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Because incompetence is rampant, people forget minor details like decimals and commas and the rest of the brain trust falls asleep typing fares, we have been able to pick some very ripe fruit directly off the vine. The dog days are over. We don’t create fares, we just take advantage of them. Since 2011, the Department of Transportation ruled that you cannot increase the cost of a fare once purchased. Essentially, airlines make the mess, they must live with it, honor it, better luck next time. It appears that the airlines legal eagles have finally convinced the Department of Transportation to find a new hobby, only they might not like the new monster they have created….

As of May 8th, the Department of Transportation will no longer actively enforce it’s policy of honoring mistake fares. Only a government department can muster up surprise and shock at customers “taking advantage” of mistake fares. They blame “that god darn internet”. An overwhelming number of complaints have been filed in relation to the issue, the airlines have lobbied with all their might, and enforcement effectively appears over. The new department guidance however seems as interpretable as the phrase “the dog days are over”. While this closes one loophole it opens up an entirely new problem, booking “reasonable expenses”. The law now requires you to be reimbursed for any reasonable non refundable arrangements if the fare is not honored. Yikes. Theoretically you could buy a mistake fare, grab the most expensive hotel, car rental and transfers and then bill the airline when they cancel your ticket. Of course you can then book a separate ticket and use those booking as planned, just on the airline dime. Here’s what the DOT had to say….

“As a matter of prosecutorial discretion, the Enforcement Office will not enforce the requirement of section 399.88 with regard to mistaken fares occurring on or after the date of this notice so long as the airline or seller of air transportation: (1) demonstrates that the fare was a mistaken fare4 ; and (2) reimburses all consumers who purchased a mistaken fare ticket for any reasonable, actual, and verifiable out-of-pocket expenses that were made in reliance upon the ticket purchase, in addition to refunding the purchase price of the ticket. These expenses include, but are not limited to, non-refundable hotel reservations, destination tour packages or activities, cancellation fees for non-refundable connecting air travel and visa or other international travel fees. The airline may ask the consumer requesting out-of-pocket expenses to provide evidence (i.e. receipts or proof of cancellations) of actual costs incurred by the consumer. In essence, the airline or seller of air transportation is required to make the consumer “whole” by restoring the consumer to the position he or she was in prior to the purchase of the mistaken fare. The enforcement policy outlined in this notice is temporary and will remain in effect only until the Department issues a final rule that specifically addresses mistaken fares.”

For those of you grabbing the tissue box, cheer up, remember that mistake fares are not the same as competition/war fares. The recent $1,167 round trip business class fare from the US to Europe was not a mistake, it was competition. Airlines are PR machines. Just because the Department of Transportation will no longer require an airline to honor mistake fares does not mean that they won’t. A mistake fare creates a buzz. The best press Delta received in years was when many fares were loaded for 20-30 dollars in first class. It’s a drop in the bucket for their revenue sheet and a storm of positive press and booking traffic on their website. Whether mistakes, “mistakes”, competition or other, great fares will continue all the time. Don’t worry, so long as under (or over) paid humans punch in the codes, things will always be interesting, and wrong.   

As Always, Get In Touch: GodSaveThePoints@gmail.com

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