I missed out on it personally, but many of you got in on a great deal from New York to Bali in Korean Air First Class booked with Delta Air Lines for $2,700. But two days later, Delta decided it did not want to honor the deal and began cancelling tickets. The latest “mistake fare” reveals how little protection consumers have against airlines who later have seller’s remorse.
Let’s be clear. $2,700 is cheap for Korean Air First Class. But it’s quite different than a $0 fare and frankly within the realm of possibility considering Bali is a leisure destination. The fact that business class was more expensive than first class tells me little, as I routinely see carriers charge more for an economy or premium economy class seat than business if economy class is full and the front cabin is not.
On June 11th from about noon to 8:00PM ET, this deal was bookable on the Delta Air Lines website and most online travel agencies. Many of you did book. A day went by with no word from Delta. Then a second day. It was only later on that second day, June 13th, that Delta began cancelling these reservations and sending out the following emails to passengers:
We’re reaching out because of your recently purchased flight from the U.S. to Bali operated by our partner, Korean Air. Unfortunately, due to an inadvertent publication error, an erroneous fare was displayed at the time of your purchase.
As a result of this erroneous fare, Delta is canceling your ticket, and a full refund of the ticket price will be issued. If you incurred any out-of-pocket, nonrefundable expenses that were made in reliance upon your ticket purchase, please contact our Help Center and follow the prompts under Feedback and Complaints to request reimbursement. Please be sure to include any receipts for out-of-pocket expenses in your request. For rebooking options, including rebooking at the corrected fare, please visit Delta.com.
We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused and hope to have an opportunity to serve you soon.
Thank you for choosing Delta.
Let’s assume that Korean Air told Delta it would not honor these tickets unless Delta payed up and Delta decided it was not going to pay up. Under current U.S. law, Delta must only pay for incidental expenses booked in reliance upon the ticket (which it explicitly offered to do in the note above).
This is the specific 2015 U.S. Department of Transportation rule I am talking about:
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 air line or seller of air transportation: (1) demonstrates that the fare was a mistaken fare; 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.
My question is how did Delta demonstrate this was a mistake fare? For that matter, how can any airline demonstrate a $2,700 fare is a mistake fare?
Passengers who complained to Delta were provided a $200 voucher. That may seem generous, but its rather generous (perhaps comical is the better word) that U.S. consumers can find their reservation confirmed, ticket issued, and credit card charged only to have an airline decide days later not to honor the ticket.
There are clear mistake fares (e.g., $0 fares so out-of-the-ordinary as to render them ridiculously cheap) and then there are $2,700 tickets to Bali that do not strike me as all that great of a deal. While I personally think airlines should be forced to honor all so-called mistake fares, at the very least fares like this should be honored. It’s a disappointing move by Delta.
For those of you who booked this fare, are you just going to let it go?
Matthew is an avid traveler who calls Los Angeles home. Each year he travels more than 200,000 miles by air and has visited more than 135 countries. Working both in the aviation industry and as a travel consultant, Matthew has been featured in major media outlets around the world and uses his Live and Let’s Fly blog to share the latest news in the airline industry, commentary on frequent flyer programs, and detailed reports of his worldwide travel.
I’ve said it before but how does this happen so often?!! Couldn’t you put in a trip switch to say international f shouldn’t be under 3k unless you specifically approve it or whatever. If I ran an airline I’d have layers of protection. I guess ubti consumers are protected airlines have no incentive to spend money to fix things. Ridiculous.
Delta tried to cancel our biz class fares from Auckland to Oakland (lol) but ended up letting us fly.
@ Matthew — Sue.
Consider KE put up the fare as $23335 before DL published it as codeshare, it is a mistake fare instead of so called “seller’s remorse”. It’s not about what people think if it’s a mistake or not. It’s about whether DL can demonstrate it as a mistake. DL can show it simply through internal memos and records, or KE just tell them they shouldn’t have set the fare that way.
However it’s still totally enough price to just downgrade to J. Either DL or KE didn’t bother, or they didn’t communicate well.
It may have been a fat-fingered fare, but when I make a mistake, I have to own up to it. It’s time for DOT to revert to its pre-2015 guidance on mistake fares.
Of course. That shall teach them how not to screw up with a stake.
So how do we go about lobbying the DOT to do just that?
Travel Codex warned us!!
Seriously though… If you interviewed 100 Americans and asked them how much a “first class ticket” to Bali costs, I suspect the average would come in around $2,700. Good deal? Sure. Mistake fare? Hardly.
Only if 75% of them got an idea lol. It’s not about what people think the fare should be.
KE published the base fare as $23335 first and DL coincidentally starts a sale with exact 10% of KE’s base fare for codeshare? Sounds very reasonable to me
First class costs more than $10000 on JFK-DPS on all airlines. Not to mention it’s a full-fare flexible first class with fare basis as short as FRT. However, $2700 isn’t even that good of a deal for business class for sure.
Point is, it is within the realm of possibility – fare basis aside, we’ve seen pricing like this before, even with Air France.
$23,335 for what is basically a glorified seat with premium booze. For that amount you can travel transatlantic in one of the biggest Queens Grill suites on the Queen Mary 2. Including a huge bed, bathroom with shower, butler service, a private terrace, and excellent gourmet meals, served at a table with china, crystal and silver. Yeah, it takes a bit longer. Worth it. (Not that I’ve done that.)
Even worse than that. KE doesn’t have a particularly outstanding first. However, it’s just how full-flex fare works in all cabins. You get almost exactly the same services as a cheap fare with a ridiculously high price only because of time constraints or else.
I’m so glad I’m not the only person that can’t stand bloggers glorifying KE. Their F is middling, at best. The Asian halo of F products is strong with KE thanks to actual world-class airlines, to which KE adds nothing. Service is meh. The hard product is about as good as ANA’s new J seat – which is an admittedly good seat. And the soft product is barely okay. Flown ICN to the West Coast twice in KE F and handfuls of times in J and it was so lackluster I was ready to be off the plane by the time we landed every single time. And the worse part is the entire crew from F accosts you to ask about how you enjoyed the flight. On the second flight I’d had enough and gave them a piece of my mind about how the water and champagne glasses are so infinitesimally small I should never be able to take only three sips of ANYTHING and need a refill. And, on top of that, I shouldn’t HAVE TO ASK for a refill. Just such a paltry, paltry offering. I’m curious to how terrible the new KE/OZ mixed bag of garbage will be. Having lived in Asia for far longer than I cared to, I have low-to-no expectations for the culture.
Matt, $2,700 premium fares are non-refundable and have 28-60 day advance purchase requirements. This was fully flexible, refundable and had the same fare basis as the $18,000+ Korean Air first class fare.
Fare was obviously a mistake, and it’s kind of surprising you don’t see it based on your industry experience. I suspect 99% of these were bought by folks following premium deals/”mistake fare” blogs or forums and understood the risks.
Jason, if Delta makes careless mistakes such as this, what other mistakes are they making behind the scenes. Delta should be held accountable. If they were, better processes would emerge to ensure that these mistakes do not happen, and passengers would be inconvenienced less.
“It’s a disappointing move by Delta.”
You’re too PC Matt, the correct “D” word is Dick, it’s a Dick move by Delta. But I also believe Delta isn’t alone and every other carrier would sadly do the same.
It’s too bad passengers don’t (always) have the right to cancel their ticket purchases when fares are high, e.g. a “mistake purchase”. If airlines can cancel ticket purchased that are (at their own discretion) priced too low, why can’t passengers do the same when the prices are high?
I’d love nothing better than for any contract I enter into to be cancellable without penalty, but only on my end. This is ridiculous.
Typo in your second to last sentence
DL did honor the BUD F/J fare tickets. But they were on DL/AF/FL metal, so I think this is 100% driven by KE. I didn’t book it because KE was involved.
Oooh that was a sweet one. And i ieven managed to change the departure and arrival airport thanks to covid for free.
Just curious, what was the last “special” low fare that you yourself successfully flew?
I remember about 7 or 8 years ago United had tons of $0 fares for domestic flights(plus tsa fee). I was searching for flights when this was happening and had time too book several. Figuring there was no way United was going to honor them I didn’t bother…
Well they honored them and I was kicking myself for the next 11 months while I paid for flights.
Airlines in the US are coddled by corrupt politicians who do not want to let go of indsider trading for which the rest of would be in prison for.
This US regulation that lets airlines off the hook makes a mockery of consumer law and possibly contract law as a whole, it’s a brilliant example of a client state where lobbying takes precedence over the public interest.
Once consideration has been received, there must be a binding contract in place and the ‘we are too inept to correctly price our services’ line can only be useful as evidence of the vendor’s inability to deliver the contracted service applying a reasonable level of care and skill (to use the wording of the UK Consumer Rights Act).
Well said, and exactly what I was thinking. It’s a contract and the laws of contracts must apply. First the Constitution and now the basic principles of law are being subverted. I weep for the future of our country
What would happened if someone had booked this flight as part of an extensive, non-refundable itinerary of other flights, hotels, tours? Would the airline reimburse tens of thousands of dollars in “reasonable, actual and verifiable out-of-pocket expenses that were made in reliance upon the ticket?”
I suppose Delta might try to fight it, but per DOT regulations, it would be on the hook.
Ive flown millions of miles a Crewmember and passenger. I should think that a ticket is a contract and legally can’t just be cancelled because Delta didn’t charge you enough. I dont like Delta anyway. Used to fly UA until they got so cheap they’d unplug the entertainment system to dave fuel. Airlines are a sorry way to travel nowadays.
By law, companies are allowed to make mistakes and cancel sales if there’s a mistake. Consumer law protects people from being swindled. No one here is being swindled. The website made a pricing error and refunded everyone’s money. These things happen.
So if they over charge by mistake have they ever issued a refund?
Submit a forms DOt complaint. I agree.
DOT provisions don’t protect the consumer. Only benefit the airlines. The airlines wrote them. Does it surprise you (after the Boeing Max scandal)?
It’s the USA after all…
Until the DOJ starts to clamp down on airilines, the airlines can do anything they want. The DOJ is run by Democrats and the Democrats require these airlines to give money to them.
“Payed”? I’m pretty sure no decks of ships were involved.
You mean “paid”, surely?
Matthew makes mistake (“$2,7000″in first sub-header) in mistake fare article… see how easy it is?
Delta has never been consumer friendly. Contrast to United’s handling of mistake fares as well as the recent 60k business class tickets with partner segments which were clearly a mistake but honored. Another reason to avoid DL and skypesos unless it’s your only choice.
You make a good point.
I have to sympathize with the PR person that had to compose that email and those that had to respond at the help center.
@Matthew – I assume you have access to a tool like Expertflyer – take a look at BUSINESS fares for random dates in the fall on JFK-LHR – I looked at Business fares for 10/11/22 – 10/22/22 and was shocked to see round trip business fares for multiple major carriers at $600. Are we then supposed to assume that they are ALL mistakes on ALL the carriers listed ? Heck , TP has a JFK-LHR Business fare at $294!!
Your username is brilliant! I wonder how many people on here get the reference. May all your buildings go condo.
Note that the quote from the DOT does not change the rule that airlines must honor mistake fares – it says that as a matter of “prosecutorial discretion” it will not institute enforcement proceedings if the airline follows the guidelines. It does not affect the ability of a customer to sue in state court (small claims or otherwise.)
Indeed. In fact, stay tuned for a post this week where I discuss precisely that point.
The worst about this BS cancellation is that they tried to give me an c-cert for the $2,700 and I have had to call 2x now to get it converted to a refund (even though it was a refundable ticket).
I always day dream fare hunt. I found this and thought that 13 hours each way in an airport at the end of covid is not an easy route. Korean Airlines is not a real five star airline lately so I understood that Delta might be wholesaling these flights for Korean. I called two of my friends and they booked it too. We spent 30 hours planning our dream vacation. At hour 29 I picked our seat assignments.
When I picked the seats the flight from JFK to ICN was full. All 8 taken. My friends and I had assignments. When I called after the cancelation email I was again put back on the flight and chose my seats. 7/8 seats were empty when I was chosing again. This was October 1st flight.
Delta sold out Korean Air first f0r months. Korean will probably wish that they let us fly later on because nobody is first choice picking Korean Air first class with 13 hour layovers. Nobody is even posting reviews on YouTube. Its not exciting.
The fact that it was over 24 hours is the thing that I thought is impossible in the USA to be taken away after.
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