Yesterday I wrote about how Virgin Australia sent out emails to customers who booked ~900USD roundtrip business class tickets from Auckland to Oakland, informing them that their tickets wouldn’t be honored. Those who booked the tickets had the choice between being rebooked in economy or getting a refund. The airline claimed the fare was due to “human error,” and that they’re “unable to honour this ticket in its current form.”
Nowadays DOT regulations don’t require that airlines honor mistake fares, but rather they require airlines to reimburse customers for any non-refundable expenses they incur from having booked the fare. So technically Virgin Australia was within their rights to cancel these tickets, but to me it’s incredibly bad form to only inform customers six days later that their bookings will be canceled. Passengers have 24 hours to cancel a ticket, and airlines should be held to a similar standard, in my opinion.
Well, it gets even more ridiculous. Virgin Australia had some very low economy fares a couple of days before they had those great business class fares, which The Flight Deal wrote about.
On October 30 Virgin Australia published ~172USD roundtrip economy fares between Dallas and Melbourne. I’d assume these fares were a mistake of some sort, though nowadays it’s not unusual to see ~$500 roundtrip airfare for longhaul flights, so it wasn’t that many multiples off of the usual fare.
Now Virgin Australia is sending emails to customers who booked this fare, informing them that the tickets won’t be honored. They’re doing this nine days later. The email reads as follows (thanks to @mxdo1 for sharing):
Recently you purchased an Economy Class fare from Dallas, United States of America, to Melbourne, Australia with us. Due to human error, there was a discrepancy with the fare price advertised and unfortunately we’re unable to proceed with your booking.
We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused. We will cancel your booking and issue you a full refund, which you will receive within the next 7 days to the payment method provided at the time of booking.
Again, we sincerely apologize for this mistake and we thank you for your understanding.
I’m not going to make an argument that Virgin Australia should have honored the fare, but to cancel tickets nine days after people booked is shameful. The lack of communication from an airline typically indicates that a mistake fare will be honored, and generally I figure that if an airline doesn’t contact people within a few days, it’s safe to assume the fare will be honored. But canceling tickets NINE days later?
Typically when people ask me for advise on mistake fares not being honored I recommend just moving on, assuming the airline handled things well. You win some, you lose some. In this case I hope some people take the airline to small claims court, and also submit non-refundable expenses so that Virgin Australia has to pay. They simply can’t think it’s okay to do business this way.