Virgin Atlantic Just Promised To Always Honor Mistake Fares

Filed Under: Virgin

British Airways has been getting quite a bit of media attention for once again not honoring mistake fares. Specifically, passengers booked fares from London to Tel Aviv and Dubai for 200GBP and 220GBP, respectively, and the airline has decided not to honor these tickets. There are two things that make this instance of them not honoring the fare especially bad, in my opinion:

  • They waited about a week before they let passengers know they wouldn’t honor these fares
  • The fares aren’t actually that low, as there are ultra low cost carriers with even lower fares between London and Tel Aviv

Wizz Air capitalized on British Airways’ mistake by offering 160GBP roundtrip fares to those who were booked to Tel Aviv. The catch is that they’re only allowing this for travel through July 21, 2018, which leaves a very limited travel window, and also their fares don’t include bags, food, drinks, etc.

Nonetheless I think it was brilliant of them to basically point out that their normal fares are as much as British Airways’ mistake fare (though I think they should have honored that pricing for anyone, regardless of when they’re traveling).

Wizz Air isn’t the only airline capitalizing on British Airways’ mistake. Virgin Atlantic has Tweeted the following today, suggesting that their fares so good that you may think they’re a mistake:

As you can see, they also say “Don’t worry, even if we mess up we’ll still honour our prices.” I’m not sure if they intended to make an explicit promise to always honor mistake fares in the future, but based on how I read it, that’s exactly what they did.

Nowadays there generally isn’t much government intervention when it comes to assuring mistake fares are honored. For example, 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.

Now the airline just has to reimburse you for any expenses incurred as a result of reliance on the fare. Of course that wouldn’t have applied in the above case, since no travel to/from the US was included.

Now we just need the next Virgin Atlantic mistake fare!

  1. They should maybe tell Virgin Australia to honor their mistake fares. Remember the flights to Australia last year that they waited to cancel after 9 days!

  2. Urgh. BA says it’s black Virgin will reply it’s white. A N Y T H I N G for a press op. Tiring.

  3. No business should be required to honor an mistake that is a blatant and obvious error, certainly not one that is off by a decimal place (or 2.)

    That said, airlines should have a maximum window to cancel such mistake fare tickets, and the same 24 hrs we have as consumers to cancel tickets seems appropriate.

    As a society, we really suck thinking we are entitled to such mistakes.

  4. @Mark, yes we are entitled to it. In Europe we don’t have a 24 hour cancelation policy like the US. One minute after booking finding out you made an error with your name? be prepared to pay for a full new ticket. If we can’t make mistakes, the airlines shouldn’t be allowed to make mistakes too atleast not without paying a price for it.

  5. I don’t think that says anything… it’s so general and open to interpretation…

    What does mess up mean? And “our prices”? Which ones? The mistake ones or just the average fare?

  6. @ Ryan. Not true I’m afraid
    @ Daniel virgin Australia is unrelated the virgin atlantic who for all intense and purposes are a subsidiary of delta Air France klm ( 80% ownership once approved )

  7. Phillip:

    Mess up = make a mistake
    Our prices = their prices

    It’s not at all unclear nor difficult to understand!

  8. You go Virgin Atlantic!
    More airlines should do that, and hopefully one day BA will go out if business.

  9. Can Virgin afford this? They sold 80% of the company to Delta/Air France/KLM just to raise money to stay afloat.

  10. I’ve had VS mistake fares cancelled in the past and the OTA simply said “oh well here’s the new price”.

    So until this actually happens i’ll assume this is empty words.

  11. All airlines (and businesses in general) have to honor “mistake” fares. There is no way to tell whether or not the fares were a test of the market, and then when there is strong demand, to simply change the game. At the end of the day, it’s false advertising and people booked it in good faith.

  12. @Mark, I disagree with your sentiment. Where is the line for a “blatant” mistake? On the other hand, your comment seems to suggest you are an American, a country where businesses thrive on deception and false advertising. I lived in the US for more than a year and not once do I remember actually paying what the initial stated price was. The prices are always inaccurate (and always lower than the final price of course). You guys have gotten used to it and think it’s perfectly acceptable.

  13. @ben holz sorry you are wrong. check if you change your mind within 24 hours you can cancel without costs !! Others have the same policy
    On them same day as issue an airline can void the ticket and no payment is taken

  14. In the U.K. No carrier should have to honour a mistake fare. UK Contract law is clear on the point. In much the same way that shops don’t have to sell products that are priced incorrectly. Anyone who thinks otherwise should google “invitation to treat” and you will see the case law dating back to 1893. The same points of law still stand today.

    Where the confusion arises is because when items are incorrectly priced in a shop, the shop will normally honour the incorrect price. This gives rise to people believing that all businesses must honour the incorrect price. That simply isn’t the case as is highlighted by the actions of BA (and others).

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