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Etihad Airways

Etihad Passenger Mad as Hell About Downgrade; Not Going to Take This Anymore

Etihad Passenger Mad as Hell About Downgrade; Not Going to Take This Anymore
Jeff Edwards

Etihad caused a furor among air travelers when it blamed a computer error for cheap transatlantic first class tickets and then simply issued business class tickets instead. One passenger, however, isn’t taking the alleged “bait and switch” lying down and is making headlines for his ongoing feud with the Gulf carrier.

Over the last few years, airlines have slowly set a precedent of refusing to honor mistake fares in almost every case. Unless legally prohibited and with few exceptions, carriers will now simply refund the customer’s money and cancel so-called “too good to be true” bookings, but Etihad appears to be taking this sort of policy to a new level by moving at least one passenger from first class to business class because the first class ticket purchased was much too reasonably priced.

Etihad passenger Lakhi Ramchandani told reporters that he purchased a first class ticket from Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM) to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in part because of the great price of around $2,800. He says, however, the airline issued a business-class ticket – rather than a first-class ticket – after charging his credit card.

Ramchandani claims that when he contacted the airline (even providing a screenshot of the first-class fare he believed he was purchasing from the Etihad website), he was told the price was the result of a computer “glitch” and that he had in fact only paid for a business class ticket. According to the bargain-hunting traveler, the agent agreed after some negotiation that the airline would honor the first-class booking, but the carrier later reneged on this promise.

“The agent of Etihad confirmed to me that very day that it was an error on their part,” he told the UAE English language newspaper The National. “But ever since I started pursuing Etihad for my rightful claim, per the offer, as I paid for first class and the money was deducted, they say they ‘cannot entertain my request for an upgrade,’ which is absurd. I am not requesting an upgrade.”

Ramchandani says he later purchased an additional first-class ticket at the same price to prove that the fare was not the result of a computer malfunction, but the advertised price of a product. He says he was again issued a business-class ticket after paying for a first-class ticket. In this case, Ramchandani accepted the airline’s offer to refund the price of this ticket, but continues to battle for the seat in the first-class cabin that he believes he is owed for his initial purchase.

“We have been in contact with Mr. Ramchandani since the time he purchased these tickets, advising him about his options,” Etihad officials told the newspaper. “He had purchased two tickets online for the same travel and the ticket which required travel on a codeshare partner airline was priced higher and that was fully refunded on the same day. Both tickets were correctly priced for the business class cabin they were confirmed in. We have informed Mr Ramchandani that, if these were not the tickets he intended to purchase, he has option either obtain a full refund or pay the fare difference to upgrade the sectors to first class. Therefore we are not in a position to provide the complimentary upgrade to first class and refute the suggestion that he was advised that his ticket would be honored in first class.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (12)

12 Comments

  1. strickerj

    November 13, 2018 at 9:27 am

    The airlines’ handling of these so-called “mistake fares” is absolutely insane. They can basically unilaterally get out of the contract with no penalty – there’s no burden of proof they have to meet to have a fare declared a mistake, as in this case where the “mistake” fare was still available after the ticket was downgraded. I’m amazed no one has taken any of these companies to court over this.

  2. DJDeep

    November 13, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    $3000 one way (approx $6000-$7000) round trip isn’t much of a mistake fare. .

    Plenty of EY First Class fares from the US to India in the $6000-7000 range.

    I’d take the refund, and go to the ticket counter, or travel agent and pay for the same published fare.

  3. DJDeep

    November 13, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    *****edit: $6500-7500 range.

  4. chrisboote

    November 14, 2018 at 4:17 am

    Wouldn’t be allowed to get away with that for flights from or into the EU

  5. alexmyboy

    November 14, 2018 at 5:10 am

    2 + 2 = 5 and you will like it!

  6. mhrb

    November 14, 2018 at 5:42 am

    Not hard to take them to SCC for reneging on a legally binding contract. In the jurisdiction of England and Wales you’d easily win. Especially interesting would be asking them to justify the cost of full price F fares in a court of law.

  7. J S

    November 14, 2018 at 7:10 am

    I am sympathetic to the airlines when the fare is obviously a mistake (e.g., $50 for a roundtrip to Europe or $200 for a first class ticket to Asia). However, $2,800 is not obviously a mistake even if roundtrip. That sounds to me like a very good deal, but not too good to be true. In this case, EY should be on the hook for a first class flight.

    JS

  8. D3KingAmerican

    November 14, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Etihad business class one way BOM JFK is approx $2800.
    Etihad first class one way BOM JFK is approx $5200
    So this was a mistake and Etihad should not have to give a complimentary upgrade.

  9. guybaxy

    November 14, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    I purchased a 2 J ticket on Garuda from Sydney to Bali in June 2019 for A$1,000 return, or US$700 return. I believe it is a mistake fare as not long after the fare went straight up to A$1,700. I have never ever seen that price before. My c was charged and tickets all issued, able to confirm seats in J class cabin.

  10. laperk1028

    November 14, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Is it really worth it to Etihad to dig in their heels and get a lot of very negative publicity? Wonder how many other people this happened to?

  11. florin

    November 14, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    It’s time airlines (and other businesses, for that matter) assumed responsibility for their mistakes. THEY are responsible for the pricing, their website, everything. If I accidentally type a different date or destination, I pay for my mistake and I think it is reasonable for this to be reciprocal. I get on a plane trusting that pilots DON’T make a mistake that might kill me, so we know one part of the business is capable of rigor…

  12. MikeFromTokyo

    November 16, 2018 at 4:04 am

    They should just honor F if this was in fact a mistake fare labled a First Class. The passenger has paid nearly $3,000, so they still are probably not losing any money on this ticket. It is more than the airline would get as compensation from a partner award ticket.

    But, I agree that the airline does have the right to offer a full refund and cancel a mistake fare, if not prohibited by the applicable laws. I just think in this case the fare was high enough that the classy thing to do would be to honor it. And pay more attention to its own fares offered going forward!

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