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On Christmas morning, the travel blogging world was all abuzz because Etihad had a cheap fare sale. Often, it can be hard to judge whether a super cheap airline fare is just an aggressive sale or a “mistake fare”. In this case, prices were as low as $187 for New York to Abu Dhabi, and $277 for New York to Johannesburg, South Africa.
(SEE ALSO: 5 steps to get you ready for the next mistake fare sale!)
Personally, I decided to sit this one out, but I know many people picked up a ticket or two. US Department of Transportaton regulations generally require companies to honor published fares as long as you get ticketed. In this particular case, Etihad has said that it will honor them, because it is “the right thing to do” (regardless of the DOT making them do it anyway. Though the cynic in me feels the need to point out that it’s always easy to do “the right thing” when you have no choice in the matter :-D)
Forbes had an interesting article yesterday saying that the DOT told Etihad it had to honor the fares, but that it was looking at possibly changing the rules. A few quotes from the article
But the DOT is reconsidering that requirement because of the existence of all the websites and bloggers who, in the words of travel writer Joe Brancatelli, “live and die for this stuff.” If an airline makes a mistake, it can become known extremely rapidly to tens of thousands of people.
“The DOT has said that it never meant the regulation to handcuff an airline when it was obviously a mistaken fare,” he said. “Now the DOT is threading the needle, trying to figure out when they should allow airlines not to honor mistaken fares.”
However, last May, the department “issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that, among other things, solicits comment on how to best address the problem of individuals, some of whom are very well-informed and sophisticated with respect to air travel, who opportunistically purchase very cheap tickets knowing that the fares are likely the product of a computer programming or other error,” the spokeswoman said.
Read the full article at Forbes.com.
What do you think? Did you get in on the super cheap fares last week?
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More on the DOT’s proposed rulemaking as it relates to mistake fares:
And the comment I filed with the DOT on their proposed regulation (not related to the mistake fares issue).
Thanks Gary – that was an interesting read
Check this out, Dan – thoughts ?
Yeah I saw that. Personally I have not used skiplagged, though I can see how it could be useful for some folks. Personally, I don’t pay for a lot of air travel because I generally use miles and points to redeem, so it hasn’t been as big of an issue for me.
I think this should be really simple….. Fair is fair….if an airline allows the consumer to cancel a non-refundable ticket within a certain time frame (24 hours), then the airline should be able to cancel a mistake fare within that same time frame. They can’t wait days/weeks to decide. They also have to cancel ALL the tickets booked under the supposedly mistaken mistake fare and the airline does have to file paperwork within that time frame explaining that it was a mistake. This paperwork must be made public and supplied to those who are having tickets cancelled at time of cancellation. As part of that paperwork has contain the historical average prices for the ticket including the lowest LEGITIMATE airfare ever offered by any airline for that ticket and the mistake fare has to be some % below that historically lowest fare….
Thanks for the comment – that does seem to be a pretty fair way to do it. I like tying in the rules that the consumer has to play by when canceling tickets with the timeframe that an airline is allowed to cancel a “mistake” fare. Of course, if legislation like that is ever approved, then I can only imagine the outrage of people against “the bloggers” publishing deals like this
If the airlines have 24 hours to cancel, should they also reimburse any nonrefundable hotel bookings made by those who bought tickets?