Will American Honor Cheap Business Class Tickets To Asia?

Filed Under: American

Last night American published some amazing ~$450 roundtrip business class fares between Washington and Beijing. The fare was pulled after a few hours, though not before hundreds of people managed to book.


The trend as of late when we see these types of mistake fares is that the airlines issue an official statement very quickly about whether they’ll honor them or not. Per DOT regulations it seems pretty clear that American will have to honor them, but I guess we’ll see.

But we haven’t heard from American. Why?

I have two theories:

American won’t make an announcement at all

What made this fare especially interesting is that American allows 24 hour guaranteed holds on tickets, which they offer in lieu of allowing you to cancel a ticket for free within 24 hours. While American hasn’t canceled any ticketed reservations, they have canceled reservations which have been on hold.

A lot of people have called American, and internally it seems to be common knowledge that American will honor those reservations that were ticketed, but won’t honor those reservations which were on hold. Though we haven’t heard this publicly or officially yet, so don’t assume that’s true.

So from American’s perspective it might not be a bad idea to just not make an announcement at all, and just let consumers assume that if they have a ticket they’ll be flying.

This minimizes the backlash from those that had tickets on hold, since they can’t cry foul quite as easily/loudly. It will be an individual battle rather than a group effort. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, but it’s actually sort of logical from American’s perspective if they’re trying to minimize this mess.

American is waiting until tomorrow to make an announcement

It could also be that American is simply waiting until all of the held reservations would have expired anyway at midnight tonight before issuing a statement.

If they issued a statement now there would be a bunch of people with held reservations calling and claiming it’s not fair their tickets weren’t honored, requesting that they be reinstated. That gets much trickier after 24 hours. After 24 hours the agents can simply be instructed to say “well, even if I wanted to do something I couldn’t, since it’s past the hold window anyway.”

Bottom line

I’m not saying either of the above are the right thing to do or that they’re necessarily what’s going on, but those would be my two guesses. Almost across the board agents seem to be “aware” of the fare, and internally it’s apparently well known that the ticketed reservations will be honored, while those on hold won’t be (though I wouldn’t take this as fact).

I’ve received literally dozens and dozens of emails and comments from people with held reservations asking what to do. First of all, you should listen to me the next time you book one of these, since I warned y’all to issue the tickets and not hold them. 😉

But beyond that I’d recommend just holding off a bit and seeing if American comes out with a formal announcement tomorrow:

  • Calling up won’t help, because it’s unlikely individual agents will be able to do anything; this issue is above their heads (though perhaps if you call a hundred times you might get an agent that can do something… I doubt it, for the most part)
  • If you want to file a DOT complaint, there’s no benefit to doing so tonight vs. tomorrow; we’ll possibly have more complete information tomorrow, and it’s not like they’ll get to it tonight

So have an adult beverage and grab some popcorn, in my opinion… 🙂

What’s your theory on why American has been so quiet about the fare?

  1. I’d say, much as you surmise, because saying nothing formally yet doesn’t do them any real harm and they may well not make a formal announcement at all (given some people have asked to cancel their booked fares, AA might even hope it recoups a few more of these unviable sales – I’d be surprised if they didn’t accept letting anyone cancel these at request, at least for the next day).

    I’d say the longer they go without saying anything means the more likely these purchased fares will be honoured (because otherwise people will have acted on their silence).

  2. I think American will honor those ticketed tickets, even I hate too see that. (I get my Exec Plat. through paying normal business class prices, so I am jealous of those people spend way less money yet get same amount of miles) But it is not easy for American to sell those creepy 772 business seat anyway so it won’t cause too much loss to them. American 772 old business seats , more than 10 hours are literally kind of torture.
    Unlike HKG routes,it is really hard to sell ORD-PVG/PEK old 772 business seats. American almost has zero partner for passengers to continue to other mainland China cities in those two airports. Equipments are bad. I would say it totally reasonable if American sell it around $1000 (which is the price that majority people got ,near $700)

  3. I still have DCA-ORD-PVG on hold until midnight but my wife doesn’t want to fly all the way to China for 2 nights…sigh…all the points I’m missing out on..

  4. @JorgeC do what that other guy with a RTW did and find someone else with the same name as your wife hahahaha :D:D:D

  5. This is turning into a soap opera. Per FT, DOT is aware of this and is investigating. I’d assume that if they make a ruling, those of us with holds will get a chance to book them because DOT certainly isn’t issuing a ruling tonight 🙂

  6. How do people intend to get a Chinese visa in less than 2 weeks?! Flying onwards to hkg just to avoid the visa would negate much of the saving

  7. I am sure China is, especially Beijing or Shanghai not the ideal destnation you want travel to. It neither interesting nor fun. Their dangerous air pollution could kill you. My suggestion, buy a pair of masks, or even better, buy connecting ticket a third country like Japan or Thailand. So you don’t need to pay their ricdculous amount of visa fee and you don’t have to endure their killing air.
    Trust me I know what I am saying, I was Chinese, but after immigrant to US, I would never ever come back to that country. It is a good country but with a stupid government (they should give visa waiver to wealth countries like USA) and their horrible air.

  8. NakOs,
    Their “ricdculous [sic] amount of visa fee” came about because the United States insist on charging China this ridiculous amount of visa fee for American visa, and so China reciprocated (or rather retaliated). Non-americans do not pay this ridiculous amount of visa fee. They pay US$30 (single-entry) for a Chinese visa. But wait, for citizens from Singapore or Brunei or Japan, they get to travel to China for completely visa-free for < 14 days (not <72 hours, but <14 days!)

    China has a clever dignified government (at least on this visa issue) – it insists on fair-play and does not bow down to "wealth [sic[ countries like USA". The truly stupid government which you hope for, one which allows the United states to charge its citizens US$140 to get an American visa while itself issue American citizen a chinese visa for US$30, is long gone. I think you are born 100 years too late. If you were born during the end-period of the Qing dynasty 100 years ago, you would have had a great time working for the 8 foreign invaders to China as their Zou3 Gou3 (no good English equivalence – but you know the meaning, since you were Chinese – assuming you have not forgotten your mother's tongue?). At that time, China's "clever government" (by your logic) allowed foreigners to not only enter china visa-free, but also to live in China law-free (not subjected to Chinese law) in their occupied territories where foreign laws rule. That would have made your day. But alas, too bad for you – 100 years too late!

    By the way, I know of many successful Chinese immigrants to USA. They are always very happy to travel back to China to visit and to "boast" (about how well they are doing overseas). It's called "dressing well and returning to the hometown" (Yi Jin Huan Xiang). Are you doing so poorly in USA that you "would never ever come back to that country", because you have no face to face your relatives and friends back in your hometown? Ha.

  9. First rule of public relations: Always announce news that makes you look bad, on Friday afternoon.

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