BA refuses to honour "mistake fares"

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This topic contains 41 replies, has 21 voices, and was last updated by  FaroFlyer 24 Jun 2018
at 10:14

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  • Alex McWhirter

    British Airways has disappointed some passengers by refusing to honour incorrectly priced tickets for flights between London, Dubai and Tel Aviv.

    It appears the tickets were purchased via a travel agent.

    BBC reports that BA maintains that the contract with customers was not legally binding if the price was “manifestly incorrect.”

    The issue of mistake fares has been covered on this Forum before. Sometimes an airline will honour the mistake fare (often only because of consumer pressure) but usually it will decline.

    Back in 2014 SIA sold over 900 incorrectly priced business class tickets in Australia.

    Initially SIA told travellers they would either have to pay double the price or else be downgraded to economy.

    But following passenger objections and media coverage SIA relented and accepted the tickets.

    SIA to honour half-price business fares


    This has happened a few times to me when i’ve tried to take advantage of mistake fares. I have battled on on occasion and in one case (with MH) they eventually agreed to honour it. I’ve also booked one with QR which they also honoured without question. Attempts with Etihad, United, Air France and Virgin Australia all ended up in my booking being cancelled.


    Checking today the fake fares were only about 33% (£100) less than those available now on the internet so they’re hardly unreasonable prices.
    A simple calculation will reveal how much money they’d lose – probably none since even the fake fares may cover costs?
    If SQ can respect pax purchases surely all airlines can?


    More shoddy practice by BA. If they were to employ a higher calibre of person to load and check their fares, these mistakes would not happen.

    As the fares appear to be within a range that a reasonable person might consider realistic, I would like to see BA taken to court and losing.


    I believe that BA should have honoured the prices, mistake or not. It is not as if their customers can take advantage and stockpile goods.

    If they had overpriced the tickets would they have written to the agent and asked them to process refunds? If they had, who thinks that the agent would have actually passed them on:-(


    Checking today the fake fares were only about 33% (£100) less than those available now on the internet so they’re hardly unreasonable prices.

    A simple calculation will reveal how much money they’d lose – probably none since even the fake fares may cover costs?

    If SQ can respect pax purchases surely all airlines can?

    One of these days, a cute lawyer will challenge the ‘manifest’ nature of such an error. I understand that these were economy fares and that the difference was ~£100. If you purchase a J class ticket for £200, when a typical fare is £2,000, then that would be a ‘manifest error’ in my books, but £100ish on an economy fare of £300? Sounds like a flash sale or quick promotion, to me – I’ve seen such things quite regularly this year.

    Any lawyers have an opinion?


    Yes. My personal opinion is that the tickets should have been honoured and that court proceedings have a realistic prospect of being successful.


    If I had booked one of these tickets I would threaten BA with legal action and carry out the threat if need be. Given the sums involved it sounds like a something you’d issue in the small claims court. The courts bend over backwards to accommodate litigants in person and BA wouldn’t be able to recoup its costs if it was successful… why waste the money fighting it in the first place. That said, this is not my area of expertise and definitely not advice!


    A decent Airline would honour them, and actually for a small amount, it would get them some positive marketing and a better reputation.
    B A have been plunging in recent years with bad PR, and providing less and less, in every aspect of travel with them. It needs this.
    As others point out on here if it were a large difference Business Fare, fair enough.

    A Class action through one Solicitors, or one of the “Airline Claim Companies” would do well to take this up.

    In the last 5 years, EVERY aspect of reservations, check in, Special services, seat allocation, luggage, printouts of bookings, boarding passes … OUR responsibility, not the Airlines anymore. FFP’s are the same, Customer relations, mostly emails, all very frustrating. No voices or faces anymore, yet when we make an error, they tell us it was “Your responsibility”, and penalise us. Taking so many flights as many of us worldwide on BT, we all would make the odd error, yet we get penalised for doing so by the Airlines.
    Hypocritical of BA to apply measures on us, yet take no responsibility themselves?

    In the UK, the Law supports the customer if something is wrongly displayed and priced, and they must sell it at that price.
    The “Virtual space” of an Airline website, would be interesting in Law, to clarify where it exists. Airline / Country, UK website of the Airlines.
    I thought the EU would have clear rules on this?
    If not, a Class action would i feel have a good case, especially if customers have booked holidays, meetings, hotel stays on that basis, pre-paid, it would lead to losses, also that a Court should decide upon. “Balance of probabilities (51% a Court’s view) for Civil cases in English Courts is all needed.


    @MarcusGB….I believe that you may be incorrect in saying that an advertised price has to adhered to.

    I complain constantly about various aspects of BA, but, at least, Golds and Silvers have the ability to talk to friendly (mostly!) folk in customer relations and express their annoyance.


    BBC Breakfast programme thrashing this out with an expert who suggested that BA is incorrect in refusing to honour the fares. Embarrassing for BA…hehe!


    Each time I attempted to ‘convince’ an airline to honour one of the mistake fares I purchased I was quoted some paragraph deep deeeeeeep down in their T&C’s that basically covers their butts in such a situation.

    How many people actually read these reams of Terms and Conditions before clicking that box saying you have?

    Just because something is legal doesn’t make it good business behaviour, I agree.

    There was a class lawsuit in the US where UA was taken to talk over refusing to honour a mistake fare. The court ruled in favour of the airline. But a lot of the emphasis of the courts ruling was based on whether a consumer could realistically expect a particular fare to be a ‘mistake’ or not. Which is why there is an unwritten rule on forums like flyertalk that you do NOT use the word mistake fare when speaking of a mistake fare lol.

    So if you have a fare that normally hovers around £2800 and it is mistakenly sold as £1500 an airline would more likely honour that than if they offered it as £500. Not just because they have less money to lose but also because a consumer could genuinely expect a £1500 fare a ‘flash sale’ whereas most would know a £500 fare is a mistake.


    The British Airways argument for not honouring these tickets would appear to be the fare offered was an honest mistake which the customer should have noticed and the airline is therefore not obliged to honour the fare.

    However in BA’s own Conditions of Carriage 3a General has this:

    3a3) We sell some tickets at discounted fares which may be partly or completely non-refundable. You should choose the fare which best suits your needs and consider taking out insurance to cover instances where you might have to cancel your ticket.

    Surely it is entirely reasonable for customers to assume any price offered on line or via a travel agent may be a sale fare? As others have commented on line, most of us at some time or another have taken advantage of ‘flash’ sale fares.

    Further perusal of the BA Terms & Conditions shows in clause 10 General part 10b Involuntary Fare Refunds states:

    10b) Involuntary fare refunds
    10b1) We will pay fare refunds as set out below if we:
    • cancel a flight
    • make a significant change to a flight time which is not acceptable to you
    • delay a flight by five hours or more
    • fail to stop at your place of destination or stopover
    • cause you to miss a connecting flight on which you held a confirmed reservation or
    • refuse to carry you because a banning notice is in force against you or for some other reason pursuant to these conditions where reference is made to this clause.

    Nowhere in the above section – or anywhere else in the Terms & Conditions – can I find mention of the airlines policy if a fare is mistakenly advertised at the wrong price.

    In the case of most customers the fare was offered, the fare was accepted, the fare was paid for paid for and tickets were issued. Surely this is a legal contract in law at this stage?

    And if it is not, could it be argued the fare was not a mistake but misleading and if so, could BA be taken to court under the Consumer Protection Act of 1987 where I believe it is an offence to offer a misleading price?


    This is a pretty balanced article on the BA situation:

    British Airways Cancels Thousands of Mistake Fares to Tel Aviv, Dubai


    This is a pretty balanced article on the BA situation

    I don’t find that article particularly well written or balanced, TBH. The author advises against booking accommodation around mistake fares, but doesn’t really consider how reasonable it is to expect an average consumer to recognise a mistake fare.

    These fares were sold via online travel agencies and I very much doubt that the fare class was displayed – not that this would mean anything to most people, anyway. I would take a guess and say I imagine that the OTA confirmations would either state ‘non-refundable’ or ‘assume the fare is non-refundable’, per my experience in the past – so as far as the normal consumer is concerned (and they do not have our insights, why should they?) they had a firm booking that they paid for. For people who look out for mistake fares, I have no sympathy, as they should know what they are doing and gamble accordingly, but I would assume they are in a minority.

    The other question is how long did it take the airline to advise of the mistake? As consumers, we have 24 hours to cancel mistake bookings, I would have thought it reasonable for that to apply both ways, so that consumers can book accommodation without any concerns after that point.

    Bottom line, for an economy ticket purchased at a price where another carrier is offering a lower or equal fare, I find it disturbing that a consumer might be facing consequential losses through no fault of their own – I hope a lawyer will start an action to set a precedent about what a ‘manifest error’ looks like.

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