My rights when an airline advertises a ‘mistake’ fare?

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  • Anonymous
    Guest

    rferguson
    Participant

    Greetings all,

    I just wanted to get any advise from anyone ‘in the know’ or who has been in a similar situation.

    Last week while browsing on Expedia late one night for J class fares from LHR – BKK I came across an unbelievable bargain – Thai airways J class for £786 return!! Sensing that it probably was some kind of error I none-the-less excitedly got out the credit card to book the fare – totally expecting at some stage in the booking for it to either come up with an ‘error’ message or to see the dreaded words ‘economy’. To my surprise and delight, neither happened. The itinerary listed each sector as ‘Class: Business’. Payment was accepted. About 20mins later I received a confirmation email to my inbox with booking reference number, and again the confirmed itinerary – each sector listed as ‘Business’.

    Yesterday I received another email from Expedia – this one was my ‘Your tickets have been issued!’ email. In this email there is no mention of the words ‘economy’ or ‘business’. Simply ‘Class: O’. A google quickly shows that ‘O’ class is in fact, economy.

    Yet still, neither Expedia nor Thai have made any effort at all to notify me of their ‘error’. So I will bide my time (my travel date isn’t until May). Bearing in mind that Joe Bloggs would probably take it at face value that they just got an amazing steal of a fare! I can’t imagine everyone googling the booking class of an e-ticket especially when they already have an email confirmation listing Business Class. I wonder what Thai would do when unsuspecting passengers rock up at the check in desk @ LHR demanding Business Class and presenting their confirmation.

    So, in this case, what are my rights (if any) and the obligations of Expedia/Thai (if any) to honour what they initially advertised? I’m guessing at some point someone will contact me (or I will have to contact them) and I am assuming the offer will be to either take the offer of Economy or get a refund.

    But as this is not what they advertised (nor what I considered to have paid for – however little) do I have any recourse to force their arm to honour this sale? Or would I be better to try and negotiate a compromise? Maybe an upgrade on just the outbound or inbound?

    Any pointers would be much appreciated!


    FormerlyDoS
    Participant

    I had a similar experience with Opodo last year, where it advertised a non-refundable/flexible J class itinerary from GOT to JED and when I booked it, confirmed flights in Y via Riyadh!

    Having called Opodo immediately, they cancelled the booking at no cost to me. They were very reasonable about the matter.

    In your case, if you got an itinerary in J, then certainly a cancellation should be on the cards, don’t know if you can hold the airline to the deal though, you’d need legal advice for that.

    Good luck. I’d call Expedia ASAP.


    sparkyflier
    Participant

    I wonder if the great Alex McWhirter of BT would have insight on this situation.Perhaps email him but maybe he will see your posting!
    A couple of years ago I found a £1400 fare to New Zealand in First Class, but sadly did not persue it. Maybe I should have tried my luck!


    Edski777
    Participant

    Mr Ferguson,

    Your rights depend entirely on the judicial system under which the transaction takes place. In most countries a judge will decide in your favor if an offer seems “plausible and reasonable”. If it is obvious a mistake has been made the seller can refuse to deliver. For instance: a round trip LHR – SIN in F for UKP 99.- on a reputable carrier. Anybody willl accept that this can’t be for real.

    An offer at £786 return is cheap, but maybe not totally unrealistic as a promotional fare.

    In some of the cases on this thread a judge in Europe or the US may well have ruled in your favor. Especially as it has been both advertised and confirmed at booking. As Expedia is your counterpart in this transaction I would send them a formal letter and demand they follow up on their offer. If their counter offer is to “cancel without cost” I would suggest you reject this offer.

    A lot hangs on their code of conduct and the country in which they are registered doing their business.


    rferguson
    Participant

    Funny enough in the past 20mins or so since I started this thread i’ve had an email from expedia. It basically says that the cabin class is actually economy, the wrong class was loaded into the system. However they are not responsible for this as they just load the class/fare information provided by their supplier.

    I have so far just replied saying thanks for the email but I will be pursuing this via the ‘supplier’ then and asked who the supplier is.

    So we will see….


    TimFitzgeraldTC
    Participant

    Have you tried to allocate a seat. I have just requested O Class for the below flight (it doesn’t show on normal availability) and the seat map shows as First Class.

    TG 917 O 15JAN LHRBKK HS1 2135 #1555

    Do you have dates and I can try and replicate on Galileo


    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Hello rferguson

    I am not a legal expert but to the best of my knowledge there is no proper consumer protection for online sales made in the UK.

    US law may be different but, as Edski777 notes above, if a price is unreasonable then consumers are supposed to be savvy enough to spot it.

    This link below has sone interesting info re the US situation where UA made a mistake with award redemptions:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/middleseat/2012/07/18/dot-investigates-after-united-says-it-will-kill-award-tickets-it-sold-for-4-miles/

    I remember some years back that the UA website in the US made another error.

    It was selling San Francisco to Paris CDG economy returns for USD25 over a short time period. Lots of people booked the tickets.

    At first UA refused to honour the fare (and would probably have got away with it had one or two people made bookings) but because dozens of tickets had been sold the carrier backed down and, rather grudgingly, honoured the USD25 fare and wished travellers a good trip.

    I realise that TG offers special rates now and again. But I would have thought that a fare of £786 would be considered unrealistically cheap considering that TG flies daily non-stop from Heathrow to Bangkok. Check thaiairways.co.uk and you’ll see that the current TG offer is £2,129 for business class – click the “Promotions” link.

    And the “Standby upgrade” which TG promotes on its website costs £617 each-way for a Heathrow to Bangkok upgrade from Y to J.

    Alex McWhirter


    Edski777
    Participant

    You can always check with TG, but Expedia is your commercial counterpart and you have a contract with them (Expedia). Expedia is legally responsible for information provided to you. As usual, their first reaction is to deny any responsibility. Expedia has sold you a product/service and as such has to deal with their suppliers in case of an error in information provided. A simple case of consumer law. Keep in mind that consumer law is there to protect us consumers against corporations dodging their responsibilities.

    The EU is quite strict about this. If the UK doesn’t have this kind of protection for its own citizens (would be very strange, but anway) you can always refer to EU consumer protection laws.


    rferguson
    Participant

    Thanks for the replies guys.

    Timfitzgerald the seatmap associated with the booking brings up the entire aircraft – F J and Y cabins.

    Alex – Many thanks for your valued imput! Yes you are right, from the outset I considered that the fare probably was an error. But the way I was looking at it was it is the airlines error and that they would at least look at the possibility of accepting responsibility for the supplying of incorrect information – at least as a gesture of ‘goodwill’ even if they are not bound to. At the end of the day if I went online and saw that the Hilton Park Lane was advertising a suite for £120 per night I would expect them to honour that price – mistake or not. If I went into my local Waitrose and picked up a beef steak from the butcher that is clearly and correctly labelled and priced – to get to the til and find out that ‘actually there was a mistake putting the price into the computer it’s actually three times as much’ i’d still expect them to honour their mistake.

    God forbid a passenger on an airline makes a ‘mistake’ entering spelling of their name in a reservation or some other trivial matter. The airline will hold us to account – as it is ‘our responsibility’ to enter the information correctly. All I would expect is for an airline to practice what it preaches.

    Edski777 – I think the situation is a little different here. Expedia explicitly states that the ‘contract’ is between the airline (or hotel) and the consumer. Expedia is soley acting as a ‘third party agent’.

    Anyway I will see how I get on. I will print out all the confirmations and screen shots that I have and send a letter direct to Thai explaining the situation and asking them to accept some form of responsibility for which is -no doubt about it – their error. Even though the odds are hugely stacked in their favour i’m hopeful if I yell loud enough they make get rid of me with some form of compromise.


    TimFitzgeraldTC
    Participant

    Hi Rferguson

    Good luck – if it was booked as O on Galileo you would be in First – so fingers crossed for you!!

    Tim


    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Hello rferguson

    Hope things work out. Let us know how you get on.

    Alex McWhirter


    NTarrant
    Participant

    Good luck RFerguson, just to put things in perspective, if you were in Waitrose and got prime steak priced for say £1.00 when it should have been £10.00, when you get to the check out if the check out operator thinks the price is incorrect, Waitrose is not obliged to sell the steak to you for £1.00 as marked.

    It is known as an “invitation to treat” in law and the store is within its rights to refuse to sell any product to you


    rferguson
    Participant

    Thanks again for all the replies 🙂

    Will let you know how I get on – but I can see this progressing at a snails pace with Expedia and Thai blaming the other for responsibility.

    Instead of asking Thai to honour the sale in it’s totality I think I will just approach them for a one-way upgrade as a gesture of goodwill.

    But hey, what have I got to lose?


    FormerlyDoS
    Participant

    Nigel

    That’s true, but once the check out operator has taken the payment (valuable consideration), they can’t change their mind, as the contract has been formed by offer and acceptance.

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