, and he rescheduled his trip to Australia for June.
“For Carol, it was not a paycheck. It was a human being she was dealing with,” Burnett said.
After his night in Billings, it was time for him to head back to the airport. The general manager of the Boothill Inn, Shelli Mann, was happy to help Burnett get back to catch his flight.
“Imagine how it would feel, to think you’re landing in Sydney, Australia and here you are in Billings, Montana,” Mann said.
Mann said Burnett was laughing about the situation he'd landed himself in and kept calling Castellano his "angel." And believe it or not, in the 20 years Mann has managed the hotel, this isn't the first time she's seen a mix-up like this.
"This is the second time we've had a guest that was trying to get to Sydney, Australia,” she said.
Castellano and Mann said Burnett mentioned to both women that he was very excited for his trip to see one thing, kangaroos. But he may have gotten something better, a forever friendship.
“Montana didn’t have kangaroos. It had Carol. And that was good enough for me,” he said.