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Here’s a minor travel horror story: you’re flying from Dallas to Boston. It’s a red-eye flight, and you’re a little tired, so you settle in for bed only to find your $90 American Airlines mistake fare is still on the screen. The airline later issued a statement saying that all 31 of those fares are void and will not honor them.
“Somebody go plumb crazy on me, and a mother load of passengers, stowaway on a wee little plane, and make a great big mistake?” Those are the words of a clearly frustrated passenger, who was treated to a surreal experience over the weekend. On Tuesday, American Airlines made an announcement that they were going to refund $223 million in mistake fares. This came after the airline discovered that they had mistakenly charged passengers about $60 million in fees, but the airline said the error would not affect any passengers who filed their claims before April 10.. Read more about google flights and let us know what you think.
On Tuesday, American Airlines filed 31 erroneous fares. They don’t care about any of them.
on August 21, 2023 by Gary Leff
On Tuesday, American Airlines inadvertently submitted $0 rates in 31 separate domestic cities. They discovered it immediately and did not issue tickets for the fares. The following is an internal letter from American Airlines about how the fares are being handled.
Customers seem to be misled by American about their legal obligations.
The letter informing American’s agents regarding these mistake fares seems to imply that the company’s sole legal duty is to reimburse consumers when a mistake fare occurs. That is not the case. Except when specific criteria are fulfilled, the Department of Transportation still compels airlines to honor mistake fares. Those criteria include refunding tickets and making them whole by paying any additional expenses incurred by the customer as a result of the transaction.
In 2015, the Obama Administration’s Department of Transportation announced that it would no longer enforce its own regulation requiring airlines to respect all tickets issued and would instead issue a new rule. There was never a new regulation enacted. They’ve simply used their “discretion” to disregard section 399.88 as long as the airline “reimburses all consumers who purchased a mistaken fare ticket for any reasonable, actual, and verifiable out-of-pocket expenses that were made in reliance on the ticket purchase” in addition to providing a refund. “Non-refundable hotel bookings, destination tour packages or activities, cancellation costs for non-refundable connecting air tickets, and visa or other foreign travel fees” are among the items on the list.
In other words, the airline must “make the customer ‘whole’ by returning the consumer to the position he or she was in previous to the purchase of the incorrect fare,” according to the Department of Transportation.
American is being reasonable by refusing to honor these fares.
My own opinion on mistake prices is that I’m glad to book them; airlines will pick whether or not to fulfill the offers, but if they’re going to transport passengers to Paris for $28, I’d want to be one of them. And I’ve always believed that if an airline responded promptly to indicate they weren’t going to honor a mistake ticket — in this instance, same day – then they were justified in doing so. That is, I believe, the situation when a ticket is so clearly erroneous ($0 airfare + taxes).
It’s not always that straightforward. Late last year, Delta offered a $479 roundtrip business class ticket to Brazil, which American Airlines matched. That wasn’t a mistake, but they wouldn’t have done it if Delta hadn’t made a mistake. Even yet, if they had claimed it was a mistake, the DOT would have probably gone along with it.
Since the Department of Transportation has promised a new regulation (for the past six years, with no action! ), here’s a simple solution. To avoid paying an erroneous fare:
- An airline should be required to confirm that a mistake was committed. Under penalty of perjury, a submission to the DOT confirming that the fare in issue was really a mistake.
- The mistake must be glaring and severe. If an airfare is an 80% or 90% reduction off the lowest paid price (including all taxes and levies) sold on the route in the preceding 30 days and it wasn’t provided on purpose, it’s fair to assume it was a mistake.
- The submission must be done as soon as possible. Customers may usually put their flights on hold for 24 hours or cancel them within 24 hours after purchasing them, according to current DOT regulations. Airlines should be allowed to cancel a mistake within 24 hours, it seems.
- Customers should be communicated with clearly. Contact consumers individually within 24 hours of purchase to inform them that they’ve informed the DOT that the tickets in issue were a mistake and would not be recognized.
To put it another way, airlines should be subject to the same regulations as customers. American Airlines seems to be in compliance with the broad criteria, and I believe it is reasonable for them to cancel these flights. Airlines aren’t always on time, and prices aren’t always obvious errors.
More From the Wing’s Perspective
You’d think that after all the publicity American Airlines got for accidentally refunding a customer $400 for a ticket he’d paid for, that they would learn how to do basic math. But I guess that’s too much to ask.. Read more about american airlines travel and let us know what you think.
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