Delta Backtracks, Honors Business Class Mistake Fares After All

Filed Under: Delta

Back on November 1, Delta published some cheap business class fares for travel between Auckland, New Zealand, and Oakland, California. The fares allowed travel on Delta or Virgin Australia for the transpacific sector, and roundtrip tickets cost ~900USD, which was a heck of a deal.

I think most of us assumed this was a mistake fare, though it wasn’t quite as clear cut as some of the mistake fares we’ve seen in the past (it’s not like it cost 90USD). Nowadays the US Department of Transportation doesn’t require airlines to honor mistake fares, but rather requires them to reimburse passengers for any non-refundable expenses they incur resulting from reliance on those tickets.

So ultimately airlines are within their rights to cancel these tickets, though I also think they have the obligation to make a decision quickly as to whether or not tickets will be honored. When it comes to super cheap fares, the lack of communication from an airline should indicate that it will be honored.

Unfortunately Delta really failed here. Delta began informing passengers that these fares won’t be honored a full eight days after people booked. Some people received notices even later than that. Delta gave passengers the option to either have their tickets canceled, or to be rebooked in economy for the same cost.

It’s one thing if they had given passengers this option within 24 hours, but to do so over a week later is unacceptable, in my opinion, and sets a very bad precedent for airlines having the ability to unilaterally cancel tickets. You can bet that if I made a mistake booking a ticket and called an airline eight days later, they’d tell me to pound sand.

Well, there’s some good news on this front. Many are reporting that Delta has changed their mind and reached out to indicate that they’ll be honoring these tickets after all. Apparently a meeting happened with some higher-ups, and they decided the best course of action is to honor these fares. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for those who booked through Virgin Australia, at least as of now.

I can’t guarantee that Delta is proactively reaching out to everyone who booked to reinstate tickets, but if you booked a ticket I’d certainly recommend following up to be sure your ticket is honored as well.

Usually when airlines make a decision on mistake fares they don’t change their mind, so I’m very happy to see this. Sometimes persistence pays off, it seems.

If you booked one of these tickets, has Delta reached out to you yet?

  1. I wonder if they’ll honour the economy fares that Virgin Australia and Delta canceled from Dallas.

  2. That’s odd, Iliterally just received a call saying that they won’t be honoring this, and I just received the email saying it was a mistake fare. So…do I call back and confirm its all good now?

  3. @Nawaid I don’t think they will honor the Y fares. It looks like since DL and VA offered to downgrade people who purchased the J fare to Y for the same price the DOT is viewing it as a Bait and Switch. The same doesn’t apply to the Y fares.

  4. I didn’t book this fare but I will say this is a positive thing Delta is doing.

    The lines are heavily blurred between sale fares and error fares with the cost of flying cheaper than its probably ever been.

    If the airlines can cancel a fare they don’t like and say its an error fare that sets a bad precedent in my opinion.

  5. All the airline apologists can pound sand now.

    It’s clear Delta knows this is the wrong place to take a stand, and forcing a DoT ruling on whether airlines have a deadline for cancelling tickets is not smart. Consumers do have some rights, and don’t have to bend over whenever companies decide they want to pull a Kevin Spacey on you.

  6. So basically Delta pulled a Louis CK on their customers and, upon further reflection, decided to tuck it back in.

  7. Seems to me the thing to do, if you are willing to buy really high end hotels, would be to book the best non-refundable rate exceeding the cost of the airline ticket you bought.

    Surely, a week’s stay just about anywhere would be well more than the fare paid.

    The airline either honors the fare or reimburses you a lot more than the fare.

    Lucky, do you think this might be at work here?

  8. Great news! Emailed my Delta contact from yesterday to enquire, but my rez is back online.

    Seems like in general, US Airlines have honored mistakes more regularly than foreign ones. ANA, JAL, Ethiad and Emirates seem to have a decent track record tho

  9. I got called yesterday by delta to be given my “options” and wasn’t very happy. Poor person who had to ring with the news couldn’t be enjoying her day. I lodged a big complaint with the DOT. I mean 11 days?? She said it took five days to see the error?! Anyho got a call today and got told there was an “additional option” which I was interested to hear. Ended up being keeping the reservation! Had to say whether I wanted to keep that option or downgrade or cancel?! I think I’ll keep it 🙂

    Well done delta!!!!!!

  10. So what are the chances that Virgin Australia follows up and starts honoring the tickets as well? It seems like it would be incredibly bad form to have Delta honor the tickets but not Virgin. I filed my DOT complaint today for Virgin. Really hoping it gets reinstated…

  11. The fact that DL is now honoring the fares would have to make VA’s position difficult…
    A quick search of the DL flights from AKL to OAK (or other US destinations) identifies that there is a VA leg between AKL and SYD. In order for DL to honor the flights, there has been an agreement made for VA to honor business class on that VA flight (in both directions, mind you) .
    VA honoring one set of flights under a JV agreement but not their own doesn’t sound right, and nor is it ethical if one of the key aims of any JV agreement is to have “consistent service” (noted from @lucky in a previous article around alliances and agreements).

  12. Just called in and was told that only the original two options (Refund or downgrade to Economy) were available. Any suggestions on what to do now? I didn’t accept either option, and I’m thinking I’ll probably go ahead and file my complaint now. Just seems strange that not everyone seems to be getting a unified response on this one…

  13. DL is not honoring due to DOT. They are doing it under their own free will.
    DOT is allowing Virgin to cancel as long as proven non-refundable expenses are reimbursed.
    No way i’m giving up QF F ticket to fly Virgin in coach and its doubtful they will change their mind.

  14. Delta vs. VA:

    Delta – “As you stated, it is entirely reasonable for you to assume we would stand by the fares we offered. The decision has been made to do just that. Your ticket is still valid as you originally purchased it.”

    VA – “Unfortunately, due to human error the recent price advertised for a Business Class fare from New Zealand to Seattle was incorrect and we’re unable to honour this ticket in its current form.”

  15. I booked with DL. 10 days ( ten days ) after I got the notice, “not honouring, fly economy sucker”.

    I have been waiting a bit to see if anything else happened and looks like it might have. I haven’t yet received the updated email telling me they will honour the fare, so I’ll wait another week or so.

    In the meantime I booked one of those Air China flash sale fares fom Europe to AKL for €1300. The dates don’t overlap exactly but too close so if DL do come good, I will have to cancel CA ticket for a cost of €150.

    Jeez it’s a hard life being a full-time flyer. So many decisions to make!

    Thanks for the heads-up on this DL update OMAAT.

  16. Delta realizes that people are catching on ..that this is a test for a trend…that they will deny fares as “mistakes” more and more. This policy simply cannot stand and the DOT has to reverse the stupid OBAMA era policy of allowing airlines to do what they want to do.

  17. Wow…complaining that the government isn’t more regulatory on something that all other retailers are allowed to do? THAT is what gets you all riled up? Are you as riled up about policy reversals that are allowing banks to do whatever they want to do again? Or companies to start screwing with the environment? I guess clean air and water are not as important to you than taking advantage of a mistake fare.

  18. So interesting experience, got the first email telling me to choose between economy or a refund. Second follow up email after this post saying “please contact us, we want to make this right for you”. Have been busy and time zones haven’t matched up being Aussie and got a third email last night saying contact us by the end of this week or we will refund your ticket.

    Called them this morning and was given original options of economy or refund – issue was blamed on VA entering the incorrect fares, I pushed back when rep told me my over water flights were on VA (they are not, the only ones on VA are between AKL and SYD, rest are on DL). Subtly changed tact and told me they decided to honour it last week and that my itinerary will remain as it is.

  19. I got the original email saying there was a human error and I had a choice to pay difference to J, Downgrade to Y or get a refund. By this point had spent a significant amount on peripheral travel (positioning flights to AKL from MEL, hotels etc – all around christmas and new year time) given it had been approx 9 days.

    Messaged on twitter with a screenshot of the email (Which had two different case references, no branding and came from a very weird email server) and they suggested I call the Australian number for the call centre. We did and got confirmation that there was no problems with the flight and when we even asked about putting us through to customer care and was told not necessary as there were no problems (and they didnt have a phone number anyway).

    About a week later I got an email from the same Delta agent in customer care saying we haven’t heard from you and we will cancel your ticket and refund if we haven’t heard from you by a weeks time. I ended up calling the US number at great expense and after 20 minutes of holding I got through to the agent who had emailed me. When I told her I wasn’t happy at all she did say that as of the day before they were allowing the tickets to be honoured in J and that it was all Virgin Australias fault (my sources at VA say it was a delta issue). So outcome is I am happy that its being honoured but seems DL is counting on people accepting downgrade or refund and not proactively offering to honour the fare.

    The VA/DL alliance between the US and Australia is revenue shared and metal neutral from my research so im surprised that they had different approaches given the impact it would have had…

  20. That’s strange; I got an official Delta response (via DOT) just yesterday confirming a call 4 weeks ago that my ticket would be honored in Business Class

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