The travel industry’s biggest failures

2017 is three quarters of the way through, so we thought there’s no better time than to relive some of the industry’s greatest mistakes, the good, the bad and the ugly versions.

From the real crackers, which even the best PR team struggle to recover from, to the ones that shape you as a person and give your career a game-changing push in the right direction, failure is everywhere.

And who knows, sometimes it might just be enough to turn you into a raging success.

Let’s relive the biggest stuff-ups here.

1. United Airlines


We couldn’t have a list of industry mistakes and not include United. Not only did they quickly become known for dragging a passenger off an overbooked flight, but they also refused to let girls in leggings to board the plane, were the centre of attention when a world famous bunny died in their care, flew people to wrong destinations, and much more.

And at the end of it all, people just wanted them to own up, accept responsibility of their mistakes (which they eventually did), and try their hardest to be better.

Maybe next year.

2. The World Islands, Dubai 


When something succeeds, it’s common for the people behind it to get excited and try a second round? Some call it greed.

In the case of the World Islands in Dubai, it was a complete failure.

Off the back of the success of Dubai’s Palm, a man-made island designed to look like a tree, the wealthy emirate decided to try and create a number of man-made islands – 300 islands representing the world’s countries, to be exact.

Work began in 2003, with the purpose being to sell each ‘country’ to wealthy buyers so they could load them up with their own properties, attractions, etc.

But then the 2008 financial crisis hit, and construction on the World Islands ceased, with more than half already sold, but left abandoned in the wake of the crisis.

Then, in 2011, it was reported that some of the islands were actually sinking as a result of erosion, and legal cases were lodged against the state-owned company, Dubai World, the people behind the project.

They ended up needing to be bailed out of billions of dollars of debt in 2009, and despite some work on a few islands resuming after the financial crisis died down, it was still a pretty huge kerfuffle for the travel industry.

3. Brandenburg airport – Berlin, Germany

Luftbildserie Baustelle des Flughafens Berlin Brandenburg BER "W

Hoo boy, if there was ever a travel industry screw up, it’s this airport.

The airport was set to open in 2012, touted as this incredible, modern-day marvel for aviation hubs, and to replace Berlin’s Schonefeld and Tegel hubs.

But less than a month before the grand opening, the date was delayed, and despite numerous new dates proposed to open the airport, it remains closed to this day, with rumours it might open in 2019.

Airlines had already scheduled to re-route all their fights to Berlin Brandenburg when the project was delayed, with money troubles another sign of poor organisation. Originally with a budget of £900 million (around AU$1,467,630,000), it went way over budget to £2.8billion (what even is this figure in AUD?!).

It was set to be the one of the busiest in Europe with estimates of 27 million annual passengers.

4. Qatar Business stuff-up

Ok, so this is hardly one of travel’s biggest failures, BUT it was a fantastic example of how a brand can make a colossal mistake, big, huge, and still come out a winner.

Qatar mistakenly released a Business Class airfare of $700 for a return flight from Vietnam to the United States. When they realised the mistake, it was too late, with a few thousand people having booked or reserved the airfare.

Qatar refused to become one of those terrible take-back airlines, honouring it’s mistaken business class fares for the few thousand who either booked a ticket or had a ticket on hold.

And it came to much praise from passengers – both those who’d snapped up the failed airfare, and those who just thought it was a decent move by the airline.

5. Wonderland Amusement Park, Beijing


China’s Wonderland – set to be their answer to Disneyland – is nothing more than a creepy Ghost Town on the outskirts of Beijing, over 15 years after it was built.

Construction on the site came to an end in 1998 due to a dispute between developers and landowners, with a corruption scandal thrown in for good measure.

As a result, the project lost its financial backing, and what was meant to be the biggest amusement park in Asia is now nothing more than an abandoned city of ruins.

6. Ryugyong Hotel – Pyongyang, North Korea


It;s known as the ‘Hotel of Doom’, but the Ryugyong Hotel was actually meant to open in 1988, but currently stands as the tallest unoccupied building in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

The project went way over budget, with construction slowing right down, before finally stopping altogether in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Then in 2008 construction kicked off again, but despite those working on it promising a 2013 opening date plus the arrival of an Egyptian developer, the project ground to a halt once again and still remains both closed and empty today.

How you can learn from travel’s mistakes

Keen to get your hands on a step by step guide to learning from these mistakes and becoming travel’s next success story?

  1. Jump onto the Travel DAZE website here.
  2. Check out our incredible line-up of speakers here.
  3. Score a cheeky discount on tickets by emailing
  4. Attend Travel DAZE for all the speakers presentations, coffee, food, AND networking sesh post-event with a few beverages to give you the confidence to talk up your ideas to your industry heroes.

Be there or be square!




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