I’ve always said I have no moral qualms taking advantage of ‘mistake fares’. If an airline publishes a far of, say, $28 to Paris and decides to honor it — if some people are going to get to go to Europe at a very very low price — then I would like to be one of those people.
I don’t generally complain when such deals aren’t honored, and to me that’s a relevant moral difference. I don’t want to miss out, but I also don’t feel like there’s a moral claim against the travel provider either. “I’m going to sue” doesn’t really enter my thoughts.
However, I do think that travel providers owe a certain clarity and expediency in communicating about the deal and how they intend to handle it.
If it’s a mistake and they decide to cancel it, do it the next day and reach out directly to all affected passengers and my general view is no harm, no foul. Extend some sort of olive branch in the form of a future discount or miles and I’m ecstatic.
What I do have a problem with is not communicating at all or waiting several weeks and then not honoring a deal. After several weeks the standard is to assume that a deal will be honored. People begin to formulate plans, set up vacation time with their employer, incur non-refundable costs for other travel related to the deal (whether positioning flights or hotels).
It’s this category that Qatar seems to fall into with their recent business class deal between Cambodia and Vietnam that permitted routing via Doha.
Here’s what Qatar sent out to customers about three weeks after tickets were purchased.
You recently purchased a ticket at qatarairways.com for travel within South East Asia, including a transfer through Doha.
This itinerary through Doha was quoted to you for a price that is intended only for short haul direct flights in Asia. This happened due to an error in our system, outside the control of Qatar Airways.
If you did not realize the error prior to this email we would like to apologize for any inconvenience the incorrect routing display may have caused. We would like to offer you the following options to demonstrate our appreciation of your loyalty and understanding:
1/ For your convenience, we already rebooked you on the direct non-stop service to your destination, and would like to offer you 10 000 Qmiles as compensation to offset any inconvenience this may have caused. To have the miles credited, please confirm your Privilege Club membership number and reply to this email to opt in. Please note that miles will be credited after your flight is completed, and only one passenger per booking is eligible to receive the compensation.
2/ In case the new routing does not fit your travel needs, we would like to hereby apologize and offer a full refund on your ticket. To apply for the refund, please confirm in a reply to this email, or submit the refund request form at qatarairways.com/refund
Unfortunately we are unable to offer further compensation in this case.
3/ If you would still prefer to travel on your original itinerary through Doha, we hereby offer you a 15% discount on Business class, or 10% discount on Economy class. Please contact the Qatar Airways office in the country of your departure to make a new booking, and submit a refund request at qatarairways.com/refund
The discount is applicable on the lowest available net fare, excluding taxes and promotional fares, and miles will be credited to you based on regular class and tier eligibility.
Please note that you can only choose one of the three options from above, and you need to respond to this email within 28 days, otherwise the above offer will be withdrawn.
We would like to apologise again, and we look forward to welcoming you onboard soon.
Qatar isn’t honoring the deal. You can either fly the short hop non-stop and take miles as compensation (but these are Qatar’s miles and not partner miles), refund the ticket, or take a small discount on paid travel that matches the original itinerary.
It is a flat out falsehood that the price happened “due to an error in our system, outside the control of Qatar Airways.” It happened because of the way that Qatar filed the routing rules for the fare.
I don’t have a problem with an airline that doesn’t honor its mistakes, as long as it does so promptly (not done in this case). And as long as they don’t lie about it.
Poor showing, Qatar.