Virgin Australia Not Honoring Cheap Business Class Fares (After Almost A Week)

Filed Under: Delta, Virgin Australia

Just under a week ago I wrote about how Delta and Virgin Australia published some cheap business class fares between Auckland and Oakland. You could fly roundtrip business class for about 900USD, which is an incredible value.

The fares were bookable through both Delta and Virgin Australia, as you could fly either airline across the Pacific. Some people decided to book the fare through Virgin Australia, since booking on Virgin Australia ticket stock would earn you more Delta SkyMiles than booking directly through Delta.


Virgin Australia’s business class

Since 2015 the US DOT doesn’t require airlines to honor mistake fares. Instead airlines are required to reimburse passengers for any non-refundable expenses that they incur because of booking these fare. However, that’s sort of left open to interpretation. So in general there’s not much you can do if an airline chooses not to honor a mistake fare.

If an airline isn’t going to honor a mistake fare, I think the least they can do is communicate quickly and let passengers know, so that they don’t assume it will be honored. When airlines do honor mistake fares (which happens frequently), it’s not like they send out an email saying “we’ll honor this ticket,” but rather it’s the lack of communication from an airline that indicates it’s being honored. So the more time that passes without communication, the safer it is to assume that the fare will be honored.

Well, those who booked their tickets through Virgin Australia are reporting that they’ve been emailed and told that they have the choice between being downgraded to economy and getting a refund.

Here’s the email that Virgin Australia sent out to those passengers (could they not proofread the email before sending it?):

Last week, you purchased a Business Class fare from New Zealand to Brisbane.Los Angeles.Sydney.Auckland. Unfortunately, due to human error the fare price advertised was incorrect and we’re unable to honour this ticket in its current form. We are very sorry for this inconvenience but would like to offer you some options so you can continue your booking with us.

If you still wish to travel, we will move your booking into Economy1. If you decide you no longer wish to travel we’re happy to provide you with a full refund and we’ll cancel the booking.

If you are happy with the first option of keeping your booking and traveling in Economy, please click the green ‘ACCEPT CHANGES’ button below and your updated ticket will be emailed to you.

If you would like to take up the second option to cancel your booking and receive a refund, please give us a call on one of the below listed numbers.

Again, we sincerely apologise for this mistake and hope you can understand that sometimes human error does occur.

Waiting six days to inform passengers that you’re not honoring a mistake fare is incredibly bad form. Consumers have 24 hours to cancel a ticket when they make a mistake, so airlines should at least try to hold themselves to a similar standard if they choose not to honor fares. Reaching out almost a week later is unacceptable, in my opinion.

As of now I haven’t seen any reports of Delta contacting customers about not honoring these fares. Historically Delta has a good track record for honoring mistake fares. At the same time, I can’t imagine that these fares will be honored for those who booked through Delta but not for those who booked through Virgin Australia, especially given that the two airlines have a transpacific joint venture.

I’ll be curious to see how this plays out for those who booked through Delta. In the meantime, unfortunately there’s not all that much recourse for those who booked through Virgin Australia.

For those who booked through Virgin Australia, this seems to be playing out similarly to the recent fares that Air New Zealand published between Australia and Los Angeles.

If you booked one of these cheap business class fares, have you been contacted by the airline?

Comments
  1. While I didn’t book this fare, the biggest BS is that they force you to call in to cancel the ticket rather than provide a way to do it online.

  2. The fare was cheap. OK. Where can we draw the line when the airline screws up and they don’t?
    Advertise a cheap fare and get an overwhelming response? Screw it, let’s cancel it and call it “human error”.
    Pathetic.
    Tons of cheap fares out these days. Was it cheaper than usual? Yeah, I guess but it’s not like the fare was $20 plus fees?????

  3. Wonder what would happen if your buried your head in the sand and did better option. Anyone brave enough to try?

  4. @ Lucky – you say that “airlines are required to reimburse passengers for any non-refundable expenses that they incur because of booking these fare. However, that’s sort of left open to interpretation. ”

    Can you elaborate the circumstances under which this might be open to interpretation? Also, have any of your readers had any experience in trying to get such non-refundable costs reimbursed?

    Thanks!

  5. Class. Action.

    Regulation.

    The airlines can do whatever they want, whenever they want. You don’t like it , tough.

    Just one more reason to hate the airlines.

  6. I was notified today via email. No problems getting a refund for my positioning flight from PER-AKL and well as the above mentioned flight. However it started to get messy when they wouldn’t refund the actual amount charged to my American Express which was in AUD and the fare was sold in NZD…..

  7. If this rule is going to stick then airlines should be required to make notification in the same time frame that they allow travelers to make free cancelations plus be on the hook for non refundable charges.

  8. I’m just going to do a chargeback through my cc rather than call them to cancel, if this is how they think it is appropriate to make customers whole. Really poor form.

  9. At some point, and maybe even now, the line between discounted air fare and error fares is going to be so blurred how will the airlines be held accountable when they feel like they no longer wish to honor a fare?

  10. @Chase
    EVERYONE should do a chargebback through their credit card companies for this. The airline announced they are not going to honor the contract, then dispute the charge. Let the airline do the work. Good on you for this approach really.

  11. @Chase – as much as I am no fan of VA (they are far too inconsistent in far too many areas and far too confusing with their myriad of third-party agreements for my liking), be very wary of your chosen course of action if you ever intend flying them again. Many carriers will blacklist you if chargebacks occur that *they* consider unwarranted.

    I’m not in the slightest saying that I wouldn’t consider the same thing (I WOULD and am totally on your side here), but ONLY consider heading down that road if most or all of your travel is usually with another carrier. Good luck!

  12. I booked through Amex travel but didn’t received an e-mail. Not sure if they had my e-mail on the ticket. What’s the best way to confirm? My ticket still seems to be in tact on VS website.

  13. Well this is still much better than some 3rd world airlines like Ethiopian and Air Seychelles that cancel tickets claiming mistake fare months after the purchase and at the same time refuse to refund tickets bought from the same company to fly domestic flight in the destination. Well, why not as no one is going to stop them doing that.

    Still, week is a bit too long to make such decision and contact the customers.

  14. This is horrific form by VA. I haven’t received an email yet, but presumably will in the coming days. Logging into manage my booking still shows everything as normal.

    Glad I held off positioning flights. I had been hovering over book…

  15. I have booked a trip from WLG to OAK and I have picked my seats on the flights. And I have heard nothing from VA. To say they cancel my ticket maybe they just going to let me fly.

  16. Check your spam folder. Mine ended up there. I got the same basic email.

    While I’d say a chargeback may be an option, but why waste so much time? VA will just issue a refund for the ticket, so why not call and get the refund right away?

  17. I just tried to do a check on what the consumer law is in Australia on ‘Mistake’ airfares. I can’t find anything substantive but suspect that Australian residents might have more options for redress. I encourage any people who booked through VA, and paid on an Australian based credit card to contact Choice.com.au – the Australian Consumer advocate organisation, and the ACCC (government regulator of companies etc), or their state based Fair Trading offices, and find out what your position is before you accept the offer from VA. The airlines in Australia have been notorious in stretching, and sometimes breaking consumer law (think fees and drip pricing). I will keep looking into this matter, and will publish any results on 2axfly.com

  18. I booked through a on line booking company and I have still not heard anything. As lucky says the longer it takes to hear from them the more chance we have that they will let us fly on this fare. I am just going keep my fingers crossed. To me this is a dream trip being able to fly business to the US.

  19. Interesting development. I wonder if VA would cancel VA-operated segments on DL plated tickets (for example, in the above itinerary)? Now that would be really aggressive!

  20. What if you simply choose to disregard the email? What will happen? It seems strange they need you to click on something in order to accept the changes.

  21. @Sexy_kitten7

    VA won’t be able to simply do that. If 006 stock VA won’t be able to touch it. DL has to do any reissue/cancel. But I’m sure VA can try to push DL to do it.

    The JVs with a US carrier are usually structured as incremental unit revenue share (DL+AFKL is profit share). It actually is bad for VA if DL’s RASK declines – they will get paid less by DL. This is amplified by the fact that they have greater capacity on the JV routes. Now if DL will actually cancel these tickets is anyone’s guess.

    @Mark G.

    Unclear. I am AKL based and have a completely discretionary trip booked, just for a 3 day weekend. I booked DL stock, and so far no cancellations. If I receive anything I will try the “just ignore it and go to the airport” and let you know. Most people who need positioning or actually going on a specific date can’t afford doing this. But I will try it out if need be 😀

  22. What would the position be if Delta honors these fares, but VA have already sent their notification? Received my VA notification yesterday 6 days after booking, paying, and receiving eTickets.

  23. @Trevor

    VA only sent notifications to people who ticketed on VA 081 stock. From your description you booked with VA, not DL. If you booked with VA, DL would have nothing to do with cancel or not. It would be at sole discretion of VA.

    Prior to check in airport control the validating carrier remains control of the ticket. DL deals solely with 006 tickets and VA deals solely with 081 tickets. This has nothing to do with who’s fare is used and/or what is on the ticket in terms of operating and marketing carrier.

    VA is not able to cancel VA operated segments issued 006 paper. DL has to do that.

  24. @dmodemd Yes, it’s a contract. With a whole bunch of legal terms that you probably didn’t read when you agreed to it.

  25. @David B Of course VA shouldn’t cancel space that is ticketed and confirmed but they technically could if they wanted to, right? For example schedule changes, downgauges, shenanigans. People “lose” segments all the time!

  26. I suspect VA were burnt so badly by the last pricing error (it was up for hours, and a huge number of bookings completed before it was taken down) that they feel they can’t wear this one. Having said that, as Lucky says, waiting 6 days to contact travellers is poor form – they should have made their position clear as soon as the issue was rectified.

  27. I have just checked the website and they have made a complete mess of my booking. I have 2 flights one business and one economy booked in my name. On the way it is all economy and they haven’t even emailed to tell what is going on.

  28. Just this morning I received my cancellation notice for the Dallas-Melbourne Economy glitch. Booked through Expedia. Well over a week later. Had been ticket and confirmed. Terrible

  29. I’m curious re the “could they not proofread the email before sending it?” Nothing in particular stood out to me?

  30. @ Ryan — See the first sentence:
    “Last week, you purchased a Business Class fare from New Zealand to Brisbane.Los Angeles.Sydney.Auckland.”

  31. For those who book their trip through DELTA – has anyone heard whether the flight will be honored? Mine still says ticketed and on business class.

  32. Mine through DL seems to be ok so far. I don’t know how long I have to wait for any type of confirmation. Meanwhile, I’m running low on my Xanax pills.

  33. VA ticket booked through Priceline shows Y on VirginAustralia.com but J on PL (obviously I trust VA). PL still hasn’t advised me of options nor have I gotten email from VA.

    What a joke VA, at least when I tried this with Air New Zealand I was notified after a few days, not a week+.

  34. @David B What day are you traveling? I’m in late April, and can wait awhile on the positioning flights

    @Gordon I booked through Delta and its still intact. I can even change seats and FF#

  35. Got one of the flights from Dfw to Melbourne on DL and VA booked on Priceline. I was NOT cancelled in the first wave of Priceline cancellations and thought I was good as the first leg was DL. Still haven’t received an email, but the booking can no longer be found on DL’s site.

  36. Just wanted to keep everyone updated. I just got a call about 30 min ago from Delta stating that they cannot honor the fare. This is 10 days after the ticket was purchased and issued. Very frustrating.

  37. I have had a email from my on-line booking company confirming business class from WLG to BNE and the same to LAX and then Economy to OAK.
    On the way back only my LAX to BNE will be business class the rest will be economy. But on the VA website I have 2 flights one business and one economy. I have yet to hear from VA directly. I am flying in July to me this is great deal as so many people seem to be having there flights cancelled or downgraded completely.

  38. I purchased a mixed cabin economy / business class ticket from AKL-SEA for $1308NZD. I just got an email saying they will only fly me economy. Problem is , economy is only $858NZD. At what point would this be called “Bait and Switch.”?

    DOT Complaint filed.

  39. @David S What did your complaint say? i’d been keen to poach your DOT complaint if you reference specific clauses of things VA have breached.

    Cheers
    Tom

  40. I FILED A DOT COMPLAINT FOR THE DALLAS MISTAKE FARE (THIS IS WHAT I WROTE) FEEL FREE TO TWEEK IT AND USE ANY OR ALL OF THIS FOR YOUR COMPLAINT AS WELL. 9 DAYS IS WAY TOO LONG ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THERE WAS NO COMMUNICATION THE PART OF VIRGIN AUSTRALIA. THIS IS NOT HOW WE DO BUSINESS IN THE USA. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, OUR FELLOW AUSSIES AT VIRGIN NEED TO LEARN THIS!

    On 10/30/17 Virgin Australia (VA) advertised low airfare prices from Dallas (DAL) Texas USA to many Australian cities such as Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane through their own website along with many other third party Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). This appeared to be a promotional sale since origination had to be specifically from Dallas AND since Virgin Australia’s partnership with Delta Air Lines is in direct competition with Qantas Airline’s partnership with American which is also based in Dallas.

    Many people bought these sale priced airfares within the span of a few hours. Virgin Australia through their own website along with other OTAs such as (Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline) issued PNR and ticket numbers. These airfares were officially ticketed. Virgin Australia made no attempt to communicate directly with passengers who booked these low priced airfares that this indeed maybe a price mistake. Nine days later we are just now receiving communication in the form of email from VA or our OTAs indicating the ticketed itineraries are being cancelled by the airline. This is especially unfair to those that made other travel arrangements or that had upcoming travel based on this lack of communication by Virgin Australia.

    From a consumer protection standpoint it is unreasonable for an airline that operates in the United States to lead customers to believe they hold valid and ticketed itineraries for so long (9 days) without any prior notification or warning. We as customers provide our contact information such as email and phone numbers during the booking process. For an airline as large as Virgin Australia to not provide us with timely notification that there maybe an issue with our booking is not a fair way to conduct business. We as customers have only 24 hours to cancel a reservation with an airline without penalty and therefore the same or similar standard should be applied to airline communication with passengers as well.

    In addition there are many reports of customers that called Virgin Australia within the 24 hour cancellation period to cancel their itineraries for personal reasons. Virgin Australia indicated to them that they would be assessed a “cancellation fee” even though the cancellation was within the 24 hour window that Department of Transportation regulations provide.

    Please hold Virgin Australia accountable and stand up for the consumer protections of us as customers/passengers.

  41. I had my flight downgraded to economy after 2 weeks of waiting. I have now canceled my flights I think we have been terribly treated by VA. I have filed a complaint with the US DOT.

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