“More than 100 passengers a year fly to Austria when they meant to fly to Australia,” user Nazir Afzal posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, last week. “So Salzburg Airport has a special counter for them.”
Accompanying the post is a picture of a billboard at a Salzburg Airport luggage carousel. The billboard in the photo — which was first posted to the meme website 9GAG in 2021 — reads: “Sorry, this is Austria not Australia! Need help? Please press the button.” To the right of the text, an image of an “SOS” button stands out against the advertisement’s solid blue background.
Airports want you to come hang out — even without a flight
The claim about travelers mistaking Austria for Australia resurfaced again last week in a TikTok video and post on X that have both been viewed millions of times.
The problem, of course, is that none of it is true. What started as a popular but misinformed meme on the less mainstream corners of the internet has exploded into a viral gag about the mistakes well-intentioned travelers can make.
The Salzburg Airport confirmed to The Washington Post that it does not, in fact, have a help desk for sunny Australian vacation hopefuls who found themselves in landlocked Austria instead.
“There is no such counter at Salzburg Airport, never has been, as a matter of fact. I have never heard of anyone travelling to Salzburg by mistake, when they actually wanted to go to Australia,” Susanne Buchebner, deputy head of public relations for the Salzburg airport, said in an email.
Buchebner said an ad run by a company called Commend, which sells intercom systems, several years ago was the root of the recent rumor.
An illustrated guide to people at the airport
That’s not to say travelers haven’t been faced with the horror of discovering they’ve made it to the wrong destination before, though. The comments on last week’s viral X post are filled with other people’s personal stories and rumors of travel plans gone wrong: “At East Midlands airport, about 14 [years] ago, passengers were called to board for Parma” in Italy, one user said. Approximately 50 percent of those passengers, according to the post, were meant to go to the city of Palma in the Spanish Balearic islands instead.
Another user shared a story about a “colleague [who] had to get off a connecting plane at New York when he realized it was going to El Salvador and not Salvador, the Brazilian city.”
Several also mentioned the struggles of the travelers who, in two well-documented instances in 2002 and 2010, flew to Sydney in Nova Scotia rather than in Australia. Just last year, a similar incident occurred when a New York traveler ended up in Sidney, Montana, rather than Australia’s iconic harbor city.
And in another high-profile example from 2021, an entire group of French soccer fans flew all the way to the Romanian capital of Bucharest to watch their beloved team play a match against Hungary as part of the Euro 2020 tournament. The problem? The game was in Budapest, Hungary, and 500 miles away.
The examples of mistaken trip destinations are, unfortunately, bountiful. But while the Austria and Australia blunder seems to be common — CNN, rock band Kiss and international postal systems have all made the mistake — such unfortunate travelers will be hard-pressed to find a help desk dedicated solely to their woes. In the meantime, it may be best for travelers to triple check their plane tickets and destinations well before they jet off into uncharted waters