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.”