Scott McCartney‘s excellent Middle Seat column covers the final resolution to the British Airways India mistake fare ($40 + taxes/fees for full fare coach).
BA lost a small claims case, and settled another.
The Department of Transportation has said that airlines should at least ‘make consumers whole’ if they cancel tickets, covering costs that consumers have incurred as a result of the mistake fare.
Most useful in the piece is the analysis of who has a policy to honor mistake fares:
UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, Continental Airlines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., JetBlue Airways Corp. and Singapore Airlines all say their policy is to not cancel tickets even when a mistake is discovered, no matter how large the error.
“That is the right thing to do,” says United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski. In 2007, United honored a business-class fare from Los Angeles or San Francisco to destinations in New Zealand that was missing one zero: it was sold as $1,062 plus taxes and fees instead of $10,620 plus taxes and fees.
American takes it case-by-case:
In January, AMR Corp.’s American Airlines sold tickets from the U.S. to Australia with service on partner Qantas Airways for $1,100 round-trip—a fairly normal sale price for coach seats—except those fares were mistakenly for first-class seats, which normally cost as much as $20,000 round-trip. American decided the price was obviously too good to be true, and it canceled the reservations, refunded the fare paid and offered customers a $200 voucher for their inconvenience.
American says it took its guidance from the DOT’s agreement in the British Airways case. A spokesman says the airline will honor some mistaken fares and doesn’t have a blanket policy, but considered the Australia mistake too large to honor. “Such errors are extremely rare, but they do happen,” says spokesman Tim Smith.