Passengers forced to fly ‘around the world’ due to airline ticketing issue

Dr_Boffone TikTok / RAGMA Images /

A group of students and teachers learned the hard way that having an airline reservation does not mean you are holding an airline ticket.

31 students along with their teachers found themselves stuck at Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX) after finishing a study tour of Japan.

One of the teachers in the group, Dr. Trevor Boffone, took to social media platform TikTok to share the group’s misadventures. 

In the video, Boffone first explained that he had been with 31 students, teachers and parents and they had just finished a tour of Japan with EF Tours, a travel agency specializing in student and educational tours. 

Boffone said that the tour was “awesome”, but complications arose when the group checked in at Osaka Airport on August 11, 2023, for their flight back to Houston.


I’ve been stranded in Japan for 48 hours with 31 students and teachers. We are finally able to go home but we have to fly around the world for 42 hours. Osaka > Bangkok > Munich > Charlotte > Houston. It’s gonna be an adventure, folks! #japantrip #japantravel #travelproblems #AmericanAirlines #eftours #japanairlines #aroundtheworld #aroundtheworldchallenge

♬ original sound – Dr_Boffone

Only a reservation

The group’s first leg of the return flight was from Osaka to Tokyo, operated by Japan Airlines. Then Tokyo to Houston via Dallas with American Airlines.

According to Buffone, agents at Osaka Airport told the group that they were only holding a reservation, but not an actual booking. The segments from Tokyo onwards were permitted. However, their Osaka to Tokyo leg was not ticketed.

“We had a booking, we paid for it, but American Airlines, evidently, did not send the information to Japan Airlines,” Buffone said.

Buffone said both Japan and American Airlines would not help them. The airlines pointed fingers at one another, and their travel agent, EF Tours, claimed it was the airlines’ fault.

The group ended up missing their flight to Tokyo, so the rest of the flight segments ended up being canceled.

An offer that’s not hard to refuse

Buffone said that American Airlines ended up offering them the next available flight out: 13 days later than the original date of departure.

With no offer of food, hotel, or any allowance, the group refused the offer.

A long way home

According to Buffone, EF Tours ended up “making things happen” and made it possible for them to fly home two days later. 

However, arranging a return trip for 31 people proved to be difficult due to seat availability and the proximity to departure date.

So one group ended up with an itinerary that looked like this: Osaka-Bangkok (nine-hour layover)- Munich – Charlotte, North Carolina – Houston. 

The second half of the group also ended up flying home the roundabout way: Osaka-Bangkok-Paris–Dallas-Houston.

Considering that the group had already been stuck at Osaka Airport for two days, both itineraries exhausted everybody. 

Buffone eventually reached Houston after 50 hours.

Pad Thai and German Pretzel

Buffone seemed to take his fate in his stride and uploaded a video clip of himself to TikTok, showing that he was having a good time at Bangkok Airport and enjoying a plate of Pad Thai noodles during the nine-hour layover. 

In a subsequent video, Buffone admitted that only the first few hours were fun inside the airport. Exhaustion soon set in and the novelty wore off.

Buffone posted another video when he reached Munich, munching on a pretzel while giving updates.

Missing luggage

Buffone later posted another video clip from Houston, where he updated his followers with the news that he was home. 

He also said that American Airlines ended up losing one of his bags.

Flight reservation vs flight ticket

Based on comments left on Buffone’s video posts, the incident is not an isolated case. 

One person who identified herself as a travel agent said that American Airlines has been doing the same for many of her clients: booking passengers, but not actually ticketing them.

Many passengers are given a confirmation number or a PNR (Passenger Name Record) when they book a flight. That does not necessarily mean that they are holding a confirmed ticket.

An electronic ticket number is what passengers should look for as an indication that they are good to go.

author avatar
Jean Carmela Lim
Journalist[br][br]Jean is a member of AeroTime’s editorial team, working as an aviation writer and based in Manila, Philippines. Previously, she worked in operational aviation roles in Manila, Philippines and Seoul, South Korea before moving to Australia to work in corporate and government travel. In 2012, Jean established her own luxury and adventure travel blog, Holy Smithereens. She is also a contributor for World Travel Market London, one of the biggest annual events in the travel sector. She covers trends and issues in hospitality and luxury travel for a B2B market, interviewing key personalities in the industry.
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