Grenada or Granada? Holiday mix-up sent me 4,000 miles the wrong way
A brave woman who planned a "bucket list" trip to the Spanish city of Granada ended up accidentally boarding a plane to the Caribbean isle of Grenada.
Adventurous Lamenda Kingdon, 62, was sipping a gin and tonic at 30,000ft when she casually told a fellow passenger she was looking forward to visiting the historic Spanish city.
But cancer sufferer Lamenda was aghast when the passenger replied: "Not on this plane, you won't."
Instead of booking Lamenda on a two-hour flight to southern Spain, air miles travel firm Avios had put her on a 10-hour journey across the Atlantic.
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Mrs Kingdon had planned her trip to Spain – with its opulent palace of the Alhambra – as part of a 'bucket list' of activities after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and a brain tumour.
She booked the flight over the phone using her late husband's air miles and did not notice the ticket's destination was one letter different – and some 4,000 miles away – from the place she wanted to go to.
It was only two hours after she left London's Gatwick Airport that the bombshell dropped.
Lamenda, a holistic life coach and former special needs teacher from Plymouth, , said: "I arrived at Gatwick in ample time for working out how to use the new self check-in terminals before handing in my baggage.
"Boarded the plane – perfect, I thought. After a complimentary lunch with gin and tonic I began to chatting to Mrs King, sitting next to me.
"She corrected my pronunciation of Granada, saying 'they call it Grenada'.
"I thought OK and gave it an inward shrug before continuing on about my bucket list and how much I was looking forward to seeing the Alhambra. 'Not on this flight, you won't,' she replied.
"She then grabbed the elbow of a passing stewardess, laughing and crying out loudly, enough for everyone on board to hear: 'This lady thinks she's going to Spain.' Both my breathing and time stopped. I looked at the ticket and it did indeed say Grenada."
The plane's flight crew ushered Lamenda and her new companion into first class before producing a bottle of champagne, during the unplanned trip on September 1.
After travelling a further seven hours, Lamenda disembarked at a scheduled stop in St Lucia, where she spent six hours in the airport before boarding a flight home.
Back at Gatwick, she was met by apologetic BA staff who arranged a hotel, helped Avios reimburse the 50,000 points she had cashed in and booked a flight for the next day to Granada.
Lamenda, who has one son and two grandsons, says she thoroughly enjoyed the Alhambra – despite the tumultuous start to the bucket list of activities.
She was diagnosed with cancer in early 2012, undergoing a mastectomy in March and radiotherapy in June of that year, but a follow up check revealed a brain tumour.
Having lost her husband Barry to cancer in 2009, she was determined to make the most of her time and drew up her bucket list. Barry, a trainer, had accumulated thousands of air miles – now Avios Points – while commuting by plane across the Westcountry.
Avios apologised for their part in the mistake and issued her with another 22,000 points, leaving her with 121,000.
She now has the 120,000 she needs to her reach her next dream destination – a trip to Omarama in New Zealand, described by visitors as an unspoilt paradise.
Better still, Lamenda has since been given the all clear by her cancer doctors so she hopes to make the trip with a clean bill of health.
She said: "Looking back on the Granada mix up, I genuinely don't blame anyone, the person on the other end of the phone probably just misheard me.
"The tumour was badly affecting my eyesight but I was able to read the ticket. I honestly didn't notice the spelling difference.
"But I'm certainly not complaining. They treated me wonderfully on the plane once they found out."
Bosses at Avios, the rebranded Air Miles business for British Airways, Iberia and other leading airlines, agreed it was probably just a misunderstanding over the telephone.
Craig Holland, head of the Customer Contact Centre at the Avios Travel Rewards Programme, said: "We booked Mrs Kingdon on a flight to Grenada instead of Granada but as soon as we heard we reimbursed her the Avios and all her expenses, and gave her more Avios as compensation.
"We are so pleased to hear that she is now planning her next trip."