Against a backdrop of airlines handling mistake fares badly — cancelling tickets after months rather than hours — the DOT issued rules in 2012 that explicitly required airlines to honor mistake fares.
That’s because DOT prohibited ‘post purchase price increases’ of any kind — cancelling a ticket and requiring that a consumer buy a new ticket at then-prevalent rates would constitute raising the price of travel for that consumer after they had made a purchase.
- Here are some of the all-time best airline and hotel mistake prices.
- Here’s how to find mistake fares
DOT published a notice of proposed rulemaking asking for comment on how it ought to revise its rules. Without publication of a new rule, they basically decided to ignore their rules in the case of United tickets issued in Danish Kroner a couple of months ago.
Now DOT has announced that they’ve simply decided to ignore their published rules (.pdf) on mistake fares, provided airlines make customers whole for non-refundable purchases made in conjunction with their tickets.
Here’s the thing.
- It isn’t always obvious when airfares are a mistake
- Airlines are far better-positioned to know – and to prevent them
- Travel providers do renege on even bookings made at their ‘normal price’ when they think they can sell their product for more.
Reader Jennifer L. points me to the low low sale prices that aren’t mistakes being offered by an airline right now.
Cambodia Angkor Air flies Airbus A321 and ATR 72 aircraft.
They actually advertise fares as low as $0 plus taxes and fees.
They’re advertising base fares as low as $6 for international travel!
In fact, this flight from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap Cambodia has a base fare of less than $2 (US$57.30 with all taxes and fees).
I don’t love that they classify fuel surcharges under ‘taxes’ when they’re not government-mandated. But at these prices, who cares?
Go visit Angkor Thom, labor is cheap and I’m willing to bet that even at these prices service is better than what most US passengers experience most of the time.
Are $0, $2, and $6 base fares — all-in prices under $60 — always a mistake for international travel? Clearly not.
Here’s how the DOT should handle mistake fares to be fair to both airlines and protect consumers.
For now though the DOT is on record saying that airlines don’t have to honor mistake fares, but they do have to make consumers whole who rely on those fares in incurring other costs.