British Airways Is Not Honoring Cheap First Class Fares To Ecuador

Filed Under: British Airways

A few days ago I wrote about some incredible first class fares that British Airways published between the UK and Ecuador. You could fly roundtrip first class for just over $1,000. I think it’s safe to assume that this was a mistake fare, given that this was for first class (in business class it would be less obvious that it was a mistake).

I know a lot of people took advantage of this deal. Personally I didn’t, since I had enough flights planned as is.

I was a bit surprised to see that nobody had heard anything from British Airways in the first couple of days. If an airline isn’t going to honor a mistake fare, I think it’s only fair that they notify people quickly. The more time passes, the safer it is to assume that a fare will be honored. So after two days without anything from British Airways, I assumed they’d probably honor this fare.

WRONG. British Airways will not be honoring the cheap first class fares that they published between the UK and Ecuador. They just sent out the following email to those who booked this fare (about 60 hours after the fare was available):

BA always takes great care to ensure that all published fares are correct. However, on rare occasions mistakes are made which cause the display of incorrect fares. Unfortunately, this has happened in relation to the recent booking you made, and the fare you paid was incorrect.

In circumstances where a booking has been concluded on the basis of a manifestly incorrect fare, as is the case here, we cancel the booking.

If you wish to retain the booking, you must pay the difference between the incorrect advertised price and the correct price for this journey. Should you wish to do this, and retain the ticket, please contact your local BA contact centre by Monday 9 October 2017 at 5:00pm UK time or two days before your travel date, whichever is earlier.

If we do not hear from you by this time, your ticket will be canceled and you will receive a full refund. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Alternatively, BA can offer you the option of applying the value of the ticket you have purchased toward a flight to the same destination in economy class. This will be a new booking, but you will travel on the same flights, and no additional fare or fee will be payable. Please contact your local BA contact centre by Monday 9 October 2017 at 5:00pm UK time or two days before your travel date, whichever is earlier if you wish to do this. BA’s Conditions of Carriage will apply to this new contract for carriage. Any appropriate tax refunds will be applied by the BA contact centre.

Given that the fare was manifestly incorrect, BA cannot accept any responsibility for any costs or losses incurred as a result of the booking made.

When I first wrote about this sale I recommended not making any non-refundable plans around these flights yet, since I figured this outcome was a real possibility.

Back in the day the US Department of Transportation was really strict in requiring airlines to honor mistake fares that touch US soil, though they changed their policy in 2015. This was part of a policy against post-purchase price increases. Originally the relevant part of the policy was as follows:

The Enforcement Office explained that if a consumer purchases a fare and receives confirmation of the purchase and the purchase appears on the consumer’s credit card statement and/or online account summary, then there has been a purchase whether or not it was a mistaken fare and the post purchase price prohibition in section 399.88 applies.

In 2015 that policy was updated as follows:

As a matter of prosecutorial discretion, the Enforcement Office will not enforce the requirement of section 399.88 with regard to mistaken fares occurring on or after the date of this notice so long as the airline or seller of air transportation: (1) demonstrates that the fare was a mistake fare; and (2) reimburses all consumers who purchased a mistaken fare ticket for any reasonable, actual, and verifiable out-of-pocket expenses that were made in reliance upon the ticket purchase, in addition to refunding the purchase price of the ticket. These expenses include, but are not limited to, non-refundable hotel reservations, destination tour packages or activities, cancellation fees for non-refundable connecting air travel and visa or other international travel fees. The airline may ask the consumer requesting out-of-pocket expenses to provide evidence (i.e. receipts or proof of cancellations) of actual costs incurred by the consumer. In essence, the airline or seller of air transportation is required to make the consumer “whole” by restoring the consumer to the position he or she was in prior to the purchase of the mistaken fare.

So if you did buy one of these fares, there’s nothing you can do to force British Airways to honor it. However, if you did incur any verifiable out of pocket expenses as a result of this, it’s my understanding that British Airways has the obligation to reimburse you for those, even though they say they don’t (I could be mistake, though, as this fare isn’t actually to or from the US, but rather just connects there).

However, hopefully most of you didn’t make any non-refundable plans, so won’t have to go through the process.

In this game we win some and we lose some, and I tend to think it makes sense to move on in cases like this. Plenty of mistake fares are honored, but it looks like this won’t be one of them.

I’m disappointed that it took British Airways so long to contact those who booked the fare and inform them that it won’t be honored.

  1. I know ppl are not always very smart, they easily fall for your “ACT FAST” posts on mistake fares and even though you warn them they still loose it when the actual airline wont honor it and you be like “So Sorry Guys, we win some and loose some” – Good Luck with sustaining your blog this way

  2. They don’t seem to really take any responsibility for their mistake. What stops them from doing this whenever they want? Who decides what “manifestly” is? There should at least be a time limit for them to correct their fare.

  3. They should have no more than 24 hours to correct a fare – the same time limit we have with the airlines to cancel. If they protest they need more time, then they also must extend the cancellation timeframe for the consumers. This is total BS, especially the last line about not covering costs because the fare was “manifestly incorrect.”

    Whatever happened to an offer of something for purchase and an acceptance of that offer constituting a bound agreement for said purchase??

    Aso: @debit – would you prefer he keep these (potential) deals to himself? He seems to be sustaining his blog just fine 😉

  4. @Debit:

    And yet you’re still here with your pitiful attempts to troll. At least you make for some fun reading. So thanks for that.

  5. Lucky, thanks for posting this. I disagree with Debit. If people are not aware enough of the risk involved they shouldn’t be playing this game. No need to hold everyone’s hand all the time.

  6. You can sue them for the costs.

    Just need to file in Greenwich small claims court in London.

    Hire a barrister.

  7. Not too surprised since BA has a history of not honoring mistake fares. Companies like Air Transat, however, do. If you see a BA related mistake fare, don’t bother, it won’t be honored. 🙁

  8. Once when Delta was delayed they rebooked my whole family on British Airways first class. Had the boarding passes and everything. At the gate, a BA supervisor refused to let us board saying that it was not appropriate for Delta to do that and that they didn’t trust Delta to pay them. That was the last flight of the day, too. After that experience, I will always be looking for opportunity to extract a pound of flesh from British Airways.

  9. If I remember correctly, BA didnt even honor a full Y fare at a 600 USD to India. I never once think BA would honor a F fare if they refuse to honor an economy fare.

  10. For all the complaining we do about the US carriers, we should at least be glad they aren’t as bad as British Airways, which is easily one of the worst flag carriers in the world. Their Avios program is abysmal, their business class product is literally laughable, and they’ve legitimately begun to run the airline as though it’s an ultra-low-cost carrier. I will gladly pay a premium to avoid this dumpster fire of an airline on both paid and award (lol, like I’m actually going to pay $500+ in fuel surcharges for this shoddy peoduct) bookings.

  11. See RGN round 3. Under 24 hour stop in US does not fall under 399.88 so no reasonable expense reimbursement is required.

  12. I think most of you didnt lwarn the lesson,if a fare looks too good to be true with BA dont bother.
    BA is a total CRAP and they dont care what you feel or think.
    In 2017 i booked a tkt with which cannot be changed,modified online,only phone calls,in 2017 unbelievable

  13. Another situation that will cause me to book away from BA in the future. I did not buy these tickets but their handling of this provides plenty of reason not to trust them in the future. They get to determine when a fare is incorrect, and they get to decide when that decision will be made. And everyone else can deal with the consequences. And as we see here they can decide that a $1,050 First Class fare is OBVIOUSLY incorrect, even though BA themselves held monthlong sales on NA-Europe Business Class fares in October 2014, October 2015 and other periods when fares were well under $2,000. And even though there was a sale earlier this week for NA-EUR fares, on Oneworld and Skyteam right at $2,000.

    They also were completely unwilling to own up to their IT debacle last year that they continue to blame on uncontrollable power supply issues.

    No matter what happens, you can be assured that it’s not BA’s fault and they bear no responsibility. That will always be the case in their opinion. They’ve shown that to be true again and again. This is just another example. And this is why I have no sympathy for them when they do make an error, might as well try to take advantage of it because you can bet that they’ll do everything they can to take advantage of their customers every chance they get.

    Check out the lack of accountability in this opening statement:

    “BA always takes great care to ensure that all published fares are correct. However, on rare occasions mistakes are made which cause the display of incorrect fares. Unfortunately, this has happened in relation to the recent booking you made, and the fare you paid was incorrect.”

    To summarize: BA always takes great care – and every other part of this mess is attributable either to “you” or the mysterious display of incorrect fares. Nowhere in that statement does BA say that BA **cked up, because BA is allergic to taking responsibility.

  14. I’m with Dave on this one. If they don’t cop on within 24 hours it’s their problem. Also the fare was apparently £787 in pounds so it isn’t a mistake by any clear method, but rather a very special offer.

    I booked a non refundable hotel room for my wife using my Marriott account the other night, and then realised the next morning I had not booked for 2, and only for 1 (me). Same price at time of booking for 1 or 2, same if I notice within 24 hours and fix it, but 130€ a night extra if I don’t notice until we arrive, and not possible to modify a reservation after 24 hours. That’s the rule.

    Same goes for booking flights on almost any airline or OTA and indeed on Air Canada sometimes they hold your res but actually don’t ticket and process charge until 24 hours after purchase. Booking on Swiss this month, price dropped and I canceled and rebooked. It works both ways. But BA can’t have it Both ways against us.

    And also. You’re great for sharing the fares and how to book them but the risk and inevitable fight to keep the booking is part of the game. You openly disclaim it. People need to read the whole advice and not just the words “cheap first class flight”

  15. When you posted this on Monday (10/2) I saw that flights on Tuesday and Wednesday (10/3-4) were wide open at that price. I wonder if anyone booked travel for Tuesday or Wednesday before BA realized the mistake? I very seriously considered it, thinking the deal wouldn’t last. Hope nobody is stuck in Ecuador with a $10,000 bill for the flight home.

  16. @Parker, yes someone was on this trip already. Not sure what happened to him.

    Go to the thread on FT where Lucky saw this to see the details.

  17. Orbitz, made a mistake on a CO. fare from SFO to GLA business/ first for 670$. They honored the fair two years ago and made a customer for life. My e-ticket was over 4 grand.

  18. I’m not one to easily fall over. I have one of these itineraries booked as well as hotels and a repositiong flight. By allowing this abuse to happen by British Airways, you’re giving them sweeping powers to just cancel any ticket they want at any time because they don’t like the price. If one of us had wanted to cancel the ticket, we’d have been charged change fees up the wazoo. Why do the same rules not apply to British Airways? These tickets were issued with ticket numbers. British Airways cannot just go back on what amounts to a contract now and say “we don’t like the price, so we’re going to cancel the ticket.“

    To all people who have this ticket booked: do not just move on. The more people who just “move on” the airlines feel empowered the next time to do whatever they want and screw and abuse the little guy. Especially since it’s BA, they need to be taught a lesson at some point.

  19. What about the Sale of Goods Act that is a UK Law, where BA is based legally.
    Unless BA can prove is was a genuine error and remove ALL items from this error, then they are covered.
    If they can’t then legally they have to offer this price.
    As for the comments on time length. This should be done at the time of sale, and not after. So BA is on a sticky wicket here…

  20. What’s the thread on FT?

    I hate FT these days. The mods there are ridiculous, just let people freakin’ talk.

  21. We don’t fly Bloody Awful. They are almost as bad as anerican airlines. No thanks. Act fast with fake low fares, then sorry. Bunch of Wankers and asshats.

  22. My favourite part of that email is the generous offer to switch to economy on the same flight for the same price. Can you imagine going to a bar advertising champagne for a cheap price, and they say ooops that was a mistake, but for the same price you can get tap water with a slice of lemon.

  23. I attempted to take advantage of this and received the same email advising to contact BA to discuss. Thought I’d play along and call, they said I can keep the fare but would have to pay about GBP 6000 to keep the ticket. I opted to cancel and get a refund instead.

    Interestingly Google Flights is showing the same routing but for GBP 2662, which is still a good deal. The difference with this flight is it’s sold via American and on AA flight numbers. I’m now wondering if it’s worth rebooking at this more expensive, but still good price, or if I’m going to get a similar ‘cancellation’ email from AA in a week or so…;f=LHR;t=GYE;d=2018-04-05;r=2018-05-03;sel=LHRMIA0BA207-MIAGYE0AA927,GYEMIA0AA948-MIALHR0BA206;sc=f

  24. When every blogger is referring to this as a “mistake fare” from the start, the hand wringing complaints from so many whiners when BA has the audacity to cancel these mistake tickets is pathetic.

  25. Just reading through the premium deals FT forum there are tons of fares that I could link that someone may consider an error fare, but have been proven not to be. I have flown from Asia to South Africa in business for half the cost of this ticket with a much better airline. Likewise there was a ticket to Oz/Nz for a comparable price not long ago which is probably double the mileage (and a better experience).

    Prices also vary massively over time. Not long ago you could get a ticket from DUB-HNL for the same price of this ticket with BA/AA. And to East coast US it was more like 600. People who state this as a clear error have short memories.

  26. This is the reason I never post error fares on flyertalk anymore. They always get killed. There are a 2 out right now only known in small closed groups….and best to keep it that way so we can actually fly them.

  27. @William Y: I totally agree mate, I am sick of it FT. I have used the occasional Australian word that is part of the vernacular and they censor it. Where do they get those creepy moderators from? I posted about this BA farce and they took it down.

    The most relevant point I read here in comments was from @Dave “They should have no more than 24 hours to correct a fare – the same time limit we have with the airlines to cancel. If they protest they need more time, then they also must extend the cancellation timeframe for the consumers. This is total BS, especially the last line about not covering costs because the fare was “manifestly incorrect.”

    Bu it’s BA and they will bloody well do what they like. And screw the passengers. And they wonder why they have gone from being the self-proclaimed “World’s Favourite Airline” to the “World’s Most Hated Airline”.

    Goodonya Willy, you tosser

  28. When it’s obviously a mistake fare you may as well buy it because it just might be honoured, and if it isn’t you get a full refund anyway. In the latter case you really have no cause for complaint because you knew it was a dodgy deal when you took it.

  29. The biggest issue with mistake fares and blogs advertising them is that a lot of people are going to take advantage of them as a result.

    If only 10 bookings had been made, they might have honoured them, but if 200 are made then the money lost is too much to they have to cancel the tickets.

  30. @Alex makes a good point in my opinion. A couple of years ago I spotted a hotel booking in Norway for 6 euros a night. I think they missed a couple of zeroes, as it was a nice place. I booked and stayed there. When I left they charged me the 6 euros per night. I was curious and asked the clerk about the price. She said, “It was a mistake, but not many people saw it before we could change it. We decided to honor it. I’m glad it was my boss that made the mistake and not me.”

    While it goes against the sharing impulse, I think it’s true that if you find a mistake and keep your mouth shut, it has a better chance of being honored.

  31. I’m British and refuse to fly with British Airways.

    As @Frank suggests, because they’re bloody awful. Mistake fares, and the few people that book using them before they’re noticed and updated, can provide great PR opportunities. However, BA always mange to turn everything into a PR disaster with their awful attitude or ‘b’ad ‘a’ttitude if you like.

    It’s one of the only airline who’s service seems to be going backward especially in first and business.

    Their management should really try travelling with some other airlines to see what they’re doing. They seem to be living on a reputation built, and since lost, many years ago.

  32. @ Culverin

    “It’s one of the only airline who’s service seems to be going backward especially in first and business.”

    I agree BA’s premium service is deteriorating, though it’s by no means alone (then again, two wrongs don’t make a right…).

    There are a couple of hopeful signs: after years of getting steadily worse, BA have finally signed-up Do&Co for onboard catering. I’ve not yet had it on BA, but they’ve been impressive everywhere else. Apparently it’s being rolled out across the fleet starting with JFK services.

    Secondly, the new A350s arriving late this year are promising direct aisle access from every seat in CW. This is potentially a huge improvement (though let’s see how they’ve implemented it. The devil is usually in the detail).

    It’s frustrating for two reasons: BA has a pretty decent route network and their domination of LHR gives good frequencies on many routes.

    And BA used to be light years ahead of most global carriers – flat-beds on every longhaul flight have been universal in CW for years and years. While American, for example, STILL hasn’t managed to convert its entire LH fleet to flat beds.

    Then again, one look at what Qatar now offers shows just how far BA has slipped behind.

  33. There should be a time limit like 24 hours where an airline has to notify people of the cancellation otherwise the airline should eat the loss. They made the mistake not the passengers.

  34. If you read the first line that says “prosecutorial discretion”… which means that the regulation is still in play but that it is the governments decision whether to take action.
    The key here is to push the government to take action.

  35. @Bennett I agree. The more people who complain to regulators the more chance we have of regulators taking notice and doing something and not letting BA walk all over the passenger, which currently has a total disregard for passenger rights.

  36. Well. I haven’t been following much online, I just now at 1030am EDT on Oct 13th got my notice from BA that they won’t be honoring the ticket. 10 days after it was booked!!! I like the idea of having a 24 hour rule, this is then working on the 251 hour rule.

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