Several days ago Hong Kong Airlines published some outrageously cheap business class fares originating in the US, as you could fly roundtrip to Asia for under $600 roundtrip.
I think it goes without saying that this was a mistake fare, and not surprisingly, tons of people took advantage of it. Back in the day the US Department of Transportation would require airlines to honor mistake fares, though that’s no longer the case.
So the reality is that the airline didn’t have to honor these fares. I’ll actually take it a step further — I don’t think that ethically airlines should have to honor mistake fares, at least in a case like this, where it’s extremely obvious. They should have to let passengers know very quickly if they won’t honor them, and they shouldn’t be able to cancel them in situations that are non-obvious, in my opinion.
Less than a day after the mistake fare “died” Hong Kong Airlines publicly confirmed that they’d be honoring these cheap fares, and that’s of course great.
However, what has really impressed me is the way they’ve communicated regarding these fares.
Here’s what the official Hong Kong Airlines Twitter account wrote after the mistake fare:
So about that 600 USD business class transpacific fare 😳….we did it, we will honour it, and perhaps a few people will get to travel on our news business class product being introduced in September to LA. What’s not to like?✈️
— Hong Kong Airlines (@hkairlines) August 18, 2018
Then here’s what Hong Kong Airlines’ CMO Tweeted after the airline said they’d honor the fares:
No, it wasn't intentional…definitely not a marketing gimmick. We really screwed up.
It hit when I was BBQing at a friend's house on my vacation. We have decided to honor the tickets at our own cost.
We are willing to pay a price to keep our promises as a brand. https://t.co/YKhNtXqxvV
— George Liu/CMO Hong Kong Airlines (@GeorgeJLiu) August 17, 2018
Color me very impressed. Again, for me this isn’t about ethics, or about whether or not they honored the fare. For me this is just about plain good marketing.
Sometimes we see airlines honor mistake fares reluctantly, which seems counterproductive. If you’re going to honor a fare like this then at least take advantage of the good publicity associated with it. If you’re not going to generate goodwill from a potentially costly mistake, then it’s truly a lose-lose.
What impresses me so much here is the quick response and positive attitude from Hong Kong Airlines. They’re quickly owning up to the mistake, are saying “oops,” are reminding people they keep their promises as a brand, and are telling people to enjoy their product.
If you’re going to honor a mistake fare, that’s exactly the way to do it.
Very well done, Hong Kong Airlines!
For those that got in on the fare, be sure to check out our post on where to credit Hong Kong Airlines miles, and your options for redeeming them.