British Airways Cancels Several Thousand £195 ‘Bargain Fares’ It Sold To Tel Aviv / Dubai, Claiming Error

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British Airways, claiming an error, has decided to cancel several thousand tickets of customers who got in on a deal for £195 fares to both Tel Aviv and Dubai.

Passengers had already received their booking confirmations and e-tickets, yet the airline decided not to honor the sale of the flights which apparently had a base fare of £1 plus fees and airport taxes.

Every year there are multiple instances where airlines forget to add a number or two to base fare. These cases are commonly known as ‘Error Fares’ or ‘Fat Finger Fares’ and basically reflect an error in the way the base fare was filed.

In this case the base fare (Economy Class) was apparently £1 and the rest of the ticket price consisted of taxes and fees, bringing the total to £195. Sometimes these bookings are honored and sometimes the airlines decide that the fare is threatening their bottom line too much so they elect to cancel all tickets.

BBC (access here) reported now that in the case of the London – Tel Aviv / Dubai fare British Airways chose the latter and cancelled all tickets.

More than 2,000 British Airways passengers have had their tickets cancelled because the prices were too cheap, a travel agent has said. Travel Up chief Ali Shah said he believes another five agencies also sold tickets through the airline’s mistake.

BA has apologised for the error on flights to Tel Aviv and Dubai but refused to say how many were affected.

Customers said they were angry their tickets are not being honoured.

Mr Shah said flights normally costing more than £200 were advertised for £1 plus airport taxes, which can be several hundred pounds, between 17:45 BST on 11 June and 11:00 the following day.

Another customer, Esther Vadia, had booked six tickets to Tel Aviv for £167 each and a seventh for her son later in the year for £195. All have been cancelled.

She says she is unable to afford to pay for other flights and although she will be refunded, she will still have to pay credit card fees for the cancelled tickets. Ms Vadia also said she would end up losing more than £1,000 on non-refundable accommodation in Israel.

It is generally not recommended to book non refundable travel plans such as hotels until the matter has settled for some time and it’s clear that the deal is being honored.

At the same time people shouldn’t be greedy when it comes to such deals because the more tickets are sold (especially in premium classes which isn’t applicable here but nonetheless) the more it is a threat to the revenue of the airline and that usually results in the decision to cancel all tickets.

BA said in a statement: “Errors like this are exceptionally rare, and if they do occur, under contract law, there is no binding contract between the parties.

“We have apologised to customers and offered a gesture of goodwill.” [a £100 voucher per customer].

I’m not sure if the £100 voucher will be issued per customer or per ticket purchased, however it’s somewhat generous for BA to offer this at all. Many other airlines such as Lufthansa have previously cancelled tickets without offering anything.

Interestingly I just booked a flight today that goes from Germany to the US and back, all on BA Code Share flights: FRA-LHR-DFW-LAS / LAX-DFW-FRA with a 25 Euro base fare and a total of 310 EUR in Economy Class. These fares are still available on Expedia and other channels. Not much of a difference apart from the fact that there are many more flights involved. Is BA going to cancel these tickets too?

Conclusion

I’m surprised that BA decided to cancel an Economy Class Error fare that had a price tag of close to £200 considering it’s not a free ticket, they still collect some revenue and all the negative press involved. The vouchers are another matter as most vouchers will probably never be redeemed.

Israel is a high revenue destination for BA and they need the space on London-Tel Aviv to sell their long haul routes. However: 2000 tickets isn’t a lot at all. Let’s say you can book 360 days in advance. That’s not even 6 tickets per day. British Airways should have just let this one slide and make the customers happy instead of following their apparent in-official policy of being the worst full service airline in Europe.

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