Book a mistake fare? You’re stealing!

Everyone’s least favorite reporter, Chris Elliott, is at it again. This time it’s about mistake fares. If you want some quality entertainment, check out the article here. The highlight has to be this gem:

They have a right to their opinion, but I won’t advocate for them. People who try to force travel companies to accept unreasonable or erroneous prices are stealing — no two ways about it.

Now look, I see where people are coming from when they say it might be unethical or wrong to push a travel company to accept a mistake fare in certain cases. But stealing and “no two ways about it?!?”

Chris, as one FlyerTalker said, you really are one of the luckiest people in the world. How you have a job as a “travel expert” yet continue to spew this garbage is beyond me. And of course this is one of his better articles, certainly more accurate than the time he claimed elite status was meaningless or the time he said elite fliers ruin the travel experience.

Wait a second, why am I even writing about this? Shouldn’t I just ignore him? This is like giving Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt publicity. I’m sure Chris will make my day by posting a comment here shortly saying that he’s happy to provide us with some good laughs….

Filed Under: Media
  1. You had it correct the first time–He’s my least favorite. Elliott is very annoying not to mention pompous. I don’t care if he wouldn’t be interested in advocating for me…because I am not interested in him being my advocate.

  2. He’s an idiot, but a savvy one. He seems like one of those political types whose opinion changes with the direction of the wind, based on whatever will help him in the moment. He’s good at stirring things up, which – I assume – is the goal. If he actually believes the shit he writes, he’s just a lucky moron.

  3. Well Eric got it write on the money. However I feel I should add he writes for CNN which explains all the rest.

  4. +1000. Does he feel that it’s fair for airlines to not give us a refund if we book an erroneously too high fare?

  5. Apparently I should be in jail, then, since I actually do expect the retailers to hold up their half of the contract.

    Interestingly enough, the result that the customer eventually received – coverage of other costs made in good faith based on the “mistake” – is exactly what the DoT and British Airways settled on as the appropriate coverage from the carrier for their recent “mistake.” I wonder how much of that is coincidence.

    My case goes to court tomorrow. Should be interesting!

  6. Please don’t link to his crap anymore! There’s probably a commission of sorts over the long-term on the number of “hits” his stories get.

    Going one further than what bschaff1 said, any “travel” reporter for the in-depth, investigative, award winning USA Today should be regarded as very suspect…

  7. I have to agree with Chris E. Coins, keep up the good work… because one day you’re going to replace Chris E at the paper!

  8. @Scott – actually, USA Today has some pretty good travel reporting, particularly Ben Mutzabaugh’s blog. Elliott writes mainly for CNN and his own blog, although I think he’s been on MSNBC (which is a horrible travel-news source) as well.

    That said, Elliott is, more often than not, something of a joke as a travel writer. And he’s way off on this one.

    First off, while the fares in the BA case were lower than average for US-India flights, the total price quoted after taxes, etc. in this case was not so low as to be unreasonable, compared to both other all-in prices to India at the time or other international fares of comparable distance. I say “price”, not “fare” deliberately, as consumers only care about total price, not “fare” vs. “surcharge” vs “taxes”.

    Second, it’s a matter of principle – if airlines (or anyone, really) are allowed to post a price, take payment from the customer, then disallow the price later and call it a “mistake” after the ticket is actually issued, where does it stop? Once you accept payment, you have a contract, and if the airline made a mistake, too bad. Now if they loaded the prices, noticed the mistake, and then stopped customers from booking as soon as they noticed it, without accepting payment, that’s fair. But that’s not what BA did in this case…they took payment, the tickets were issued, payment was made.

    Finally, there’s an element of “poetic justice” to the BA event in that the fare loaded was $40, but the “fuel surcharge” pushed the price before taxes to the point where the price after taxes was, while low, not so low as to be unreasonable. If the airlines weren’t still playing the “fuel surcharge” game, the $40 base fare would have priced out after taxes so low as to give BA a fair defence under the “reasonable man” concept of common law. The fuel surcharges were understandable as an emergency response to the oil price crisis, but now they’re just being used to reduce the amount of the total ticket price subject to corporate discounts, make “free” FF program tickets no longer “free” without imposing an actual FF redemption fee and overtly reducing the value of programs, etc.

  9. @Craig — not sure if Elliot has any special deal with CNN going. The post on CNN’s website was distributed by Tribune Media Services, and I actually read the very same article in the SF Chronicle Travel section a week or two earlier (yes, sometimes paper “news” beats online “news”). The Chronicle’s weekly Sunday travel section always as an Elliot travel advice column (which CNN seems to “re-print” at ) and they are always so predictable that they probably were written by a piece of software. It goes along the lines of

    Q: Help, Chris, I went to XYZ and company ABC did blah to me. Now they refuse to refund my money.

    A. If you had written or emailed instead of calling, you would have left a trail that subsequent communication could rely on. Alas you are to stupid for that, and so you’re basically at fault for not getting the money back. But here, let me help you, I have contacted ABC and they are giving you $xxx for your self-inflicted trouble.

    Rinse, lather, repeat.

  10. @Oliver – thanks, that makes sense. I don’t read any Tribune source regularly, so I just know him from CNN.

    I did read his own website for a little while, before I realized he’s not a very good writer, and your description of his typical exchange is spot on.

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