I recently wrote a post about How To Find Affordable Fares Without Going Broke. I purposely did not mention Mistake Fares in any detail as an option as I’m not a fan of these as I believe in paying what’s fair for a ticket. I know this is a sensitive topic as I hear people, even my friends, say its their way of sticking it to the airline. I’ll tell you its the employees that suffer, not the airline on a whole, so you are really sticking it to the employees as they are the ones that will get laid off when the airlines stop making money or go out of business, but I digress.
What Are Mistake Fares?
So far this year, there’s been at least two mistake fares and yes, there will be more. So what are mistake fares? These fares that are obviously blatantly incorrect for whatever reason. System error, incorrectly filed with the fare systems, human error, etc. Typically, you will see a blog post talking about it, a friend will send you an email, you will see it on Facebook, sometimes the news and/or a Website called FlyerTalk or another one called Milepoint.
The last one was December 2014, from Etihad bookable on Priceline.com with some really low fares to get to the Middle East and beyond from their U.S. gateways usually with a stop in Europe, sometimes nonstop. It looks like most of these were honored, but I saw people saying that some of the itineraries were changed from nonstop flights to connecting flights. In full disclosure, I actually bought a ticket on this one from Chicago, IL (ORD) to Abu Dhabi, UAE (AUH) for about $268.90; I figured if they cancelled at worst, I’d get a refund. As it turns out, I had to cancel as the dates conflicted. But if Etihad had contacted me and said they cancelled it, I would not have minded as I get it.
So, this brings me to the point of today’s post. I awoke this morning to a note from a friend at 9:13a that said:
Amazing Business and First Class Fares from $50, UK to NYC! – http://thepointsguy.com/2015/02/amazing-ex-uk-business-and-first-class-from-50-to-nyc/ #ThePointsGuy
Fyi , big pricing error
$50 for a Business class ticket form the U.K. to New York? Really? That does not even pay the APD taxes of $210.48 to the UK govt! The normal price for this ticket is $6,355.85. So how was this even possible? Have the airlines gone mad? Of course not.
It was a mistake fare and you had to go to United.com, change your country to Denmark and then book basically anywhere as long as you left from London (LHR).
Now, this was not just United.com, when I looked at ITA (http://matrix.itasoftware.com), it also showed the crazy fare on all the carriers serving the London to Houston market; it was about 300 DKK or 45.69 USD for the nonstop fare.The current price for this ticket is $4,955.05. Clearly it was an error that was not unique to one airline. I read where people tried to book it on Lufthansa.com and got a fare no longer available error message. At about 10:30a ET, I read where United shut down the Denmark point of sale as that’s where the error was occurring.
I was intrigued as to what was going on, but once I realized how bad it was and the fact that it was not just one airline, but multiple, I figured this one would be weird in the end. My position about this mistake fare is the same that I had about the Hong Kong Mistake Fare Error back in July 2012. Seriously?
Look, I’m all for a good deal, but this one was clearly very bad. It did not even charge the departure tax for leaving the U.K., who did you think would pay that? The airline? I hate that departure tax just like the next guy, but come on folks, let’s be real here.
I figured this one would perhaps not be honored as it was clearly an error and indeed it was not as a friend of mine told me tonight that his ticket was cancelled when he viewed it online on United.com and he got this message in an email.
We have discovered an error with a vendor’s currency exchange rates that temporarily allowed customers to book reservations through the Danish version of united.com at prices that were incorrect, despite United having filed the fares properly. We have suspended sales from our Danish website until the issue is corrected.
You purchased a ticket through the Danish version of united.com during the time when the prices were incorrect. As a result, we are not able to honor your ticket at the price that you paid. We have voided your reservation and will not process your payment.
Confirmation number: XXXXXX
If you would like to book your travel at the correct price, please visit united.com.
So here’s my tip for mistake fares; buyer beware, If you think you should buy it, go ahead, but just know that it may not be honored at some point after you purchase it. So be prepared to deal with the ramifications that may come with that. If you booked a hotel or other travel-related items in conjunction with that ticket, the other vendors may not be sympathetic at all. Maybe travel insurance is a good consideration, which you should get with any trip anyway.
Good luck out there. What say you? Please leave a note below. Do you think the airlines should honor these mistake fares? If so, why, if not, why not? I want to hear from you.