AN elderly man returning home to Poland after visiting family ended up stranded in Malta thanks to a blunder at Leeds-Bradford airport (LBA).

Pawel Lawreniuk, 75, was due to fly back to his hometown of Gdansk on Sunday, January 6 with Ryanair, after coming to Bradford on December 23 to visit his daughter for Christmas.

But, in a story reminiscent of the Home Alone franchise, Mr Lawreniuk was allowed to get on the wrong flight.

The plane took him to Malta, over 1000 miles away from his intended destination, with Mr Lawreniuk none the wiser.

His ticket showed the flight he was expecting to catch was the 6:50am plane to Gdansk.

34-year-old daughter, Lucyna Lawreniuk, who lives in the BD4 area, said they'd dropped her dad off in plenty of time.

She said: "I double checked the ticket, printed it and it said Gdansk. There was a call to me, at work and I saw it was from Malta. I thought oh s**t, there's something wrong. I then saw someone writing on WhatsApp and saw the message.

"I cried, I was scared - he was in a different country a different place."

She added, her father told her that when he was on the plane, he showed his ticket and was told where to sit, with no indication given that he was in the wrong place - as far as he was concerned he was on his way to Poland.

The phone calls and message alerting Miss Lawreniuk to the mishap came from Kamilla Nikolas, a Polish speaker who luckily happened to be in Malta International Airport at the same time Mr Lawreniuk was struggling to work out why he couldn't get a taxi home.

Ms Nikolas, 35, said she was queueing for the ATM to get some money for a trip to Sicily when she overheard a staff member at a tourist information desk saying, "I am sorry sir but I don’t speak Polish."

She said: "I went to find out what had happened and said I speak Polish. He looked very nervous, confused, and I asked what happened. It was hard to communicate with him because he was so confused.

Ms Nikolas said she told Mr Lawreniuk he was in the middle of the Med and he just could not believe it.

With the help of staff at Aviaserve, Ms Nikolas was able to sort a flight from Malta to Gdansk later that day.

But, she said the whole situation was extremely fortunate because there's only two flights a week that follow that route.

Eventually, Ms Nikolas had to leave for her trip to Sicily but made sure she left Mr Lawreniuk's daughter with contact details for Aviaserve and kept in constant contact.

She was later pleased to hear Mr Lawreniuk had made it home safely, but Miss Lawreniuk felt aggrieved that the mix-up had meant her father got home nearly 14 hours after he set-off.

Both Swissport - the handling agency for Ryanair at LBA - and Ryanair were approached for comment.

A Swissport spokesperson said: "We are aware that a passenger was able to board an incorrect flight at Leeds Bradford Airport on Sunday 6 January.

"The passenger had undergone all airport security screening before boarding the flight and had a valid passport which had been checked.

"We are investigating how this occurred and we are re-briefing all staff on procedure. We would like to apologise to Mr Lawreniuk for the inconvenience caused."

Ryanair did not respond to requests for an interview.

Mr Lawreniuk has visited his daughter over the festive period for the past few years, but that may be set to change following his recent ordeal.

Miss Lawreniuk said: "My father told me he doesn't want to come to me next year. He doesn't want to fly anymore. Today I spoke with him about everything and he's had bad dreams - I'm worried about him, but hopefully everything will be ok."

She added: "If someone didn't come forward, I'm not sure what would have happened - he had no money, no phone, he can't really do anything alone."

Ms Nikolas said: "I'm just happy I overheard the conversation and I could help. There's not many Polish in Malta - I was in the right place at the right time.

"It must have been horrible - I just hope it will be an eye-opener. It's not all about the extra luggage, or the extra rules. Imagine if he'd had a heart attack? It could have been a lot worse."