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?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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7 Comments

  1. They did the same thing two years ago when they posted a mistake cheap F fare from FRA to KUL. Assholes.

  2. So what’s the story / actual issue? This seems more anecdotal than factual – and more about other airlines than BA… No dates. No general reports elsewhere… and no explanation of the reference to people having flown…

    Why?!

    1. the story: british airways cancelled the fares. I attempted to deal with that in the title of- cancelled: british airways poor handling of error fares and subsequent references to tickets being cancelled.

      General reports- not our style. Facts are very important, and though I love that some people got to fly (at least) one way on these deals- we rely on first hand reports. Plus- general reports are no good to people who haven’t yet flown, whose tickets are already shown cancelled.

      So.. Why?! Do let us know and we’ll try to answer ASAP.

  3. Sadly another example of BA seemingly losing the plot when it comes to how they handle their passengers – including, and to some extent, especially – their premium passengers. Disappointing response when they had generated some excitement and had an opportunity to bring in some new passengers as well.

  4. British Airways… how sad that an iconic brand ends up as a LCC managed by a Spaniard that knows zero about customer care & clearly couldnt give a xxxx.

    Owned by the Spanish sadly…

  5. Not sure why your so surprised they got cancelled? It’s BA were talking about here.

    They cancelled the cheap F fare to KUL a year or so ago too.

    I am sure they will run a £787 promotion with great fanfare. In Y though.

  6. I brought my parents and my sister to Rome for a holiday last September. But I was disappointed, frustrated and fuming with angry when the staff of BA in Rome Fiumicino airport let me and my dad ( was in ♿ wheelchair) needs to wait for all the passengers to get on board and be the last one to get on the plane. On the check-in I know for sure the staff had mentioned that we needed assistance only from boarding area to the plane (that was my request) as we used our own wheelchair ♿ even tho she speak Italian but I was pretty sure of what she said. On the boarding area, same lady in the check in had asked to the other staff to radio the staff who will handle the assistance. But this staff who were asked to radio ignored the lady because it wasn’t his job and ignored the request. He continued texting and just sat down. The reason was unacceptable and I don’t mind to get on the plane last but it delayed the flight because according to the lady who took our boarding pass she said, “no staff” well in fact if they handled it very well there are a lot of staff just standing and chatting and texting. They could have called the assistance an hour before the boarding. It was mismanaged. Anyway, my colour could probably make a difference if I wasn’t an Asian. Thank you BA for the job well done especially in Rome Fiumicino airport.

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