Chris Elliott on “Stealing From An Airline” – Too Low Fares?


Just came across Mr. Elliott’s latest essee about airline issues. Friend of mine had commented about this latest Huffington Post piece and posted a link to it on his Facebook. I have been contemplating about writing some of Mr. Elliott’s previous pieces because he often takes a contrarian view.


This time, however, I couldn’t disagree with him more. You can read his article on Huffington Post here.

The article is about “mistake” fares.  Expedia/ANA had canceled someone’s flights couple of days before and not informed the traveler at all. The person had to purchase new ticket to fly back home from Myanmar.

What has lead to “mistakes”

1. Automated ticketing – Flights are priced and tickets issued automatically based on the fares that the airlines have filed. This saves a lot of money and manpower for the airlines. Tickets don’t have to be manually priced and issued.

2. Outsourced fare filing – Some airlines have outsourced the filing of fares to contractors and maybe don’t have adequate controls in place.

3. Fat fingers – The most usual fare mistake is when someone mistakenly leaves one or more zeros from the fare.

But none of these have anything to do with the consumer. I can hardly see how anyone could use word “stealing” from an airline, when they merely take advantage of a good fare that they may or may not know to be erroneous.

What is an error fare anyway?

Airlines price the inventory they have to maximize the revenue. The inventory that is empty at the time the flight takes off is lost. This is the reason why the same seat may be sold from $100 to $2000. Airlines are excellent at price discrimination.

There are often sales for transatlantic travel in business class around the holidays for little bit more than $1000. You can often fly from Europe to Asia RT on business class for about the same amount if you purchase the ticket at the right time.

How consumer is supposed to distinguish between a real sale fare and a mistake fare?

No favors from the airlines

If you make a mistake and buy a fare for a wrong date, do you think that there are going to be any favors from the airline(s)? What if there is an accident on the road and you miss your flight?

There is no love lost with the airlines that try to screw you at every turn. I have done quite well with them, but only because I know the rules and know how to escalate the issue(s) to get adequate resolution.


The Mr. Elliott’s piece is a good read and there are lot of comments that are contradictory to his views. Personally, I don’t see how the person would have been “stealing” from the airline when everything is skewed on the airline’s favor?

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