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As someone who did not book, despite hours of opportunity to do so- I can’t say “I feel your pain”, but I certainly understand your frustration. Just a few days ago British Airways offered a very short lived “error” fare for £787 round trip in first class, from London to South America. While it clearly wasn’t a standard fare, it’s wasn’t at all clear it was an error- and the subsequent handling of the universal cancellation of the deal was extremely poor. Let’s take a look.

Precedent? I think Not…

I’ve been the beneficiary of countless “error” fares and actually, NOT all of them are errors. While there’s no doubt ANA left a zero off of the fantastic fares to Australia, Qatar Airways have twice created fervor and excitement with “golden ticket” fares. These tickets in business class sold for roughly £560 or $640 round trip, aboard state of the art planes. We have confirmed with Qatar that in one instance, these fares were intentionally filed, limited to a certain number of tickets and designed exactly to create the excitement that they did. In the instance of ANA, Japanese custom is one of honor, and their mistake left only them to blame- no reason to punish passengers. The most recent Lufthansa and Swiss sale: fair play, fly on.

Precedent to claim error and not having to honor the deal? No Way…

ANA Business- Vancouver to Sydney, Australia Round Trip: $673. HONORED.

Qatar Business- Amsterdam or Brussels to Tokyo, Japan Round trip: $640. HONORED.

Lufthansa/Swiss Business- Oslo, Geneva To San Francisco, USA Round Trip: $800. HONORED.

Qatar Business- Vietnam To WORLD (almost any city) Round Trip: $595. INTENTIONAL.

That’s just in the last few months, and those prices were LOWER.

Swift And Immediate Action, Not

There’s a certain thrill to an “error” or “special” promotional fare. You know it’s a race against time, many only last mere minutes, barely even hours – and then there’s the cooling off period. The anxiety of “will it be honored?”. Fortunately, in most cases, the anxieties are answered one way or another within 24 hours. Tickets are unilaterally cancelled or emails are sent promptly. OR… they stick, they work and people blab on about how much they love that airline and deal. In this case it took almost 96 hours for any word at all.

We Heard They Would Be Honored From Internal Sources

During the aftermath the guessing game was at a fever pitch. After reading many anecdotal reports of contacting sales centers (not something we suggest) to enquire about the validity of the tickets, many phone agents assured bookers that these were special, valid fares. While they were still alive, I even joked that they were special fares to celebrate the new £787 Dreamliner. Naturally, we asked sources inside of British Airways if the rumors were true, and heard from two separate queries that the tickets weren’t “filed” properly, but there was meant to be a magic £787 sale for 787 Dreamliner routes. People jumped on it faster than expected, but all indications were go, and this was not just some “crazy” error where someone leaves out a digit.

CANCELLED: Now People Are Mad, And They Should Be

People know the risks of booking tickets of this nature. We encourage people not to make purchases they can’t afford to wait for the money to come back from– if the flights are cancelled. Flights cancelled within 24 hours leave people with a “better luck next time”, or “too bad” feeling, but it’s NO HARD FEELINGS toward the airline. After 96 hours and reports of passengers actually flying on the deals successfully (that did happen), it’s an incredibly sad, come down to have plans uprooted. Could the airline have intended to do good by these fares- but ran into headwinds when dealing with partner airlines involved in the bookings? We don’t know. What we do know, is that British Airways cancelled almost all of these tickets- and WAY TOO LATE. My hope is that British Airways tantalizes us again (correctly, this time) with £787 fares on their new 787 flights, to make up for this blunder of customer communication and trust. No one likes the waiting game. People just lost exciting trips. In summary: British Airways cancelled a reasonable deal, which people logically expected to be honjored. Better luck next time.

How do you feel about the handling of these fares?