BHM not BHX
In early 2015 Richella Heekins of the Birmingham, England suburb of Sutton Coldfield booked flights through Lastminute.com for a surprise trip to Las Vegas, Nevada for her boyfriend, Ben Marlow's 30th birthday in April 2016. She kept the planned trip a secret for more than a year, before announcing it at a party with family and friends. When they arrived at the West Midlands' Birmingham Airport (BHX), however, they learned that the flight they purchased originated at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) in Alabama. Lastminute.com attempted to find alternate flights to Las Vegas, but was unable to do so, and neither their flights nor their hotel stay was refundable. In all, they parted with 1,200 ($1,745) for the mix-up. The couple instead celebrated Ben's birthday in Amsterdam.
The story of the mix-up was published by the Birmingham Mail and soon picked up by other news outlets. Virgin Holidays, which operates direct flights to Las Vegas from Manchester, offered the couple free flights and a five-night stay. In announcing the offer, the company added that Manchester was "not quite Birmingham, but better than Alabama." Virgin founder Richard Branson congratulated the couple on social media, and recounted his happiness on his weblog.
The story was also picked up in Birmingham, Alabama's local media. Civic booster Tom Cosby worked to arrange another surprise trip for the couple to spend two days in Birmingham, Alabama immediately following their Las Vegas trip. The event was organized by Cosby with assistance from the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, Big Communications, REV Birmingham, and the Alabama Department of Tourism. During their visit, Heekins and Marlow were hosted by five young local couples, who shuttled them around the city through a busy itinerary designed to show them the best of the city's attractions. Hosts included Seth Muse, Caroline Collins, Michael Symes, Lindsey West, Satina Richardson, Deontée Gordon, Bekah Fox, Mat Harbin, Russell Hooks and Amber Hooks.
- Tuesday, August 16:
- Wednesday, August 17:
- Breakfast at Urban Standard
- Rode ZYP bikes around downtown Birmingham, including Railroad Park and Rotary Trail
- Porsche Driving Experience at Barber Motorsports Park
- Toured Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park with Ahmad Ward
- Lunch at Woodlawn Cycle Café
- Segway tour and ziplines at Red Mountain Park
- Dinner at El Barrio
- Marlow threw the first pitch for the Birmingham Barons at Regions Field
- Media interviews at Regions Field, meeting with Mayor William Bell
- Attended a Jenny Lewis concert at Iron City
- Thursday, August 18:
- Departed from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport for Manchester via Las Vegas.
- Stacey, Alison (April 27, 2016) "Couple lose £1,200 Las Vegas break after booking flights from WRONG Birmingham" Birmingham Mail
- Edgemon, Erin (April 27, 2016) "Las Vegas trip ruined when girlfriend confuses Birmingham, Alabama airport with Birmingham, England." The Birmingham News
- Hulse, Catherine (April 28, 2016) "Birmingham Airport blunder couple to enjoy dream Las Vegas trip - thanks to Virgin Holidays" Birmingham Mail
- Edgemon, Erin (April 28, 2016) "Couple who confused Birmingham, Alabama airport with Birmingham, England gets free Las Vegas trip." The Birmingham News
- Edgemon, Erin (June 22, 2016) "British couple who confused their Birminghams will get royal treatment in the Magic City." The Birmingham News
- Branson, Richard (April 29, 2016) "Cheer and roving in Las Vegas" Virgin.com
- Gerrard, Mike (July 27, 2016) "Oops, Wrong Birmingham!" Huffington Post
- Edgemon, Erin (August 17, 2016) "They're here! British couple, who mixed up Birmingham airports, tours Magic City hot spots." The Birmingham News
- Dunigan, Jonece Starr (August 17, 2016) "British couple who booked flight from wrong Birmingham airport explore Magic City." The Birmingham News
- West, Ty (August 17, 2016) "British couple experiences the ultimate Birmingham itinerary." Birmingham Business Journal
- #BHMnotBHX on Twitter.com