Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > TravelBuzz
Reload this Page >

Mistake fares really are mistakes again

Mistake fares really are mistakes again

Old May 10, 15, 8:46 am
  #1  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: NYC
Posts: 69,158
Mistake fares really are mistakes again

Effective 8 May 2015 the US DoT will no longer enforce the requirement that airlines honor mistake fares. Citing "concern regarding how quickly mistaken fares are spread though postings on aviation and travel websites, forums, and blogs," the DoT sought comment in May 2014 about changing the rules. Even with review of those comments pending (comment period closed in September 2014) the Department has chosen a policy of "non-enforcement" effective with the issuance of the statement last Friday.

Essentially the issuance of "thousands" of mistake fare tickets before the airlines could react and plug the holes was sufficient to get their collective voice heard by the DoT and stop the game.

Read more of my analysis on the DoT stopping enforcement of mistake fare rules.

Read the official statement from the DoT.
sbm12 is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 8:52 am
  #2  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Bangkok or San Francisco
Programs: United 1k, Marriott Lifetime PE, Former DL Gold, Former SQ Solitaire, HH Gold
Posts: 11,881
A whole lot of people will scream and yell in anger about this.

Count me as one of the lonely voices applauding what is clearly a common sense decision.
Tchiowa is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 9:11 am
  #3  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Back home in the REAL Washington (SEA); still working occasionally in the other Washington (DCA area)
Programs: DL PM 1.3MM; AS MVPG 75K
Posts: 13,911
apologies in advance for the metaphor mashup

the "fire, aim, ready" mentality of many who are always connected to the online community (and who often feel a compelling -- perhaps narcissistic -- reason to post about anything and everything) has killed the goose that laid a golden egg for many serious travelers who were able to visit places they might not have even dreamed of, to say nothing of the legions of mileage/status runners we here on FT seem to hear the most
jrl767 is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 9:22 am
  #4  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: DCA
Programs: UA US CO AA DL FL
Posts: 45,219
The revised enforcement policy is sensible & limited.

Given that it is only in effect to permit the rules themselves to be revised and that it requires the carrier to make the consumer whole, e.g., reimburse non-refundable ground costs (which will likely lead to carriers honoring mistake fares for those with costs greater than the mistake fare difference), it is hard to argue.

The burden remains on the carrier to prove a mistake.
Often1 is online now  
Old May 10, 15, 9:25 am
  #5  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: NYC
Posts: 69,158
Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
The burden remains on the carrier to prove a mistake.
Given the way the airlines & DoT have been cooperating lately I'm betting a quick phone call saying "Whoopsie" might not be too far from reality when it comes to such.
sbm12 is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 9:28 am
  #6  
Marriott Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Canada
Programs: A3*G, UA*S, MR PPE, HHonors Gold, Carlson Gold, NEXUS
Posts: 3,564
Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (BB10; Touch) AppleWebKit/537.35+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/10.2.1.3442 Mobile Safari/537.35+)

Originally Posted by Often1
The revised enforcement policy is sensible & limited.

Given that it is only in effect to permit the rules themselves to be revised and that it requires the carrier to make the consumer whole, e.g., reimburse non-refundable ground costs (which will likely lead to carriers honoring mistake fares for those with costs greater than the mistake fare difference), it is hard to argue.

The burden remains on the carrier to prove a mistake.
So are we revising the mistake fare reaction from "wait to see if it'll be honored" to "quick, make non-refundable arrangements!"?
pewpew is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 9:48 am
  #7  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: DCA
Programs: UA US CO AA DL FL
Posts: 45,219
Originally Posted by pewpew View Post
Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (BB10; Touch) AppleWebKit/537.35+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/10.2.1.3442 Mobile Safari/537.35+)



So are we revising the mistake fare reaction from "wait to see if it'll be honored" to "quick, make non-refundable arrangements!"?
Sure. If you want to run the risk that the carrier and then DOT, will say that it's not reasonable for someone to incur non-refundable costs instantly after confirming a mistake fare ticket.

DOT leaves a ton of wiggle room by inserting "reasonable" and an average reasonable person not wanting to risk a serious loss, would be well to hold for a bit to see if his fare is honored.
Often1 is online now  
Old May 10, 15, 10:17 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Feb 1999
Location: San Jose, California, USA
Programs: AS 75K, UA MM, AA MM, IC Plat Amb, Marriott Gold, Hilton Gold
Posts: 3,068
Originally Posted by sbm12 View Post
Effective 8 May 2015 the US DoT will no longer enforce the requirement that airlines honor mistake fares.
I think this is a shame. The former (well, I suppose, current but unenforced) policy is a very sensible one that forces airlines to honor the sales that they voluntarily make.

It's quite the double standard: Airlines have no qualms about holding us to the mistakes that we make. I, for one, have absolutely no qualms about holding them to the mistakes that they make.

The DOT should enforce the policy as written and let the airlines live with their own mistakes, just as the airlines compel us consumers to do.
mikew99 is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 10:34 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: SEA
Programs: AS MVPG
Posts: 117
Originally Posted by Tchiowa View Post
A whole lot of people will scream and yell in anger about this.

Count me as one of the lonely voices applauding what is clearly a common sense decision.
Oh please. It only sounds like common sense if you have no foresight whatsoever. What's to stop some revenue manager at the airline from regretting a non-mistake low fare and changing their minds and saying "oops, that was a mistake! Price went up!" It's a very slippery slope. Obviously to anyone who knows travel, $400 in J DCA-PEK is clearly a mistake, but where do you draw the line from a fare being an obvious mistake to just a really good deal?
Sounder is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 10:43 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: MSN
Programs: AA, BAEC Silver
Posts: 3,491
It would seem to be reasonable that, since the airlines are required to give passengers 24 hours to reconsider a ticket purchase, airlines could be given 24 hours to reconsider a ticket sale. After that period perhaps the airline could be allowed to make changes on the same financial terms that are imposed on the passenger.
MADPhil is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 10:47 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: PSP & ZQN
Programs: UA 1K (2MM), AA Exec Plat, BA Gold, MH Enrich Platinum
Posts: 1,654
When businesses can excuse clerical errors as "mistakes" and not be held responsible for the actions of their employees it would seem to allow deliberate "bait and switch" and improper marketing tactics to flourish. I guess we will see.

A promotional fair/sale is one until it is not?

Shouldn't all businesses be on the same level? When do you trust sales at the retail stores if they can say the sale was a "mistake?"

When is "dynamic pricing" a mistake? When too many tickets are sold?
zebranz is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 10:50 am
  #12  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 11,426
Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
DOT leaves a ton of wiggle room by inserting "reasonable" and an average reasonable person not wanting to risk a serious loss, would be well to hold for a bit to see if his fare is honored.
Of course an honest reasonable person would not expect a $5 first class fare to a foreign land to be anything other than a mistake fare. But there is often a dearth of such "reasonable passengers" in the threads about these mistake fare.

I say good for the airlines. I like the idea of the 24 hour rule, turn about is fare play after all. Wonder how many "reasonable passengers" would be posting reasonable comments when the airline cancels their fare. Probably few to none.
planemechanic is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 10:56 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: TLV
Programs: UA Platinum, Avis Chairman, Marriott Gold, Hilton Gold, GA Pilot
Posts: 3,202
Originally Posted by MADPhil View Post
It would seem to be reasonable that, since the airlines are required to give passengers 24 hours to reconsider a ticket purchase, airlines could be given 24 hours to reconsider a ticket sale. After that period perhaps the airline could be allowed to make changes on the same financial terms that are imposed on the passenger.
+1

I'll happily collect my $150 change fee for a change.
NYTA is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 11:19 am
  #14  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Bangkok or San Francisco
Programs: United 1k, Marriott Lifetime PE, Former DL Gold, Former SQ Solitaire, HH Gold
Posts: 11,881
Originally Posted by Sounder View Post
Oh please. It only sounds like common sense if you have no foresight whatsoever. What's to stop some revenue manager at the airline from regretting a non-mistake low fare and changing their minds and saying "oops, that was a mistake! Price went up!" It's a very slippery slope. Obviously to anyone who knows travel, $400 in J DCA-PEK is clearly a mistake, but where do you draw the line from a fare being an obvious mistake to just a really good deal?
The burden of demonstrating that it was a mistake lies with the airline. I think it will end up being like the old Supreme Court definition of pornography "I don't know how to define it but I know it when I see it" (or something like that).

Originally Posted by zebranz View Post
Shouldn't all businesses be on the same level? When do you trust sales at the retail stores if they can say the sale was a "mistake?"

When is "dynamic pricing" a mistake? When too many tickets are sold?
When I was a kid I worked as a mechanic at K-Mart. They advertised and oil change for 99 cents. And they advertised a set of new shocks for $12.99. The newspaper crossed up the graphics and it came out as a set of shocks for 99 cents. We had a ton of customers demanding it. We refused. People complained to the Department of Consumer Affairs (California) and they ruled that it was clearly a mistake and we didn't have to honor it.

Originally Posted by planemechanic View Post
Of course an honest reasonable person would not expect a $5 first class fare to a foreign land to be anything other than a mistake fare. But there is often a dearth of such "reasonable passengers" in the threads about these mistake fare.
Exactly. And don't need to look any farther than the thread on that fare to see why the new DOT ruling is important.
Tchiowa is offline  
Old May 10, 15, 11:19 am
  #15  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Austin, Texas
Programs: Airline nobody. Sad!
Posts: 25,791
Originally Posted by NYTA View Post
+1

I'll happily collect my $150 change fee for a change.
What if they did that change a week in advance of your trip? "Here's $150, we have changed your flight to whatever we wanted, since the fare would cost you more we aren't charging you the difference, so enjoy your trip to Lagos instead of to the Caymans!" You could theoretically do this to them and pay only $150 (plus fare difference), so they should be able to do it to you, no?

At the same time, how does one know a fare is a mistake? I once booked a ticket for $145, I knew it was a mistake but that is only because I have some fairly advanced level knowledge of fares and fare codes and could see that the fare code with which it was booking with was priced well below the normal (it wasn't a deep discount code, it was a mid level economy code normally $700-1000). However, I had also booked multiple economy class tickets prior on the exact same origin/destination/travel class/routing for $220-240, and those definitely were not mistakes as there were deep discount economy and I flew on all of them (for clarity I also flew all of the $145 tickets I bought, I think it was 3 of them). But Joe Public doesn't know what the fare code difference is, he just sees $145 for a route that is "normally" $220. Is the $145 really a mistake to him? It isn't so absurdly low (say $10 or something) which any reasonable person would admit is a mistake. If it had been in a deep discount fare bucket, even I wouldn't have thought it was a mistake, simply a really good price designed to fill a lot of seats and put pressure on the competition.

Jetblue had a press release recently announcing a $108 RT sale for trips BOS-DFW/AUS/IAH. Obviously, not a mistake if they went so far as to announce a press release and post a sale page on their website. But this was well below the normal going rates for those routes, which are normally in the $220-260 range, over 50% less in most cases. Without a press release, would that $108 have been a mistake? Many people would say a price more than 50% below the recent norm was indeed a mistake. Heck, I would have thought $108 was possibly a mistake otherwise. But, in this case, clearly it wasn't. Not every fare has a press release, but fare drops like this do occur from time to time and are definitely not mistakes.

Should we force airlines to track their listed fares per market on a per day basis, and then anything below some fixed percentage of the lowest fare in that market over some fixed recent period of time may be considered a mistake? Judging a mistake fare can't be done on a case by case basis easily by an outside government arbiter whose rulings must be able to hold up against possible lawsuits, as that person or persons would have to research, get information on what occurred from both sides, and then make a ruling, but that will take time, possibly a lot of it. And that is time that people with possible vacation plans (and airline revenue management plans as well) end up hanging in the balance.

Last edited by TheBOSman; May 10, 15 at 11:36 am
TheBOSman is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: