Is it ever OK to steal from an airline?

By | January 23rd, 2013

Andrew Popov/Shutterstock
Andrew Popov/Shutterstock
Lauren is a thief.

At least that’s how I’ve described people like her in the past — air travelers who find an obvious airfare error online, book it, and then expect to fly.

Lauren is also a victim.

She’s been taken advantage of on two levels. Her online travel agency, Expedia, canceled her ticket only a few days before her scheduled flight from Myanmar to Vancouver on ANA without saying anything, forcing her to buy another seat at the last minute.

And let’s just say the airline industry hasn’t been kind to her in the past. More on that in a moment.

Do two wrongs make a right?

Lauren’s case isn’t easy for this consumer advocate. She knowingly stole from a business that has, in the past, mistreated her. Is that ever justified?

To find out, let’s review a few specifics of her problem. Last year, Lauren (no last names, because I don’t want to embarrass her) found a one-way fare from Myanmar to Canada for $586. In first class. It was an obvious slip, and apparently not the first time the fare error had been made. Lauren believes it was a mistake in a currency conversion.

She’d learned about the error on a site called FlyerTalk, but several other mileage forums and blogs had mentioned the fare mistake as well. You’ll have to forgive me for not linking to the sites, but I can’t promote a criminal activity. Google them if you must.

In the past, I’ve been critical of these forums and blogs for a number of reasons, but mostly because of the fare error issue. An ethically-challenged minority of FlyerTalk users and bloggers gleefully point out the pricing mistakes and then encourage their readers to book blocks of airline seats or hotel rooms. Then, if the business cancels the reservations and refunds the money, they use bullying tactics to pressure the business to “honor” the erroneous price, such as invoking their elite status or threatening to call the media.

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I’ve covered these fare error incidents before, and the fare thieves did not like it. Read the comments if you don’t believe me.

By the way, I can’t believe that such behavior is tolerated by these sites. Pointing out a fare error online and urging people to book one is like saying someone’s house isn’t locked and urging everyone to steal from it.

The presence of these opportunists gives all of these sites a bad name, and in my opinion, they should be quickly expelled from the group.

Stuck in Myanmar

When Lauren showed up for her flight from Yangon to Tokyo a few weeks ago, an ANA representative told her that her flight had been canceled four days before. No one had bothered to tell her.

“The agent said we were not due any compensation and it was not a denied boarding situation,” she says. “I had no tickets.”

Lauren was forced to redeem 140,000 miles, and she lost one nights’ lodging in Tokyo because of the last-minute cancellation.

“That can’t be legal,” she says.

That’s an interesting word to use, because Lauren knew the fare was wrong, but booked it anyway. I’m sure there’s someone over at ANA saying (very politely, in Japanese), “That can’t be legal.”

I asked Lauren: Why’d you do it?

“Quite honestly,” she told me, “because as a frequent flier, I have been screwed over many times by falling through the cracks between responsibilities of travel agents, IT teams, ticketing carriers and operating carriers. I saw this as one of the very few collisions between these players that favored the consumer rather than the companies. Especially for something the airlines knew about in advance and could have prevented.”

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I understand. If the situation were reversed, and Lauren had inadvertently booked a ticket that she didn’t want, the airline would keep her money without a second thought. (Fortunately, the U.S. government now has a 24-hour cancellation rule for airline tickets, which prevents some of that from happening.) But it’s true that airlines have not always treated their customers well, imposing ridiculous rules and restrictions on their tickets in order to squeeze a little more money from them.

I get that. And yes, it almost makes the theft excusable.

But not quite.

If we ever want to get justice from an ethically-bankrupt airline industry, we can’t steal from thieves. We — you, Lauren — are better than that. We have to play by the rules, and if we don’t like the rules, we have to ask the government to change them.

Or put differently, two wrongs don’t make a right.

I didn’t mediate Lauren’s case, even though the last-minute cancellation was problematic. I reviewed the apologetic letter that ANA sent her after cancellation, in which it blamed Expedia for pulling the plug on her flight, and concluded that she was fortunate.

For 140,000 miles and a night’s accommodation in Tokyo, Lauren learned that stealing — no matter how justified — is wrong.

Is it ever acceptable to steal from an airline?

View Results

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  • johnb78

    I don’t think that buying a product offered by a business at a price set by that business can ever be morally wrong. If the business is too incompetent to price its products correctly, it doesn’t deserve to remain in business. Indeed, by driving such an incompetent business out of the marketplace, people exploiting its incompetence are doing the world a favour.

    (note: this is very different from lying about age/residence/profession/status to obtain a cheaper fare from a business. All of these are dishonest, in that they involve misrepresenting yourself or otherwise, erm, being dishonest. But if WalMart offers to sell me a television for a dollar, the suggestion that I’m being dishonest by taking the company up on its offer to sell me a television for a dollar is just bizarre).

    There’s perhaps an argument that airlines shouldn’t always have to honour fat-finger fares. Maybe, as for the 24-hour cool-off period for consumers, the company should be allowed 24 hours to spot its own stupidity and cancel them. But there is absolutely no excuse, and nobody can justify, the company cancelling the fare and only notifying the poor woman when she reaches the airport.

  • $16635417

    She knew the fare was incorrect. When you play with fire…

  • TonyA_says

    Wow, what an idiot? There was a lot of crazy talk about cheap first class fares that were not updated in the system right when Myanmar devalued its currency. These people knew what they were doing but they were too stupid or drunk to understand the risks. They probably expect the DOT to fight for their ENTITLEMENTS or should I say rights.

    Added: to be called a thief in Japan is really pretty bad. I have known folks who have left stuff like umbrellas in train stations or other places only to find them in the same exact spot a few days later.

  • HokieChick

    Look … stealing is stealing. This case is like somebody complaining about having his pocket picked when the wallet that was lifted was one he just found on the street but decided to keep. The airline may have screwed this passenger, but if I were Chris, I’d file that under karma and go help somebody whose hands are clean.

  • TonyA_says

    I would agree with you if you were buying something here in the States where things are pretty stable. But for Myanmar, where there was a huge difference in the official and blackmarket exchange rate? Are you kidding?
    Also I would not call this woman poor. The real poor people are those living in Myanmar. They cannot afford to play her stupid games.

  • johnb78

    Sorry, used a British-ism. “Poor” meaning “unfortunate in the context”, as in “that poor sod just had his wallet nicked” (which works even if the gentleman in question is a millionaire). Agree the people of Burma are the most suffering. They are not enriched by ANA’s fare policy either way.

    I don’t get your other point. In places where legal exchange rates are a joke, airlines don’t take payment in local currency (obviously, they can’t accept black market rates, because third-world jails are no fun). The currency conversion error has to be from JPY to USD, nothing to do with kyats.

  • Stuart

    I’m not sure why you refer to what Lauren did as stealing…it wasn’t based on any dictionary definition. I get that it may bump up against your morale values but that doesn’t make it stealing.

    Sure, it may be taking advantage of what you suspect to be a pricing error but that’s it.
    If you want to talk morals, some travellers would say that the same happens, in reverse, every summer when prices are hicked up to ensure that families travelling during school holidays have no option but to pay more.

    You have a good blog here, I read it every day. Please be careful to keep it fact based though – referring to Lauren’s action as stealing isn’t fact.



  • Blackadar

    It’s not theft Chris, no matter how many times you repeat it. Whether taking advantage of an obvious mistake is morally acceptable or not, it does not come close to meeting the legal or generally accepted definition of theft.

  • Matt

    I find it hard how you can define booking an advertised fare as stealing. Knowingly or not, if its advertised, you’re entitled to book it. This undermines the entire article and makes it worthless imo.

  • Guest

    So it sounds like you are saying it is okay for the action in one place, but not the other? Shouldn’t be either wrong or right no matter where it is at? Are you kidding?

  • Guest

    I agree. I would love to see the airlines try to press criminal charges for theft on anyone who took advantage of an airlines pricing mistake.

  • Guest

    True. Any other business has to honor improperly priced merchandise. Why shouldn’t airlines? Was just hearing about a case with a local grocery chain that was advertising one price on the shelf but charging another at the register. While not identical, has some of the same feature. That store is having to pay over $800,000 in fines and penalties because of it.

  • Guest

    Just remember everyone… Two wrongs don’t make a right. However, three rights do make a left.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I’m really having a tough time processing the comments that say in effect that taking advantage of a published fare, no matter how obviously erroneous, is *not* stealing. Let me offer an example in a different framework:

    I go out to eat at a nice restaurant with several members of the family. I get the check and notice that one of the entrees was not rung up. Do I pay the check as presented or do I notify the waitstaff or manager that there is an error on the check? For me, it’s a no-brainer. I speak up about the error on the check. It’s the right thing to do.

    Sometimes doing the right thing has a cost attached to it.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Chris, if you are going to call what Lauren did as stealing then you must call it stealing for some of the people that you come to you for help. I will call it stealing when somoene purchased a non-refundable airfarehotel room rate then want a refund from the airfare or hotel. A person could have purchased a refundable farerate but they didn’t. A person could have purchased travel insurance but they didn’t. Instead they are stealing money from the airline or hotel when they are asking for a refund.

    State and FTC laws states that a company must honor the prices that they have on their products. That is why if you look at advertisements in the Sunday newspapers, etc., most of them will have a disclosure that the retailer is not responsible for errors.

    The simple solution here is for Expedia and other travel providers to put a disclosure on their website that they are not responsible for pricing errors. A disgruntled employee could put in wrong prices. A hacker could put in wrong prices.

  • mszabo

    This article seems somewhat skewed by Chris’s opening paragraphs. I’d say we need some guidelines for what exactly is a the price difference between a good deal, and your a dirty criminal for even thinking of booking it. At first glance I would say that $560 dollars doesn’t fall into the dirty criminal category. Since you helpfully provided a link to your past posting on this subject how about this quote:

    “You could buy a roundtrip ticket between North America and Palau for around $560. That’s a very good fare, but not too good to be true.” – Chris Elliott

    Personally I would say the stealing rate would have to be at least an order of magnitude different than the minimum value of that trip.

    In that case there are even more similarities, you seemed troubled that the airline waited months before actually cancelling. Even then the airline still attempted to do something to remedy the problem. From your posting above it sounds like the airline/Expedia waited even longer and did even less.

    Had you not known the fare was booked to intentionally take advantage of a price mistake, would your attitude be different here? Looks like Lauren made a mistake by being too honest with you. Seems like your perfectly OK with “Two Wrongs make a Right” now.

  • TonyA_says

    Sorry but I do not think you understand how fares work.

    Fares are published in the LOCAL CURRENCY of the origin location.

    So for example, a RGN to TYO fare will be in Myanmar Kyat (MMK). Not in Japanese Yen or US Dollars, etc.

    Obviously these fares are “localized” so the locals can buy them with their own currency.

    I doubt if ANA or other carriers based their fuel, aircraft, labor costs in Kyats. So if the Kyat devalues more than a ratio of 127:1, you don’t expect the airlines to take your worthless Kyat at the old value.

    Now for you folks who only see fares in US Dollars, British Pounds, Euros or some other Western Currency, that is happening because some computer program (aka GDS) is using the IATA Rate of Exchange (IROE) to display the local fare in your currency.

    The problem is when the devaluation is SUDDEN, the airlines have a hard time changing all the local fares for all the defined routes. There is no automated way to change the local fares.
    Each and every fare needs to be updated or refiled.

    So this is not an issue with Yen to Dollar conversion as you say.

    This is an issue where the LOCAL fares in the airline fare database was not updated to reflect the LOCAL CURRENCY DEVALUATION.

  • EdB

    The 24 hour time limit for an airline to spot and cancel an erroneous sounds reasonable. However, there needs to be some sort of proof that the customer was properly notified of the cancellation. This canceling it at the last minute or not notifying of the cancellation to me seem more akin to stealing than this story. The airlines know you will still need a ticket and now they are forcing you to pay more for the last minute fare than you would have if purchased earlier.

  • TonyA_says

    Explain what you mean by advertised. Do you mean talked about in flyertalk?
    Did you see the fare in the newspapers, hear it on the radio?

  • johnb78

    No. I lived in Cambodia long enough to know that international fares aren’t sold in riels. They just aren’t. If you turn up (online or physically) trying to buy a fare in riels, you’ll be laughed out of town. Because of the exchange rate problem you’ve noted upthread. They can’t be sold, because the rate is a farce.

    I’ve tried to buy a fare in Myanmar (before they opened up as New Cuba) and been told to get roundly stuffed; I’m sure now every pirate and opportunist is there.

  • johnb78

    Exactly this.

  • MarkKelling

    No, that is a different situation. The example you provide is not the same and someone, most likely the waiter, will have to pay for the item after you leave. In that case I would also ask the waiter to correct the bill. Same as if you go to the grocery store and the cashier misses the items on the bottom of your cart like laundry detergent and other bulky items. You can easily walk out of the store with the attitude that I went through the check out and I have a receipt so what if everything I’m walking out with isn’t on the receipt. I would never do that.

    In the case with the airline ticket, it is different. Sure, I might see a great fare and think it is too good to be true, but if I book the flight and the airline takes my money and gives me a ticket number then that is a legitimate business transaction. Some airlines actually brag about their dollar fares (not that I fly any of those). It isn’t stealing.

    I am currently looking to go to Europe this next summer and am checking fares daily. The price for 1st class from here to there is running around $8,000 or more. The airline I have been looking at had a fare for only $2000 yesterday which is only about $200 more than their lowest economy fare but it is back to $8000 today. Would it have been wrong for me to purchase that ticket yesterday? No, and I kinda wished I did. It was a published fare offered to the public in general. Was it a mistake? I don’t know. Did they sell any at that price? I also don’t know.

  • johnb78

    No, that’s completely not the example. If you saw the check, and one of the entrees was billed for a dollar – that would be the example.

  • johnb78

    In general, you should expect to get ripped off overseas and not so much at home, just because of the incentives everyone has. I’m aware I’m agreeing with Tony here.

  • TonyA_says

    I can tell you that most NON COMMUNIST Southeast Asian countries accept LOCAL MONEY for international fares.
    I am in that business so I know.

    Your problem is that the LOCAL vendor does not want to accept their own local currency because he knows its a foolish game.
    Besides you need to also know how the agents SETTLE with the airlines.

    PS. I am about to buy one for myself to Tokyo from another SE Asia airport in their LOCAL currency because it is cheaper for me to do so compared to me issuing a ticket for myself while I am here in the USA.

    I must tell you that in some SE Asian countries, many vendors do not want to hold on the US money because its value is FALLING daily. Too much printing by the Fed.

  • Chris Johnson

    Call me unsophisticated here, but if there is an airfare posted for sale that some people might consider unusually low for the distance, time of year, demand, etc., how am I supposed to know that it is a pricing error and I would be “stealing” versus the airline just wanting to quickly sell some seats that might have otherwise gone unfilled anyway? If I see a fare that seems like a really good deal and I want to go there, I’m booking it, charging my card and there are no moral issues for me.
    If the airline does contact me within 24 hours to tell me that it was a mistake and I have to either cancel or pay $X more, that is fair. But if I don’t learn about that until check-in that is completely unfair and I should not have to pay for someone else’s screwup.

  • Guest

    so you’re saying it is perfectlly acceptable for an airline to, as you say, rip off (another term for stealing) customers just because they are overseas? That’s just amazing.

  • TonyA_says

    Can you explain to us in simple English what the airlines (i.e. ANA) did wrong? Or for that matter do anything against DOT rules?

  • cjr001

    Published on a website, whether it be the airline’s website or an Expedia = advertised. It’s not difficult.

  • TonyA_says

    Perfect, then let Expedia solve her problem.

  • Charlie Funk

    The action taken does not rise to the level of stealing. That said, because an entity’s moral compass points in one direction, mine need not be modified.
    And as a side note – this very attitude of seizing upon a mistake that offers a huge financial windfall or expense avoidance is the very attitude that makes so many people so incredibly gullible to travel scams. In trying to seize upon another’s error or misfortune, the avaricious are sometimes the victim.

  • calbff

    I’m sorry, but I think you’re off base on this one. How can it be theft (or even unethical) to purchase something off an advertised sale, erroneous or not? It is not the responsibility of the consumer to verify that an error has not been made every time he or she wants to purchase something.

  • Guest

    There you go again Tony. Trying to derail the subject. This was not about anything specific that ANA did wrong. It was in response to yours an John’s assertion that it is fine for the airlines to, as John said, rip off customers just because they aren’t in the States.

  • mszabo

    Have you ever watched an episode of “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel? Or how about “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS? How many times have you called the police to report a theft? I assume your answer is greater than zero. Usually once an episode someone brings in something they found at a yard sale for $5 and it ends up being worth $1000+. Isn’t that stealing as well? Why were the police not called?

    I think you may be using stealing in a figurative sense not a literal one. Certainly the behavior is morally questionable, but it can’t be stealing if you pay the asking price of the seller.

  • Cathy_Disqus

    “Any other business has to honor improperly priced merchandise.”
    This is a myth. The law in the U.S. (I’m speaking in general, there are probably one or two places that are exceptions as there are always are) does not compel businesses to honor prices that were advertised or shown in error. The grocery store fines are due to a pattern of overcharging which violates bait and switch laws.

  • Charles

    One of the problems I have with these conversations is that they always are using such extreme examples. NY to Paris for $5, Myanmar/Canada first class for $500. But, what about lesser differences?

    We booked a Jamaica resort for December 15-20, 2012 via Expedia. The price on Expedia for the package was considerably less than anywhere else and affordable for us, so we booked it back in August. The “considerably less” was about 30% less. Afterwords, I started to worry that there might be a mistake and did some looking and found that Expedia had the daily rate going down by $80 on the 16th instead of going up by $80 to the high season rate. That was only for 7 days, then the rate went to the quoted hotel rack rate. Note that, in the entire four months this was never changed. We went on the trip and nobody said anything. I didn’t say anything, either. Is this stealing?

    We just booked another trip to the same resort for May, 2013. They perpetually offer a 5th night free. Travelocity was saying 5th night free, but showing the zero rate on every 4th night. We booked an 8 night package. Two days later this appears to be fixed, but nobody has told us there is a problem with our package. This savings was more modest, a 25% discounts instead of a 20% discount, but it made an 8 night trip practical, since the 5th night free is really only a 25% discount of multiples of 5 and we have never done 10 nights. For 8 nights it is a savings of 12.5%. Again, is this stealing?

    In both cases, we are not actually buying the hotel alone. We are buying a package with airfare, which included a pretty big package discount as well. I could see the price anomalies when I looked at the hotel price alone, but the quote only gave us a total and we agreed to that. Frankly, I just don’t see that we are doing anything wrong, though there was some worry that they might cancel on us due to it. And, can we really be sure these are mistakes? The resort was nearly empty when we were there. Maybe they decided to try a discount that week to see what happened? Maybe they tried 4th night free to see if it led to 8 night bookings? I think it can be hard to be sure about more modest errors, anyway.

  • Cam

    I’m sorry this poll is rediculous.

    How about: ” Is it ever ok to have stupid poll that ask a nonsenical question”?

  • Cam

    Ummm…..try Indonesia. All international fares are quoted in $US. Not a communist country……

  • S363

    Chris, I’m a long-time reader and big fan of yours, but your poll question is dishonest. It’s the equivalent of asking “Have you stopped beating your wife?”, being what was described in my Intro to Logic class back in 1970 as a Complex Question ( This is because it presupposes that the behaviour you describe is “stealing”. If you want to ask if it’s OK to take advantage of a fare that has some unknown but perhaps high probability of being an error, then ask that.

    As long as airlines (and other travel businesses) insist that we consumers be financially responsible for any errors we make, I believe it’s right that they be responsible for theirs as well. I’m not a lawyer but I know enough to know that offer and acceptance makes a contract.

    I’d be interested to know what you advise a consumer to do when he finds a fare or price that seems really good.

  • BMG4ME

    No it is never acceptable to steal, but in this case it wasn’t stealing. Important religious leaders have debated cases like this and consider that it’s not stealing to take advantage of a mistake like this since airlines do sometimes offer ridiculously low fares.

  • mszabo

    I’d be tempted to say this isn’t one of those extreme examples. Certainly a first class fare for $500 is way out there, but if you were booking on Expedia would you even notice? I never travel first class and wouldn’t even think to notice the class assignment. Running a search of one way fares from Canada to Myanmar shows prices in the 800-1000 range on the first page (which by default is sorted by price). If I saw $570, I’d think it was a nice deal, and not even notice it was a different class from the other listings.

  • andrelot

    I respectfully disagree that booking a knock-down price on an airline or hotel or car rental is “theft” in the moral sense, unless it involves some exploit like hacking the system or using a promotional code you know you can’t because you don’t belong to the category of travelers they are intended to.

    Airline ticket prices vary wildly, there are some extreme sales, there is no real price reference people who don’t work as travel agents know for.

  • Ethically, it would be wonderful if an airline employee posting a fat-finger fare got a free do-over. So why don’t the airlines extend the same right to their passengers trying to navigate their oft-weaselly websites?

    After reading the Lauren story, characterizing her actions as “theft” is like characterizing a relationship between a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old as ‘rape’ – technically, not morally true.

  • TonyA_says

    Can you pay in Rupiah or not?

    Are you buying online or walking in a travel agency?

    Note I used the term – ACCEPT !!!

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Yeah, as Cathy said, don’t know where you got the impression that any mistakes HAVE to be honored. They don’t. And that’s actually a good thing, unless you’d want to be forced to sell your $2000 item for $200 because a zero got left off in your class ad or on Craig’s List.

  • Cam

    Yes. Correct. Even domestic fares are sold in USD in Cambodia

  • TonyA_says

    Because travel agents do not want to get stuck with a devaluating currency. They will lose a lot of money.
    Also if they cannot easily exchange MMK to USD from the commercial or Central Bank. what do you expect the travel agencies to do? They will have to buy from the blackmarket (deposits outside the country) to settle their accounts with airlines.

  • $16635417

    I gave up reading the polls. I usually stop at the end of the narrative and then head to the comments.

    I’ll go back and read the poll later after someone comments on the question…such as you just did.

  • I didn’t vote. As a standalone question, I would vote yes, but in the context of purchasing a fare published by an airline or travel agency, I would not consider this theft. In this situation, the travel agency and/or airline in question should have at minimum notified Lauren within 24 hours that the fare she purchased was a fare glitch and informed her what the actual fare would be, so she would have the option of purchasing at that fare or her ticket would be canceled. Or, they could have honored the fare.

  • TonyA_says

    Would you by chance be interested in fare from RGN to TYO?
    Of course, you need to figure out first how to get to RGN on a separate ticket.
    This is not a game for the UNSOPHISTICATED.

  • Guest

    I was not referring to price errors in circulars, but prices marked on the shelf. In California, a merchant has to honor the lowest price marked on an item. And bait and switch is offering a product you didn’t have in stock to get a person into the store to upsell them to a higher priced item. Completely different situations. The fines in this case are from violation of the rule I mentioned, not bait and switch.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Excellent post. I also don’t understand how this could be defined as “stealing.” Sometimes you may suspect a price is a mistake, but you order the item and see what happens: Maybe they tell you it was an error and you don’t get it; maybe they honor the deal even though it was an error; maybe it was just an amazing deal for some reason.

    Years back a friend of mine started finding bizarrely good deals on a tech website. Cases where multiple zeroes were left off prices. Those were in the days of Palm Pilots and I got a $350 item for something like $30. (They fulfilled the order without any questions asked.) But, when I tried ordering a laptop for 10 cents on the dollar that order was denied. I didn’t feel guilty about the Palm Pilot…nor did I resent them for disallowing the laptop purchase. It was their choice how they handled that.

  • mdy2k1

    Chris, if you used neutral language instead of the highly biased and charged term “stealing,” you would probably have >90% approval for Lauren (and other’s actions). The Airlines have burned through any goodwill or benefit of the doubt from their customer base.
    Even at a big box soul-less retailer, if we were to purchase a $1,000 TV and it rang up at $100, we would expect the cashier to call over the manager. The manager would apologize and say something to the effect, “There’s no way I can sell you this TV at this price, but let me do this for you…” and either throw in some cables or a discount. If our Big Box retailer, were to behave as the airlines, they would have taken our $100, told us they would deliver the TV in three days, but while we are waiting at home for our TV, it’s never delivered. Calling up the Store asking where our TV is, they tell us they made a mistake and if we wanted the TV we have to pay an additional $1,4000.

  • TonyA_says

    LOL. Looks like Lauren made a mistake by being too honest with you.
    She played the game and lost. Sorry. That’s all there is to this. Two parties can play the game.

  • y_p_w

    Well – retail stores always have disclaimers in their ads that they may correct errors. I have seen notices at entrances mentioning erroneous prices that correct the error with “sorry for the inconvenience”.

    However – who knows with loss leaders and all sorts of promotions. Once I booked OAK-SNA round trip for $53 including all fees and taxes. If I jiggled around the departure time it went up to more than $150. It seemed reasonable to me. I wasn’t scouring message boards for errors. This just fell into my lap when pricing fares.

  • Guest

    In california, a merchant is required by state law to honor the lowest marked price on an item. If they put the wrong price on the item, they must honor that price until the displayed price is corrected. For example, if they put a price of $1 on an item and when I got to the register they said it was suppose to be $2, they still habe to honor that $1 price. They can then go and fix the price and start charging the correct price after that.

  • TonyA_says

    I think Expedia will be made to pay by ANA if Expedia reissues a ticket at the old (mistaken) price.
    Technically, ANA cancelled the ticket and refunded the money to the original form of payment. I believe airlines are allowed to do that.
    If you want to buy another (NEW) ticket, you will do so under the current terms.

  • $16635417

    Fares are generally PRICED and CALCULATED in the local currency…this may be different from the actual SELLING transaction.

  • technomage1

    They could have offered to fly her at economy class for $x more or given her money back. And, provided she gave her contact information, it should have been offered prior to her arrival at the airport.

  • Michelle B.

    And while two wrongs don’t make a right, two Wrights can make an airplane.

  • Frank Windows

    I think calling this theft is a bit of a stretch, Chris. This is a situation that the airlines created — “yield management” as invented, I believe, by American Airlines. I can tell you that a good toaster costs around $20 and might go on sale for $15, but I can’t tell you how much it costs to fly between L.A. and Frisco, because that same seat on the same airplane could be $49 or $490 or $1,490. So how are we to know if a super-low fare is an honest mistake or a really good sale? And if the airlines do make a mistake that the consumers jump on, who is really to blame? Shouldn’t some of the responsibility lie with the airline for the Byzantine fair structure, a system so complex that their own people can’t even work it correctly?

    Sorry, Chris, but I think you’re in the wrong on this subject. If the airlines used a consistent pricing model, they wouldn’t run into these problems (and travellers would have an easier time budgeting).

  • $16635417

    Interesting, in browsing through that thread, there were people who were offered the option of a downgrade to coach…or not fly.It seemed to depend on the airline and it was not limited to Expedia.

  • Frank Windows

    Agree on all counts except the cooling-off period for the airline. If a store put a $50 item on the shelf with a $19 price, and then called the consumer back the next day to return it, I believe they’d be guilty of a bait-and-switch. Shouldn’t apply to airlines either. Just as the buyer should beware, so should the seller.

  • Michelle B.

    Not the same thing at all. The similar example is if the menu priced your filet mignon at $18 and then the bill came back as $28 for it. You ordered thinking it would be one price and they then claim there was a typo on the menu.

  • JenniferFinger

    While I don’t think it’s ever okay to actually take something that doesn’t belong to you, it’s not clear to me that fat-finger fares always fall in that category. Many customers, especially those who are not that sophisticated, don’t have any way of knowing that a fare is a fat-finger fare. Airlines and travel agencies post all kinds of fares for the flights they sell, and if, for example, one has never flown to the destination in question before, they often really have no way of knowing what a reasonable fare to that destination is-especially when doing online research and coming up with a zillion different answers. There are discounts for this, special fees for that, and so on that airlines don’t always publish (another one of your particular crusades, Chris, about how airlines need to disclose all fees charged), so ticket pricing can be really opaque.

    Now if a customer *knowingly* helps him/herself to a fat-finger fare, I certainly agree that they’re stealing and they have no business expecting their action to be condoned by any reputable consumer advocate or travel company. But it’s not always crystal clear that that’s what’s happening. In this instance, it does sound like Lauren was knowingly trying to help herself to a fat-finger fare, but I don’t think one size fits all.

  • emanon256

    You are 100% Correct. The Uniform Commercial Code states that a contract that contains any unconscionable terms does not have to be enforced.

  • emanon256

    Lowest price marked on an item would till not stand up to the UCC unconscionable contract rule. If a price was obviously a mistake, it does not have to be honored.

  • Guest

    I am cracking up here!

  • emanon256

    They don’t need a disclosure, and the lowest listed price laws does not apply if the price is unconscionable. The Uniform Commercial Code protects business from having to follow a contract where an obvious mistake was made. No disclaimer necessary. At least in the US.

  • emanon256

    How is $560 for First Class not too-good-to-be-true when a coach ticket costs around $1,500 and a first class tickets costs $6,000+?

  • Guest

    You might want to go explain that to the California Attorney General who used that very rule of lowest price has to be honored to get this ruling against the merchant. It’s obvious thay neither him or the courts found it unconscionable to require the merchant to charged the price they said it was.

  • MattB

    I think there are two issues here:

    1) The morality of taking advantage of a fare error, which segways into whether the buyer understood that the fare was a mistake or simply a good deal – clearly in this case as it is laid out, the buyer appears to believed the pricing was a mistake, and

    2) The appropriateness of cancelling a fare in a fashion that is not timely.

    In my view it can be debated whether Lauren was correct in booking the ticket given her apparent understanding the fare was in error.

    It is not debatable that Expedia and/or ANA were at fault in not informing her in a timely fashion that the rate and ticket would not be honored, leaving her on the hook for the remainder of her travel plans (things would have been far worse I imagine if she had not had 140,000 frequent flier miles and had had to walk up and pay for even a one way economy fare two days prior to travel).

    Because ANA’s/Expedia’s actions were clearly out of line (vs. the more thorny debate around her taking advantage of a mispriced ticket) I would argue that her case does deserve mediation, though what is appropriate compensation (a cut rate for her purchase via miles, refund of her lost day in Japan?) is another tricky question.

  • PhilLC

    the question ought to have been ‘Is it ever acceptable to steal?’
    I don’t see why airlines ought to somehow be in a different category…

  • Thomas Ralph

    You sure don’t like FlyerTalk, do you?

  • John

    I have absolutely no problem “stealing” from the airlines. They have made it an artform on how to ignore, nickel and dime, and outright steal from thier passengers. An example is US Airways issued me a refund voucher. When I went to use the voucher I could only use it if I made the reservation thru an agent on the phone and their lowest price that they would offer me was within a few dollars of the lowest price online and the value of the voucher added together. Add in the fact that I would have had to pay a fee for talking to an agent and the fare was higher than the lowest fare online. They “stole” my voucher. The airlines get what they deserve. When they start to treat me with some respect, and dignity both in the air and on the ground, maybe I’ll change my mind.

  • Carrie Charney

    I saw the headline and called to mind the napkins with buttonholes I have taken in the past from some first class flights. Now that is stealing! (This wasn’t and I even think you should have mediated this one.)

  • Kevin Mathews

    They only have to honor the price if they intend to sell it to you. They can always refuse to sell you the product and go and fix the price…

  • TonyA_says

    Cam and johnb78,

    Most countries require that airlines use the home currency for PRICING an airline ticket from their country. Therefore, the airlines file fares that are in those local currencies. Of course, there are exceptions. In Southeast Asia, as far as I know, airlines are allowed to price in US Dollars in the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam. But the rest of Asia as far as I know follow the standard – PRICE FARE IN LOCAL CURRENCY.

    Now just because a fare is priced in one currency (i.e. local ) does not mean the travel agent will ACCEPT that currency. It should be intuitive obvious that if a BLACK MARKET exchange rate is so active and the local currency is out of whack, then the agent will lose money accepting the local currency.

    Myanmar is one good example. In one fell swoop IATA changed its International Rate of Exchange (IROE) from 6.435 to 818 because Myanmar OFFICIALLY devalued its currency.
    No wonder no sane agency will accept the local currency.
    [By the way, today the ROE is 852.60, so the MMK keeps on devaluing.]

    Obviously the blackmarket rate has been close to the 818 figure for quite a time before that. The problem in Myanmar is airlines are required to price in Kyats (MMK). So when the MMK was officially devalued, the airlines were supposed to changed the fares in MMKs, too. But that is not an automatic change. Each fare has to be manually changed.

    The opposite example is the Philippines. This country allows (or requires) the airlines to price fares in US Dollars (not Pesos PhP). Even domestic fares are in US Dollars in the GDS. However people in the Philippines pay with local money or Pesos. They do not carry around US Dollars to pay for airfare within or from that country. As far as exchange rate is concerned the Philippine Peso has been appreciating versus the US Dollar. A few years back it was close to 50:1, now it is close to 40:1. So people in the Philippines like the fares priced in US Dollars since they need LESS PESOS to buy them.

    The bottom line is PRICING in a currency and ACCEPTANCE of a currency are 2 different issues. No seller will place themselves at a disadvantage because of currency exchange fluctuations. Welcome to the international world of commerce.

  • mszabo

    I checked this morning and saw $730 for a fare not $1500. Guess the prices depend on whatever your search terms are. Is the $730 I see online right now a mistake? If I choose a different day I see the cheapest coach seat for $3300. So what do you consider a reasonable difference?

    Your first class figure of $6000+ is closer to the $4900 I saw, even this is less than an order of magnitude of difference I mentioned. Still the default search of Expedia shows its listings based on price. It doesn’t show the seat class in the search page unless you click for more details. If a user is price motivated and would be flying coach, would they ever look to see the class of the ticket? I certainly wouldn’t assume them to be a thief.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    My feeling on these mistaken fares is – the first person who buys a ticket using a mistaken fare is buying it with honest intentions. Anyone who sees on a forum it’s a mistaken fare and buys it with the full knowledge it’s a mistaken fare is doing so with dishonest intentions.

    Yes, mistakes happen. However, our consumer world has become one of us against them and it’s “them” that holds all the cards, and consumers are fed up.

    If we cancel a flight for any reason at all, good or not, the airline keeps our money. If the airline cancels a flight for any reason at all, good or not, the airline keeps our money. If we want our money back, we have to fight, tooth and nail, sometimes involving someone like you, Chris, to get it back, and it’s getting more and more frustrating.

    Also, it seems the new travel sales approach is “a la carte shopping”, whereby I, the consumer, want a plane ticket/hotel room/rental car/dinner and a movie and I can’t just go buy whatever “it” is, I have to sift through a myriad of “add-ons” such as early boarding, preferential seating, baggage fees, head set fees, wi-fi fees, extra blanket fees (yes, I had that, once, at a hotel that had incredibly think blankets), and the list goes on and on. No more can I just BUY something. When I plan travel, now, I feel as though my pockets have been picked by the end of it.

    Most recently, I tried to buy a ticket for my husband on Greyhound. We ended up not being able to get it that day because:

    We are military and Greyhound has a “go anywhere for one price” fare. But – you can only get it online and the card being used to buy it MUST have your name on it. My husband and I share one debit card and one credit card and both have my name on it (he keeps losing his cards and this was our solution, I carry them all). The customer service at Greyhound is an absolute nightmare and the people are some of the most rude you’ll find; they seriously can’t seem to be polite, even if their life depended on it. The only solutions we were given were to drive two hours to the Tucson Greyhound terminal and lose the military discount, or get on the bus in Benson when he did his trip and show the driver cash for the ticket then buy it in Dallas – and we lose the military discount – OR don’t go on the trip.

    In addition, buying a ticket on Greyhound has absurd fees. If you buy the ticket online using someone else’s card, there’s an $18 “gift” fee (that’s assuming you can even get “the system” to let it happen). If you buy it online using your own card, there’s a $10 online fee. If you buy it over the phone there’s a $30 fee for doing that and if you buy it in person, there’s a $20 “administrative” fee. In short, there’s NO WAY to NOT pay some sort of fee when you buy a ticket on Greyhound unless you can make it magically appear out of thin air.

    The end result, I think the OP is probably tired of having HER pockets picked, as well, and thought this was the universe’s way of paying her back a little bit. It doesn’t make it right, but I sure understand where she’s coming from.

  • TonyA_says

    Agree especially ONLINE.

  • TonyA_says

    This is even more complex if there is an intermediary between the airline and the passenger – for example, Expedia.

    Also a flight from Myanmar to Japan does not seem to be under the purview of the US DOT. I wonder WHERE this thing is actually ticketed?

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    When I look at the various advertisementsflyers in the Arizona Republic from companies like Best Buy, Office Max, Staples, FryKroger, etc., there are disclosures stating that they are not responsible for pricing errors and etc.

    Even if it is not required, if travel providers put a disclosure on their websites, the problem goes away. The disclosure provides transparency to the consumer.

  • Carrie Charney

    I just resolved, albeit unethically, a problem I’ve had with Amtrak. In August, I booked online a trip, at regular price minus weekend senior discount, from BWI to NWK in first class on the Acela. They were just switching to an e-ticket system. I took my seat and put my print-out in the clasp on my seat back. It seemed like the conductor had passed me without scanning it. The car attendant was in front of me, so I mentioned this to her, but she assured me he had scanned it. That evening I received an e-mail that I had a credit for being a no-show and I could get a partial refund or a full voucher.

    I immediately called and told them that I had taken the trip and was not due a voucher. Only my points for having traveled were due me. I was told they would fix it. Well, 3 months later, after some heavy back-to-back traveling, I looked for my points, but they weren’t in my account. There is a 90 day window in which you must discover a problem and I was just over that. I called and spoke to someone, who said I didn’t get the points because I never took the trip. I still had a voucher waiting for me. After explaining the situation to her I was told I needed to call another number, but she could transfer me.

    After being on hold for 20 minutes, a recording told me I could leave a number and be called back. I decided to hang on. After another 20 minutes, when the recording came on, I left my number. About a week later, they called me back, while my phone was recharging, and left a message with a phone number to call. I did, and waited on hold, expecting another directive to leave my number. None came. So, I set a timer for another hour. When it beeped, I hung up.

    I just finished using my voucher for another first class Acela trip. Unethical? Yes, but I don’t have any guilt. I tried and my time is important to me. Ironically, the conductor went by me again without reading my ticket. (I must be invisible on a train.) This time I called him back over and he scanned it.

    BTW, when you arrive late, don’t show, or must change your travel date on Amtrak, it is easy and you are not penalized. What a pleasure. I hope it doesn’t change.

  • Guest

    Oh yes. How silly of me to think that a merchant who is open to the public, has product priced and available for a customer to pick up and carry to the cashier and have them ring it up, never intended to sell that product to me in the first place.

  • DavidYoung2

    You are correct. An honest mistake of a material element voids an agreement. Should the airline / hotel / retailer choose to honor an erroneous price, that’s their decision based on what is best for their company. There’s no ‘stealing’ going on. The airline can choose to honor an erroneous price or not — nobody’s forcing them to do so.

  • TonyA_says

    Ah, excuse me, but what are you checking?
    Lauren took ANA one-way from RGN-NRT-YVR as per the article.
    You need to price her exact route.
    Since RGN-NRT is on a 737 and NRT-YVR is on a 763, then ANA does not have a First Class cabin (as of today) on this route. They have a FC Fare but you cannot book it for the route:
    1 NH 914C 04FEB RGNNRT 1000P 640A
    2 NH6814C 05FEB NRTYVR 700P 1055A
    The best you can do is Business Class.
    Anyway here are the ANA ticket prices.

    For Business Class:
    3676309 4285.00 294.20 4579.20

    For Economy:
    1914744 2232.00 294.20 2526.20

    If you could get First Class, the BASE Fare is:
    Using ROE 1MMK/0.0011656USD,
    that is about US$ 6844.29 before tax or $7138.48 with tax.

    So Coach is $2526, Business is $4579 and First is $7138.
    How much did Lauren pay Expedia for her tickets, again?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    But that is the exception and not the norm. And it wouldn’t apply to this case since it only pertains to pricetags either in the store or on the item itself. It doesn’t cover advertising screw-ups or online sales.

  • bodega3

    Tony, how do you think she got to RGN?

  • Michael__K

    How much time elapsed between the reservation confirmation and the cancellation?

    IF she bought the ticket in September and it was cancelled 4 days before departure in January… why did ANA wait that long?

  • Bill___A

    It is extremely important to always deal with everyone on an ethical basis, and if they are not being ethical, the solution generally is to not deal with them. One should not compromise their own values. People who try to take advantage of errors in the system are not being ethical.

    On the other hand, when an unethical fare is found, the provider should take it down immediately.

    I know Chris has trouble with some of the elites he deals with. However, true elites don’t try to screw their airline. They behave in a proper and ethical manner and treat the airline/hotel etc. and others with respect.
    Glad he didn’t take this one. She and all those others should smarten up.

  • TonyA_says

    On a separate ticket.
    The only way for this game to work is to buy a ticket ORIGINATING in RGN since the fares there are in MMK currency and the mistake was caused by a sudden change in IROE.

  • mszabo

    I just checked again picking a completely random date and see coach for $925USD. As I picked a random date to get the $730 fare I can’t duplicate that one.

    I’d argue that exact route/carrier doesn’t matter to the traveler. Travel time matters but I could care less whether my connection is in London/Spain/Japan

    Keep in mind I have not argued that the Airline should honor a drastic price mistake. However waiting until a few days before the flight to cancel is at least an equivalent ‘theft’. In this particular case it doesn’t seem like either party acted in good faith. I’m more interested in what price difference should a traveler consider a bogus price that shouldn’t be honored. I’ve asked several times and haven’t seen anyone answer that question. To me 10x seems reasonable as you do see large swings in published fares. What would your number be?

    Edit: Looks like linking to Expedia search results doesn’t work. If you want to recreate use RGN to YVR on 5/13/13. Coach on China Air = 925. Buisness on Korea Air is $1935, First Class = $5067 on Korea Air. If you and I are seeing a 2-3x price difference for the same trip, is a 6x difference still reasonable? Maybe there will be a sale/price jump tommorow. Hence why I put 10x in my opinion.

  • Daddydo

    Chris, in 50 years of selling airline tickets, I have seen all of these “stealing” from the airline fares pop up. 2 years ago there was a $10.00 fare from Clarksburg WV to LA. I know it was wrong, but 10 customers bought the ticket including my wife and I. I bought premium seats for $59.00 extra and had a great weekend.. They were all honored as they had an official ARC (Airline reporting Corp.) receipt. Airlines have computer programmers and screw up regularly. What about the person that sees the true fare of $350.00 and they enter the credit card and the airline says oops, it is now $500.00. When I issue the ticket, it is gold! I have never, I said never had 1 person cancelled with out notice and then no matter what the fare is, not had the airlines rebook them.
    I see all of these people forking out points, thousands of $$$’s and laugh. It should not be happening.

  • Joe Smith

    Thanks for the tip!

  • TonyA_says

    Michael I am not sure of the dates. But if I would venture to make a guess it is probably because they consulted with their lawyers on what to do and it took this long to get an answer. Also, it is rare that you see a country devaluing its money this much. So maybe they were really caught off guard.

    Bear in mind they have to comply also with Myanmar and Japanese laws since the flight they were cancelling was RGN-TYO. Some Americans just happened to be would-be passengers.

  • Joe Farrell

    Scope is whats important here – Was it a $1000 fare that was being sold for $87? Or was it a $1000 fare being sold for $500? $87 is an obvious mistake – $500? Who knows? Where does that line fall? Somewhere close to 50-70% discount . . . below that you have to know its not an accurate fare.

    Was it a business class fare for the discounted cost of advacne purchase coach?

    REAL facts are important to understand the scope of this action.

    It is funny – Chris is willing to label an individual seeking assistance a thief but is never willing to call a travel company acting badly [like car rental damage operations] a thief since they a) have lawyers on retainer and b) could one day be an advertiser . . . .

  • Joe Farrell

    And canceling the reservation after you have honored half of the itinerary is way outside what is ‘reasonable.’

  • Michael__K

    It seems far-fetched to me that the lawyers would need to be consulted for 3 months. At that point I think honoring the tickets would be cheaper than the lawyers’ fees ;)

    And even if it really needed to take that long, then the passenger should have at least been contacted early on and told that her ticket was in legal limbo.

    [ I guessed “3 months” because I searched and found this thread from late September which could correspond to what the OP saw: ]

  • bodega3

    That is my thought, too. There is more to this story.

  • greg

    So, a little less than 20 years ago, I bought a Rolex. Stainless and gold (relevant to the story).

    At the time Rolex reset their prices every six months or so in each international market to reflect market prices for gold, as well as currency adjustments, so that the watch generally cost a similar amount regardless of where it was purchased.

    When I bought my watch, there had been enormous swings in the value of gold, as well as related swings in the value of the USD, CHF and GBP.

    As it turned out, my watch was nearly $2,000 cheaper to purchase in London than the US because of these swings. Was that somehow stealing? No way – it was arbitrage. Arbitrage isn’t stealing, it’s smart business.

    Chris’s premise that somehow buying something on an as-offered price, complying with all terms and conditions set out by the seller, and without making misstatements or otherwise committing fraud, is somehow stealing is fatuous at best.

    I guess I’m buying into it because I’m responding to the article, but I’m really hoping that Chris makes these outrageous statements to drum up a response, because this (like the suggestion that we should somehow feel guilty for sitting in F on an upgrade) is simply inane.

  • $16635417

    After scanning the 100+ pages on this mistake over at flyertalk, most indicated they used miles to get to RGN to take advantage of the mistake.

  • $16635417

    Actually, even at this fare, many of the FT crowd were VERY particular on the airline/routing in order to maximize their potential miles earned. They were also trying to maximize their comfort level…suites vs. lie flat etc.

  • LZ126

    If you’re finding out about the low, low price on a chatboard in a post that highlights the erroneous nature of the pricing, that sounds like sufficient evidence to me of a pricing error. On the other hand, if I’m shopping for a specific route and a low fare is presented to me by the airline or agent, I would have more confidence in its legitimacy.

  • emanon256

    I’m cracking up here!

  • Pdoggs

    Not in Myanmar. I was there in November and while you use Kyats to buy things in a shop or pay at a restaurant things like trains, upclass hotels, and AIRFARES are PRICED and BOUGHT with US Dollars (new money only please, no tears, marks, or even creases accepted). You cannot pay in Kyats for an airline ticket or a train ticket, your money will not be accepted and you will not be given a ticket by anyone. The fares are not quoted in Kyat either. Only USD.
    It’s also not a communist country.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey Pzonks, I am in front of my GDS and Myanmar fares are in MMK. They are simply converted to US Dollars for you using the ROE factor.

    I will agree with you that travel agencies will want to collect USD from you because the MMK currency is no good and they will have to settle in USD. So they can lose a lot of money.

    Here’s proof. Since I am sitting in the USA, my local currency in USD. The GDS will convert MMK to USD automatically. But you will see the BASIS of the fare is in MMK.

    Here goes:

    1 NH 914Y 30JAN WE RGNNRT SS1 1000P 640A#1/O $ E
    2*NH6814Y 31JAN TH NRTYVR SS1 700P 1055A/X $ E


    ADT01 1914744 2232.00 294.20 2526.20
    *TTL 1914744 2232.00 294.20 2526.20

    ADT RGN NH X/TYO NH YVR M2245.77NUC2245.77END ROE852.60NH XT 11.40SW267.20YQ
    TX 10.00MM 5.60OI 11.40SW 267.20YQ

    And as far as communist, you are right, I should have said military dictatorship. To me they are quite the same.

    BTW, if the fare from Myanmar was in USD, Lauren could not have participated in the MISTAKE fare. The mistake WAS IN MMK. Think about it.

  • $16635417

    According the flyertalk thread…this was a one way out of RGN. It wasn’t booked as a RT.

  • mszabo

    Honestly as I mentioned earlier I don’t much care about this particular example. What interests me here is at what point here is something considered ‘stealing’. For Chris’s article he seems to assume it is obvious, in this case it probably was but only because everybody knew there was some funny currency change event. For the actual purchase price is it obvious? Had Lauren simply wished to purchase the cheapest ticket, wouldn’t this one have shown up first on Expedia’s list? Isn’t $570 pretty close to the $900 or $700 I saw listed? Several people have asked and none of the experts here seem to want to state what number they would actually consider out of line.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Your example actually happened to me, where I get billed one thing and the menu said another. And yes, I got grumpy about it.

    I don’t agree with your analogy, but I’m not the one who down-voted you. I save those for trolls.

    I guess I’m not expressing myself well today, but my taking advantage of an obvious error is wrong according to the values by which I live. I understand getting a bargain. I understand that someone should be editing published prices, either on the Internet or in print and that a published price has a certain legitimacy to it. I also empathize that Lauren was stuck mid-travel, when the airline should have dealt with the issue pre-travel. I *don’t* empathize with someone who trawls FlyerTalk forums looking for obvious mistakes, takes advantage of said mistake and then finds out that that action incurs future costs.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    “However waiting until a few days before the flight to cancel is at least an equivalent ‘theft’. In this particular case it doesn’t seem like either party acted in good faith.”


  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Wow! A well reasoned comment all around. Thank you.

  • y_p_w

    If a fare can be voided for being an “incorrect price” there’s nothing to prevent an airline from overbooking with higher last minute fares, then claiming it was an “erroneous price” once the passenger gets to the gate to free the seat. As it stands now, the airline is on the hook to get the passenger from one place to another.

    A retailer can post a message at the front door with corrections about ads. However, once both parties agree to a fare and money is collected, that’s a contract. With the wacked out fare structure of most airlines it’s hard to tell if a far is just heavily discounted or if it was some sort of key entry mistake.

    I have no idea what’s real or not any more. I sometimes look for good rental car rates. For the same airport I can find anything from $8 a day (I’m not kidding) up to $100 a day a few days later. Sometimes I find a rate that’s too good to be true, but it ends up getting honored.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    110% correct.

  • y_p_w

    That’s different in a key way. Those disclaimers usually state that they have the right to correct a mistake. The mistake is typically corrected before a sale is made.

    The equivalent to an airline fat finger fare being cancelled would be a sale made before the correction, along with the retailer attempting to repossess the item sold at the incorrect price – or perhaps tacking on an extra charge if they have a credit card number.

  • y_p_w

    What do you do once the sale has been made? If I buy something from a store at a great price, the retailer can’t send security to my home to repossess the item just because they realize they made a pricing mistake the next day.

  • $16635417

    My apologies. I guess I misunderstood the sentence “I’d argue that exact route/carrier doesn’t matter to the traveler.”

  • sinsava

    I would not call it stealing she bought the ticket for the price offered so the airlines must honor it simple just couple of days back my hotel made the mistake and some one bought 14 days stay @$19 per night we honored it

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Agreed completely. The question is whether the purchaser believes that the fare is erroneous and then choose to purchase the fare.
    I find it impossible that all of these smart people suddenly become impaired and cannot distinguish a legit fare from a accidental one.

  • $16635417

    Actually, according to the story, she learned about it on Flyertalk. In looking through the thread, it was repeatedly mentioned to be a mistake that people should jump on. Sue FT!

  • Danielle

    When we book a plane ticket, we’re given 24 hours to cancel the ticket if we made a mistake. After that, the fare is considered final. Why not give airlines the exact same policy? It’s more than enough time to discover a “fat finger” fare and cancel it, and it won’t screw anyone over. I think last minute cancellations by the airlines are unethical because it puts the traveler in a hostage situation.

  • alex

    I, as an infrequent traveler, and not a flyertalk reader would not know if this was a sale or a good deal. To me ,I read Lauren’s story and think that the airline is in the total wrong here for not notifying her of the cancellation. If its an error, then contact the customer with options. The airline in effect left her stranded and I think that is very, very wrong. The airline, not the customer is in the wrong here.

  • TonyA_says

    Greg, I don’t have a comment about the STEALING part. Personally, I would call this GAMING and SHE LOST.
    Maybe “stealing” is much more dramatic.

  • TonyA_says

    OK Michael, can you suggest what might be the motive of ANA why they waited 3 months?

  • TonyA_says

    LOL. These people knew what they were getting into. They asked for it (trouble). They got it.
    I hoped they like Myanmar. The temples are nice there. They can meditate on their mistake fare strategies :-)

  • Cybrsk8r

    I don’t have a problem with that, I’d just like it to go both ways. Why does an airline get to void a contract when it makes a mistake, but when the customer fat-fingers a reservation, the airline tells the customer to go pound salt?

  • Joe Farrell

    I located the info in the revised article –

    OK – so a F class ticket for $587. Yeah, it seems a bit low. Bit its not so low as to make think its a $10 fare from Clarksburg to LA. Its not.

    This is a situation where instead of dividing by the exhange rate they multiplied by it – it seems to work out that way. That is a programming mistake – that is not a fat finger fare. The fare probably was properly valued in MYD but it was improperly charged in USD.

    This is a tough call but unless the fare is OBVIOUSLY fat finger then its not – we cannot let the airlines creep this into their favor as well. . . .oh, you bought a $200 RT from LAX-JFK – well no, that was wrong, the right fare was $358. . . is that reasonable? Where does it stop?

  • Helio

    I just quote a random flight between CGH-SDU (I live in Brazil), and the fares are R$121, R$181 and R$301 for the same trip (same seat, different ticket classes – TAM JJ3900 Mar 21, 10:30 CGH 11:28 SDU). Does a 60% discount means a fat-finger fare?

    But I need to travel tomorrow (Jan 24), the cheapest fare is R$1135 – almost 10x more! Then, the R$121 fare must be a fit finger. But if you check all flights in end of March, the price is correct.

    For me. the major problem when an airline cancels the ticket close of the departure time, you won’t be able to find a decent fare. Let’s imagine that that the R$121 fare was a fat finger, and the R$301 fare was the correct one. I may agree to pay the R$301 fare – but I won’t agree to pay the R$1135 fare. If the airline forces me to pay the next day fare, instead of the “two month advance fare” which I could pay, it is dishonest, and in my point of view they are stealing me.

  • Roger Miller

    No, he doesn’t. Definitely has a vendetta on them.

  • TonyA_says

    Let’s forget the stealing thing for a while.
    Let’s just say she wanted to take advantage of a mistake fare which she learned from reading flyertalk.
    So from the get go she knew she was buying a mistake fare and THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES to doing this.
    If you get away with it then lucky you.
    If you get stuck, then Sorry.
    That all there is to this.
    But she wrote a consumer advocate trying to get him to bat for her.
    Now that is a joke.

  • TonyA_says

    Karma ! or maybe Max Pain (sorry for the wrong spelling).

  • EdB

    Well, as others have mentioned, with the formula for pricing a ticket being so complex that not even some of the airline workers can explain a fare, I find it completely understandable that a “smart” person can’t figure out for sure if it is a fat-finger error or an honest sale price.

  • ElmoC

    But who decides what price is “unconscionable”?
    I really don’t think the UCC plays into this unless there is a 3rd party involved. If the offer came directly from the airlines website, if the offer is made, accepted, and payment made, it is too late to argue an unconscionable price. They had that opportunity to back out of the deal before accepting payment.

  • ElmoC

    Actually Hal, it was the Orange Country District Attorney if you are referring to the Fresh and Easy case. And they were charged with false advertisement because the advertised price, even in circulars, was not the price rung up at the register.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    The CA law provides a fine if they don’t honor the posted price and try to sell it to you for more. But it specifically only applies to pricetags that are either directly on the item or the shelving of the store. It’s not at all applicable to this example and wouldn’t be even if it had occurred in California.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Amen. Chase something for nothing hard enough and you’ll end up with nothing.

  • emanon256

    Actually, they have the right to back out of the deal until the service is performed I.E. the customer flys. It’s up to the court to determine what is unconscionable on a case by case basis.

  • ElmoC

    Sorry. San Diego.

  • ElmoC

    So in this case, the airline arbitrarily decided it was unconscionable and backed out without letting the court decide?

    Guess it must not have been under the UCC the airline canceled the ticket at the last minute then.

  • mszabo

    Well forgetting the stealing argument that’s pretty much cancels any concern I have :). I would agree it seems a foolish to intentionally try to game the system and then be upset that it failed.

    I would still point out though that Expedia/ANA did a horrible job of handling the situation. They had no knowledge of the travelers situation and this could have been a legitimate mistake. If it were actually a mistake and it is true as Lauren claims that the ticket wasn’t canceled until the last minute then the airline should be forced to honor the ticket. There is no reason why this wasn’t caught within 24/48 hours of the booking.

  • emanon256

    The airline has every right to void the contract if they deem it unconscionable. The court only gets to decide if the customer sues them as a result.

  • TonyA_says

    mszabo, Lauren bought a ticket ORIGINATING from RGN (Myanmar). As far as the airline and Expedia is concerned, she was already in Myanmar and her getting stuck there (as a Westerner) is not of their concern.

    The law allows an airline to cancel your reservation and refund your ticket. They do not have to do it 24/48 hours of your booking.
    US law forbids them to change your fare AFTER purchase. But US law does NOT forbid them to cancel your ticket and give you your money back.

    So as I said, 2 parties can game the system. Make sure if you play the mistake fare casino that you will win.

  • ElmoC

    Now wait a minute. You just said, ” It’s up to the court to determine what is unconscionable on a case by case basis.” but now you are saying the airline has the right to deem it unconscionable. So which is it? You can’t have it both ways.

  • bodega3

    How do we know that the carrier or Expedia didn’t try to reach her? What phone number did she use in the PNR? Home phone and she was overseas?

  • emanon256

    Do I really need to explain how our legal system works to you? Either party can refuse to honor the contract if their feel it was unconscionable in any way. If the other party disagrees, they can sue the party that refused to honor the contract. Then they go to court and the judge, magistrate, jury, what have you makes a final determination.

  • TonyA_says

    The FACTS as I know it.

    About 12APR 2012, IATA immediately changed the Myanmar Kyat (MMK) Internal Rate of Exchange (IROE) to 818. Roughly speaking that means there are 818 Kyats to 1 Neutral Unit of Currency (NUC) or, simply, there are 818 Kyats to 1 USD. Previously, the last IROE (as of 01MAR) for the Myanmar Kyat was only 6.435. So in one fell swoop IATA recognized the sudden devaluation of Myanmar’s currency which is now worth less than 127 times !!!

    Since Myanmar requires airline carriers to publish their fares in Kyats, then unless the carriers IMMEDIATELY increase their fares in Kyats, then they will lose a lot of money (in US dollar terms). Because of the suddenness of the change, many airlines were caught off guard.

    All Nippon Airways (ANA) still had their old fares in Kyats loaded until 13APR. ANA took down their RGN fares 14APR till 02MAY (inclusive). On 03MAY, ANA loaded new fares for RGN, this time with a lot more Kyats.

    For example, until 13APR the base fare for C Business Class one-way RGN to YVR was 44,983 MMKs (Kyats). Using the old IROE of 6.435, that would be equivalent to US$ 6,990. So a one-way business class ticket from RGN to YVR would cost about $7k before tax and fuel surcharge.

    But it the same base fare of 44,983 MMKs (Kyats) was suddenly converted using the new IROE of 818, the equivalent in US Dollars would only be around $60. Obviously this is a mistake fare. So unless ANA increases their base fare in MMKs, they would lose a lot of money.

    At 03MAY ANA did increase the base fare to 5,744,999 MMKs. At IROE 818, that is EQV US$7,023.


    OK so there were about 2 days – 12APR to 13APR – when the base fares were too low. Remember at 14APR, ANA pulled their fares out. But this does not mean all online travel agents (or OTAs) were looking at the same updated database. Since many of them CACHE their flight offerings and there is no human being to check the fares then it was possible the OTAs kept on selling the mistake fare after 13APR.

    C’mon folks a base fare of $60 for business class from RGN to YVR when that has been around $7,000 for a quite a long time. Ok maybe it’s not stealing. But if you can score a ticket at this price AND ACTUALLY GET TO FLY, then you can call it a real steal.

  • ElmoC

    I understand how our legal system works. The way you keep changing who determines conscionability makes me wonder if your do. First you say the airline, then the court, back to the airline, now back to the court.

  • emanon256

    Obviously you don’t and I don’t feel like wasting my time anymore. Go troll someone else.

  • TonyA_says

    First of all we first have to determine whether a flight from Myanmar to Japan is even under the purview of any US law.

    Second, where did the sale take place? When you buy an international ticket online, you never know which ticketing office ticketed you. Expedia has offices everywhere I suppose. If it happens that this was bought in Asia, will US laws apply?

    Third, if this is indeed an airline fare or service then the US DOT is the place to file a complaint. But because this did not happen in US soil, I wonder if they will do anything.

  • ElmoC

    Hey, I understand it better than you might think. I just wanted you to choose one position or the other. When I call you on flip-flopping you call me a troll and run away? Oh well. Bye.

  • mszabo

    What the law requires and what is right are not necessarily related. (For that matter does US law even come into this?) If I make any reservation months in advance and the airline decides to cancel it within a few days of travel this will cause me to occur additional expenses. They airline may not be liable for those expenses but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t being an ass. I’d say that is as much as being an ass as intentionally booking a mistakenly priced ticket.

  • emanon256

    I apologize, I thought you were trolling me, so you can call me a flip flopper or a jerk if you wish :). I can’t choose one position or the other, because they are both true. Your first question was who decides. Well the ultimate decision fall on the court. Before it can get to the court, one party has to decide that the contract is unconscionable and break it. If the other party disagrees, they then go to court. So it’s a two-step process. One party must decide, and then the other party has the right to sue if they disagree. The ultimate decision goes to court in the end. A business will generally not do this unless they feel they have a solid case because they don’t want to pay attorneys and have to go to court. Also, the court does not have to resources to police every single instance, which is why a part can breach the contract, and only when its disputed does it go to court.

    Let’s say you are a plumber and I hire you to re-plumb my whole house, someone in your office sends me a contract with a mistake and I sign it agreeing to pay $500. You get to the house and realize you are going to have to pay $1,000 along just for copper. You can void the contract. If I disagree, I can sue you. And you will certainly win. How about you just estimated incorrectly, and when you open the wall there is 4 times the copper you expected, same thing. You can void it as there I tangible evidence that one side will benefit at the cost of the other, which voids the contract. That’s basically what happens with the airline, and there is no time frame other than before the service is provided, for either party to void the contract under this law.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    They probably do have an anti-error clause in their 33,231 word one-sided agreement you have to click on to use the site. You are probably also giving up your right to sue them, and possibly your first born child as well.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    With the Obama Regime, soon you will have NO rights.
    2nd Amendment
    4th Amendment
    10th Amendment

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    I’m kind of in agreement on this one. THE MERCHANT sets the price. If the Merchant is wrong, can the merchant show up at your house and demand it back?
    Of course, they can cancel it.
    Of course, I can retaliate against the merchant in a legal manner of my choosing.
    But demonizing someone because they took advantage of an error.

    Sorry, that’s not THEFT. If it were TRUE theft, she’d be in jail for it.
    It was mere error. Doesn’t deserve to be called a THIEF for it.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    What does the condition of the people in Myanmar have to do with this? Unless you are saying we have to export “social justice” and take care of them too? In which case, you can pony up, leave me out of it.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    WE are more COMMUNIST than they are actually.

  • johnb78

    No, of course I’m not saying that. “Bad things happen” is not the same thing as “bad things are OK”.

  • ElmoC

    There you go. Now you got it. Only the courts can determine unconscionability. But in regards to that, a contract cannot be voided if the mistake is the fault of the party wishing to void the contract. An erroneous calculation of cost does not rise to the level of unconscionable unless it is from gross negligence. Misquoting a price does not rise to that level for the most part.

  • Guest

    Let’s keep the political comments out of this. They have no place in this discussion.

  • emanon256

    Sort of… The party that made the mistake can refuse to honor the contract (I guess I should not have said void) if it signed based on a mistake. If the other party disagrees and involves the court, the court can either enforce or void the contract. I would argue (having worked in collections for many years and having gone to many of such trials) that if the airline accidentally published a rate that was 1/12 the normal price due to a mis-calculation and someone purchase it, that the airline has sufficient grounds to not honor the contract under the UCC. The plumbing example was an actual case in which my employer sued the plumber. He estimated incorrectly, and underestimated the amount of copper he needed. His mistake. A few week after we signed the contract he opened the walls and discovered he had underestimated the copper he needed. He told us he would have to double the price. We refused, so he refused to work and said he won’t honor his contract. We sued him and we lost. The magistrate ruled that he made a mistake and under the UCC the contract would benefit one party and the expense of another and was not valid as the cost was unconscionable.

  • Howard

    Chris, I think if we have only 24 hours to cancel a flight after booking, then the airlines should only get 24 hours to cancel a flight as well. This is a matter of principle, and, fair is fair. If airlines extended me the courtesy of cancelling my flight up to 4 days prior, then I would feel comfortable allowing them to do the same.

  • I have never take advantage of these fares or slips in pricing and I am not a thief. However, I would not call this stealing. I feel sorry for Lauren and think it is unfair that the airline screwed her over in such a way. As a British person, I am not even sure how one gets frequent flyer miles, so if such a thing happened to me, I would be very stuck (except for my travel insurance).

  • ElmoC

    Under the rules of voiding based on unconscoinability, it requires more than just a pricing error. It generally requires both procedural and substantive unconscionability. In the case you cited, it does not meet that requirement. However, contract law does allow for voiding if the mistake was unilateral, which it sounds like in this case. The judge must have felt the error was palpable so voided the agreement. But without the actual judgment to read, this is only a guess.

  • TonyA_says

    Jennifer, I did read the flyertalk threads about this Mileage Run deal

    I have to assume none of this folks would have bought a trip FROM YANGON to wherever just to adore the temples. They knew the normal prices of fares from that area. And, the only reason they bought into this “deal” was they knew the fare was a mistake.

    Of course to take advantage of the mistake, they have to ORIGINATE the trip from RGN. So that meant they had to go there first on a separate ticket. The vendor who sold them the RGN-xxx tickets do NOT HAVE TO CARE if they get stuck in RGN because their tickets START from RGN. That said the vendor can cancel anytime they wish to.

  • Mark T

    Lauren didn’t need to use 140K miles to get home. Had she prepared better, she would be only out 70K miles max or some cash. As noted, this game is not for the unsophisticated.

    Also, she can go to small claims court like a lot of the other Flyertalkers. She doesn’t need Chris’s help, as discussions between the airlines and passengers has been ongoing for a while.

  • y_p_w

    They do cancel flights for assorted legitimate reasons, but they also take responsibility for getting the passenger to the destination.

  • y_p_w

    I know many of the stores I shop at have a “price scanner” guarantee. They won’t just honor a price that comes up differently than the shelf price. They will let the shopper have that item for free, although typically a limit of one free and maxing out at $5 free. I don’t recall exactly how it works if it’s a $20 item. I think they’ll knock $5 off the incorrect shelf price.

    Even with California law, I’ve seen two tags on the shelf with different prices. If you look carefully you can see the fine print that states when the price was established, but most people don’t notice it. I have had old prices accepted because I legitimately thought it was at that price.

  • Tony

    Chris, I, too, strongly object to your description of this as “stealing” and “theft.” Expedia made an offer to consumers and Lauren accepted the offer. That’s that. The agency and airline have the right to cancel reservations for no reason and with no penalty (which is not a right afforded to consumers), but Lauren did nothing wrong. There should be a rule mandating then when reservations are cancelled, the cancellation is done within a certain window of time — not four days before.

  • bodega3

    When Lauren showed up for her flight from Yangon to Tokyo a few weeks ago, an ANA representative told her that her flight had been canceled four days before. No one had bothered to tell her.

    “The agent said we were not due any compensation and it was not a denied boarding situation,” she says. “I had no tickets.”

    I just caught this. Her flight was canceled, so then everyone booked on that flight weren’t flying on that flight? Or was her reservation canceled? Since Expedia is being blamed for the ‘canceled’ flight, I assume it was her reservation based on the rest of the article. But I am really not clear on this.

  • Guest

    I won’t attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

    I’m just pointing that *IF* my guess is correct and it took 3 months, then ANA is not blameless IMO.

  • TonyA_says

    So where was Lauren four days ago? Somewhere in Burma where it’s hard to get an internet connection? Somewhere else doing a mileage run? Couldn’t she check the status of her flight? In these far away places aren’t you suppose to confirm or check your flights anyway? It would be interesting to see her ticket and how it was constructed. You cannot even assume ANA issued (validated) this ticket. ANA;s RGN-NRT could have just been an interlined segment.

    Bodega if you go to flyertalk and scan the 500+ page discussion on this topic, a lot of it does not make sense (to me).
    Some of the folks were still hunting for mistake fares last September many months after the Myanmar Kyat was officially devaluated last April. What these people are doing is quite bizarre.

  • TonyA_says

    Mike, did you read the original post

    Those folks look like they were going to an organized fox hunt.

  • bodega3

    I am now convinced that the OP knew what she was getting into and how sad that Chris got pulled into it and gave it press. From FT:

    For all those that got in on the RGN currency pricing issues with the airlines and haven’t received any cancellations and would like to meet up with some other FTers (or of course anyone else in the area) drop a message here with your dates when you will be in RGN and I can update the calendar.
    Also, if you have any questions regarding RGN.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I don’t understand most of the technical stuff posted on that first (or subsequent) pages, but on p. 2 there’s a screen shot showing just how much of a mistake fare this was. The next lowest fare was $7518 compared to the $428. I guess that was all in cattle-class.

    I don’t know what the $ value of 140,000 flyer miles is (the amount she had to redeem to get home), but sure hope it was less than $7090!

  • bodega3

    Also, Tony, did you notice the post on the fare? It was from a GDS!

  • TonyA_says

    You must be referring to this post

    Yup you are correct. A Los Angeles based Travel Agency (with staff in Slovenia if I recall correctly) is the one displaying the fares you are referring to.

    I guess the 140K miles is for oneway for Lauren to go home.
    I have no idea what cabin that is on.

  • TonyA_says

    Yes, the original poster VIE380 said:

    “Many airlines loaded these crazy business fares from RGN to all over the US and Canada.”

    “I am looking at it only because I see this issued in our system.”

    He even autoprices an itinerary, so he definitely is a travel agent.

    First Class the same price
    Even first class prices on Korean Air 380

    1 TG 306W 20MAR RGNBKK SS1 740P 935P * WE E

    2 TG 658W 20MAR BKKICN SS1 1100P 625A+* WE/TH E

    3 KE 17R 21MAR ICNLAX SS1 310P 955A * TH E

    RGN TG X/BKK TG X/SEL KE LAX Q100.00M32.96R NUC132.96END ROE818.0

    FARE MMK 108762 EQU USD 132.00 TAX 16.70US TAX 5.00XA TAX

    7.00XY TAX 5.50YC TAX 10.00MM TAX 8.80BP TAX 130.40YQ TOT USD 315.40

  • TonyA_says

    These people knew exactly what they were getting into.
    FT was full of posts about possible cancellations.
    They just went through a similar thing with the KE Palau fiasco.
    It’s like getting dead drunk in a Frat Party and expecting to be treated like the Queen *ya know what I mean*.

  • TonyA_says

    @mikegun:disqus and bodega

    I was scanning through the FT thread and I saw a post that look strikingly similar to Lauren’s experience. This will be a very long post since I will copy the whole story here. Please read it and I’ll let you decide whether you believe she was a damsel in distress.

    Join Date Aug 30, 12

    Aug 30, 12, 6:37 pm

    Hidden city?
    Years of lurking but my first time posting…

    Thanks to this forum I bought one of the RGN-NRT-LAX-YVR tickets (thank you FT!!). I used and had tickets issued on NH ticket stock. I had a minor schedule change (15 minutes on the last leg) but have not been not successful in getting a rerouting or a change in transpacific metal.

    My question is this: like others, I thought it was extremely likely that I might miss my last flight leg (transferring in LAX can be a nightmare and sometimes I lose track of time…). I had planned on booking my travel home from that point.

    However, Delta rules prohibit this as a “hidden city”. In their conditions of carriage, they have the right to charge the fare between the travelled cities.

    On a regular one-way ticket they probably wouldn’t even notice but I suspect these tickets will be subject to more scrutiny.

    Is anyone else concerned?

    Sep 7, 12, 5:09 pm

    I also booked the second round on Flying on NH and DL on NH ticket stock. I checked after reading your post and all my flights are the same.

    I would prefer to fly NH on the transpacific leg but haven’t been able to achieve that, despite a 15 minute schedule change on the last leg. Any suggestions on doing this prior to leaving would be welcome.

    (ps: thank you for the responses re: hidden city concerns)

    Sep 24, 12, 4:51 pm

    I have never had sucess in viewing my itinerary on checkmytrip (trying the Delta, ANA as well as Expedia PNRs), but I can see them on the respective
    airlines’ websites, so I’m not too concerned.

    Nov 27, 12, 12:33 pm

    Hello all, I am now in Yangon and have been travelling for 2 weeks prior to my round 2, ANA issued tickets. Everything was fine when I left, picked seats,
    printed confirmations, etc. Our flight is scheduled to leave in less than 24 hours and I just tried to check in online for the first ANA leg. I get a message that says “as the itinerary selected has been cancelled, it cannot be confirmed”

    I have received no notification from anyone about a cancellation an the OTA shows flights as booked. I haven’t been able to keep up with the
    thread in the past week while travelling and Internet is quite slow here.

    If you could share any updates, advice or next steps it would be much appreciated as we are supposed to leave in 21 hours and I’m a bit unsettled!!

    Thanks in advance.
    PS: this is an incredible country; it’s not for everyone but I and my travel partner were entranced. Will post a trip report if I ever get home.

    Nov 27, 12, 8:39 pm

    The delta site also suddenly has no record of the reservation. Everything was fine when I left and I still have no notice of the cancellation. Can
    cancel a reservation and still have it show as booked on their site? This does not look good….

    I guess I will go to the airport really early later today and see what happens. Any suggestions on what to say, other than asking to see a supervisor and
    citing DOT regulations? Ugh!!

    Nov 29, 12, 5:27 am

    I, my travel partner, and one other flyertalker were denied boarding last night (28 november) in Yangon. For both our itineraries, the entire ticket had been
    canceled with a reservation status of “exchanged”. We were there for 3 hours arguing, citing DOT regulations, etc, to no avail. They said we had no ticket
    and could not check us in.

    My repeated demands for getting something in writing yielded only a handwritten signed note for the ANA rep saying “(NAMES) ticket status was ‘exchanged’ and could not checked in. ANA did not cancel the tickets”. Getting this note took almost an hour or repeated demands (as strong as possible within the limits of Asian confrontational style) and 8 or so back and forths before I got anything in writing at all and then revisions for something that made sense or was specific. Yangon is clearly a small outpost for ANA and English skills are variable.

    Will report details when I finally get home.

    R2, ANA issued ticket.

    Please share any advice on how I can recuperate costs and miles for my award ticket home.

    Nov 29, 12, 6:36 am

    OTA was No notice of cancellation was given at any point. I just noticed it when I tried I check in online and it gave me a message that ticket
    was cancelled, hence yesterday’s post. When I left for the trip (we wanted to visit and made a 1.5 week trip of it), everything was confirmed and fine. I
    even got the pre-trip confirmation email from

    Do I have any recourse for reimbursement of costs & more importantly, miles?

    Nov 29, 12, 6:07 pm

    I had added a 1.5 day stopover in lax and booked a flight home from there

    A helpful contract agent at Yangon got me a printout of the PNR and all notes associated with it. He said it looked like the following had happened: delta
    had created duplicate tickets after there were schedule changes. ANA sent delta a message asking them to choose which ticket was correct by X date, 3 or so days before the departure date or the ticket would be cancelled. Delta did not respond, so the ticket was cancelled. Don’t know what status= “exchanged”
    means. Again, this all happened with no notification to me and all the time the reservations were showing as confirmed on the airlines’ websites with seat assignments.

    I booked award tickets in Y home (not much availability in other classes) and am writing from the NRT lounge before the last leg after 24 hours of travel so
    I’m a little bleary. I have incurred mileage costs for the return ticket, plus lost hotel bookings in Tokyo and an extra night in Yangon, taxis, etc. Lost our flights home but doubt we could claim those. Plus we flew in Y.

    Whom would I contact or sue for reimbursement? I suspect this would quickly become a blame game with xp blaming delta and vice versa. Do these things count under trip insurance?

    Dec 3, 12, 10:30 am

    Phew, finally I am home and somewhat rested up after a grueling, unplanned trip in Y with long connections after being denied boarding in RGN on 28 November.

    I’m happy to provide more details about my experience if it would be useful to anyone. In the meantime, I will be attempting to get compensation for our costs and tickets home.

    As a reminder, these are R2 tickets; my PNR seemed to indicate that ANA (ticketing carrier) emailed Delta with a message to resolve the duplicate
    reservations or the ticket would be cancelled. The ticket was cancelled and refunded 3 days before my departure date with no notice to me whatsoever.

    And to add insult to injury, my other RGN ticket for February has been cancelled and refunded by, which now reads as “nicht gebucht” in my account!!

    This was without my consent and without notification.

    My questions are as follows:
    1. Regarding my denied boarding, what is the best plan of action to pursue reimbursement? Contact the complaint departments first or proceed immediately to a DOT complaint? Or small claims court? Which airline do I name – ANA or Delta?

    2. What is the best way to go about getting our February tickets reinstated? No changes were made to these tickets since booking and we were planning to fly

    Please share any specific terms I should use or regulations I can cite. I can’t find much about airlines not being allowed to cancel tickets!

    Dec 11, 12, 11:04 pm

    Hi all, as a reminder, my travel partner and I were denied boarding – or perhaps more accurately, denied check-in – for my R2 tickets booked in August with
    no other issues until then. Tickets were confirmed and reconfirmed months in advance and then were cancelled 4 days prior to the travel date with no notice
    to us. An agent told us our PNR suggested there had been duplicate bookings due to a schedule change and that ANA had cancelled our tickets after asking

    Delta to sort out the duplicates and getting no reply.

    We were forced to purchase last minute award tickets to travel since the ground staff said our ticket was cancelled and they could do nothing for us.

    Obviously, this was costly in terms of travel, indirect costs and inconvenience.

    I contacted the OTA ( and got an autoreply saying they were looking into it and would get back to me within 28 days.
    I contacted Delta and was told to contact ANA, the issuing carrier.
    I contacted ANA regarding reimbursement of costs and just received a reply saying in effect, “your travel agent cancelled the tickets so we have no
    liability”. I will post the details of their reply once I’ve redacted data and am less furious…

    I will prepare a small claims court suit and am happy to join other larger suits. My question is this – do I name Expedia,, ANA and Delta as
    defendants or will it be more efficient to name only a subset of these agencies?

    Dec 13, 12, 5:29 pm

    The finger pointing has begun. This is what I got in response from ANA regarding my request for reimbursement for our denied checkin at the Yangon airport on 28 November. I haven’t heard back from
    Dear Dancingal,

    ANA Customer Relations The Americas profoundly regrets you were unable
    to take ANA Flight NH0914 on November 28, 2012 due to a cancelled
    reservation. We acknowledge this unexpected incident caused disruptions
    in your travel plans.

    In reviewing the reservation history for Confirmation Code XXXXX, we are
    providing you with a timeline of the transactions based on Universal Time
    Clock or Greenwich Mean Time.

    [Edited for brevity, tix issued in August and then a couple schedule changes from Delta].

    00:12 November 9, 2012
    The original e-tickets were reissued by the travel agency to reflect the new
    flights, and new ticket numbers (205 **** *** XXX and XX)were assigned.
    1. Flight time – on 28 November
    2. Flight time – date
    3. Flight time – date

    09:26 November 23, 2012
    The reservation was cancelled for the tickets (205 **** *** XXX and XXX) and processed for refund by the travel agency.

    Dancingal, in good faith and based on the transactions outlined above, ANA did not cancel your booking. When you came to Yangon Airport to check in for NH914 on November 28, 2012, not only your reservation was cancelled, but also your tickets already reflected a refund status. We request your understanding that

    ANA Yangon was unable to check-in or assist in rebooking without valid tickets.

    Please kindly contact your travel agency to inquire about the cancellation and refund of your e-tickets.

    Dancingal, while ANA empathizes with your situation, we are unable to provide compensation due to the events described above. We sincerely appreciate your bringing this matter to our attention and thank you very much for this opportunity to communicate with you.
    This is a bit different from what the PNR seems to say, which was that ANA cancelled due to lack of response from Delta for a duplicate booking.

    Unfortunately, I think the travel agencies have a limit of liability of the ticket price, correct?

    If and when I go to small claims court, can I name all the companies involved as defendants? If I have to pick one, which do I pick given the finger-pointing? Feel free to send me a PM.

    Jan 9, 13, 1:49 pm

    I am preparing a suit in small claims court and am gathering information.

    My travel partner and I were stranded in Yangon after our confirmed R2 tickets were cancelled without notification only days before our flight. ANA says that

    Expedia did it, said first they cancelled “on behalf of the airlines” and later said it was not a valid fare. Our other RGN flights in March were also cancelled and refunded.

    I am seeking reimbursement for our expenses for replacement tickets, as well as to have our March tickets reinstated. I have tried contacting both airlines,
    Expedia, and complaining to the BBB and DOT and have gotten nowhere so far.

    Anyone who could recommend resources or who has experience in something similar, particularly regarding OTA liability limits and jurisdiction, could you
    please either PM me or post here?

    Jan 9, 13, 5:52 pm

    Yes, They were booked and ticketed in August at the same time as the others with the same ticketing carrier and itinerary. The first tickets were changed due to schedule changes and I added a stopover which they said was no problem, but the March ones were as they were initially booked, untouched and never discussed with anyone. They were both under my account at Expedia though.

    Both sets were cancelled at the same time, 4 days prior to my first travel dates.

    Ticketing carrier was ANA (who has written in emails that they intend to honor these tickets and that I could have flown if XP hadn’t cancelled the tickets).

    Same R2 routing and carriers as most with connection in LAX. They were both the lower, really good sale fare from R2.

    Jan 14, 13, 5:20 pm

    I’m looking into filing a complaint against for cancelling my RGN tickets 3 days before my travel date, when they had been confirmed for over 3
    months. We were stranded in Myanmar, had to buy last-minute tickets home and incurred other direct costs.

    Unfortunately, both Expedia and seem to have lines in their terms and conditions specifying the jurisdictions in which anything must be filed:

    Bellevue, WA for Expedia, and Munich, Germany for

    Has anyone been able to get around this? I will file in Munich if necessary and claim travel expenses in the suit , but I live in the US now so I’d much prefer to file in my state of residence (IL) , or even in WA.

    Thoughts, suggestions or strategies are welcome.

    Yesterday, 11:07 pm

    Hi all, I am looking for a copy of the terms and conditions that were on Expedia Germany’s ( website when R2 tickets were purchased in mid-August.
    If you have a copy, could you please PM me?

  • bodega3

    Oh how she wanted that cake and to eat it, too. She used but wants to sue in the US. This girl needs a good talking to on how not to try and play a game, get caught and then cry about getting screwed. Then to post all this online was STUPID.

  • TonyA_says

    Also note that she intended to do the HIDDEN CITY trick. She never intended to terminate at YVR. She wanted to deplane in LAX and head home (presumably to Illinois) from LAX. This because the mistake fare was only RGN-YVR/YUL.

    Also note that she bought TWO TICKETS (2 journeys) from Rangoon because they were too cheap (mistake fares). The other one was for February 2013. Hard to believe, someone would be that desperate to do a mileage run twice from Burma.

    I think Elliott should simply call these people crazy.

  • bodega3

    Hope she is reading all this!

  • y_p_w

    I probably should have been tipped off when it was made clear that she had 140K frequent flier miles for which she could use to return home. It doesn’t sound as if she was a novice at this game buy someone extremely experienced and well-versed in all the nuances and lingo. Enough to book on several foreign websites where one’s ability to litigate would be limited.

    However, Expedia didn’t seem to be on the ball about this, and leaving a customer to fend for herself doesn’t seem right. I minimally feel bad for her – the bare minimum.

  • MikeInCtown

    I’m sorry, but nearly $600 doesn’t sound like stealing to me. Flying into Canada in the middle of winter isn’t exactly vacation season. The airlines could easily put safeguards in place that would allow such errors to be non occurrences. I would expect the travel agent to do something for her, especially since the airline didn’t cancel, the TA did. And so what if boards post cheap fares for people to take advantage of? Last year I could have flown Chicago to LAS for under $20 each way on Spirit, but didn’t have the vacation time. I’m sorry Chris but when a company can review it’s rates and has sophisticated computer programming selling the tickets, they can and do have control over this type of stuff.

  • TonyA_says

    Another proof she is no dummy …

    After the exchange rate fiasco (also called Round One by flyertalk folks), their members kept on looking for mistakes and found them. They labelled this newer mistakes Round 2 or Round 3, etc.

    Round 2 mistakes were IATA Flex (YY) Fares. Anyone who knows anything about fares knows that YY fares are very expensive and NO ONE CASUALLY SEARCHES FOR THEM.

    Anyone who looks for mistake YY fares surely knows what they are doing – gaming the system.

    For example, take a look at RGN-YVR YY fare filed on 22SEP 2012. I will only show the one-way fares.

    7 FIFOW3 O 695659 22SEP2 – – MPM – – / – ##
    8 YIF O 1952933 11SEP2 – – 10000 – – / – ##
    9 YIFOW3 O 2254689 22SEP2 – – MPM – – / – ##
    10 CIFOW3 O 4226179 22SEP2 – – MPM – – / – ##
    11 CIF O 5764161 11SEP2 – – 10000 – – / – ##
    12 FIF O12389072 11SEP2 – – 10000 – – / – ##

    Note the FBC FIFOW3 at ROE 818 is only $850 (before tax)
    That is First Class OneWay FLEX FARE !!!
    The Y econ one way Flex Fare (FBC YIF) is $2387 (w/o tax)
    Obviously the First Class fare is a mistake !!!

    For those that do not know what IATA Flex Fares are, they are loaded by IATA and NOT BY THE AIRLINES. They are IATA fares. How can you blame ANA for an IATA fare? It is not ANA’s fare. ANA did not fat finger this fare, IATA did.

  • bodega3

    Read all her post. She was playing a game and she lost.

  • TonyA_says

    $600, try $6000. Flying to Canada. Nope, she was planning to bail out in LAX even if her supposed destination was Vancouver (which is not that frozen compared to the East Coast). As bodega says, read her own flyertalk posts.

  • TonyA_says

    Note she didn’t even tell Chris Elliott the whole truth. Her route was not RGN-NRT-YVR. Her route was RGN-NRT-LAX-YVR and she planned to deplane in LAX to go home to Illinois (where she is from). Wow that alone (which is a violation of the airline contract) nullifies all her claims because she was dealing in bad faith from the get go. Had she priced RGN-NRT-LAX she would not get the fare she had. Bad bad girl.

  • bodega3

    I think it needs to be added that Chris Elliott is a victim of a scammer!

  • TonyA_says


    I thought you may want to know that the airline (ANA) the OP is trying to blame did not publish the mistake fare at all. The OP used an IATA Flex Fare (a.k.a YY fares) to construct a journey from RGN-NRT-LAX-YVR on several airlines (e.g. ANA, Delta and Alaska). The ticket was sold by (Germany). If people think US travel agencies advertised this RGN-YVR fare, then these people are dreaming or do not understand how US TAs work.. It did not happen that way. This crafted ticket had to have been ticketed overseas.

    I should point out that the average American tourist does not put together a multi-airline route on IATA Flex Fares from Burma. The average American travel agency also does not handle such fares, and most especially if the origin and destination is not in the USA. Finally, the average American tourist does not craft a route with a hidden city (meaning misuse a fare), use a mistake fare, and then complains about it.

  • Joshua

    Chris often denounces people who look for unrealistically low prices on FlyerTalk and try to take advantage of them.

    Wouldn’t the airlines be better off to watch FlyerTalk themselves and raise any mistaken prices they see mentioned there to the appropriate level before other people try to take advantage?

  • TonyA_says

    Maybe they have “spies” trolling FT already :-)
    BTW, most if not all flyertalks posts are in the up and up.
    The only time it goes crazy out there is when someone finds a mistake fare.
    Suddenly people turn into sharks.

  • MikeR

    If the airline/agency/web site had noticed the error in a timely fashion, they should have contacted her ahead of time and resolved the problem. Waiting until the last minute when she’s trying to board a plane is the real theft here. She’s responding to a posted rate online, it’s not her error.

  • TenMillionMiler

    The airlines make the rules and their rules, these days, say if you make a mistake in booking, you’re stuck with the consequences and a possibly unuseable ticket that you can’t transfer to anybody else and that expires after one year and, if you want to use it for another trip, must pay an unreasonably high rebooking fee. The same rules should apply to the airline as to the customer. If they make a mistake in the customer’s favor, they should live with the consequences.

  • Georgie

    NO, it is wrong to steal from an airline in spite of what they do wrong. 2 wrongs do not make a right. My mother’s saying I learned early in life.

  • thehermit

    if your in a store and want to buy a coat and it has been wrongly marked at $100 instead of $400, you get the coat at the marked price (it happened to me at a store on cape cod). I don’t see much difference between this and what “Lauren” did. Now, I am a bit confused regarding the website that she found the information on as that seems a bit like “cheating” and ethically, the site should bring the price discrepancy to the attention of the airline/travel agent. However, it is not her fault the ticket was priced so remarkably low. The mistake was made by the travel agent/airline and they should honor the ticket. Also, I don’t travel much, but I believe that it is generally easier to take the moral high ground in an online forum/poll than it is when your in the middle of the situation. We all like to think that we would always take the righteous path, but reality tends to be a bit darker. Never like to see people sit on their high horse, some of them may truly have good hearts, some may go out looking for “mistakes” like this, but more than would admit it have good hearts but would take this deal in a second-theyd never admit that on a website though. Again, I don’t travel much, but I would take the deal.

    A few questions though-What is an “average” price for the ticket she purchased?

    Is it legal for them to cancel the contract (void the ticket) without informing her?
    Is there a difference in the “unconscionable price” law for corporations and local businesses? It seems an online airline price should be governed differently than a local plumber.


  • Trivwhiz

    The airlines are large public corporations with thousands of employees and super sophisticated computer systems. The fact that the airlines have not put internal controls in place to discover these fare mistakes within a VERY SHORT period of time puts the onus on the airlines, not on the passengers/consumers. Even if that was not the case, the simple fact that the airlines do not feel compelled to correct these mistakes in some fashion within one business day after discovering the mistakes/problem bookings, and communicating appropriately with the passengers/consumers to correct the airline’s mistake and mitigate the passengers/consumers situation based on the error fares is another indictment of the airlines. Further, if the airlines contract with Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and similar, and then do not have procedures in place to indicate responsibility in cases of error fares almost indicates a RICO (racketeer influenced corrupt organizations act) situation, whereby the airlines and the travel sites know about a problem and do nothing to correct it IMMEDIATELY, and then blame it on the passengers/consumers. Recently, I was shopping in a large chain grocery store, and while at check out, an item scanned as $3.49, while it had a huge orange glow sticker on it proclaiming $2.49. After pointing this out to the cashier, she called a manager over, who I expected would direct the cashier to honor the lower price. Instead, the manager directed the cashier to manually input a price of $0.00, and give it to me for free. Was this ethical? To me it was ethical PLUS, above and beyond what was necessary or expected. When airlines price fares without mistakes, they hope that their customers will get the word out to their friends and family members, and that sells tickets. Why should this Korean Air situation be any different? If either Korean Air or Expedia made a mistake and did not correct it PROMPTLY, it should no longer be the responsibility of the passengers/consumers, and no matter what the fare was, it was a PUBLISHED fare, and it is not illegal to discuss a public fare in public, or is it?

    As far as what is an unconscionable fare, I am not sure what that is! Spirit Airlines advertises $3, $6, and $9 fares in the USA, and some of the deep discount European airlines make similar offers in Europe, and I am sure there are comparable deep discount offers for occasional International flights too, all as an enticement to get the first few seats sold, and to drive customers to their websites to buy tickets. How is the consumer to know what is conscionable and what is unconscionable? I have never flown from Myanmar to Canada, and I have never researched flights or carriers flying between Myanmar and Canada either. How am I to know whether this is a new routing for ANA, who is offering such a fare between Myanmar and Canada as a loss leader, or that Expedia is not offering some sort of promotion in concert with ANA? The fare was posted, it was not removed or corrected on a timely basis. Therefor, the fare and the ticket purchased should be honored and allowed, no questions asked.

  • Rowan

    Maybe I’m stupid but what happens if you are someone like me, who isn’t a world traveler, and finds a fare, and books it in good faith. What then? Am I a thief then?

  • bodega3

    If you see something that you think is too good to be true, call the carrier and have them issue the ticket. We give up part of our fee if we think we might get hit by the carrier with something inappropriate and have the carrier handle it. It is our protection and should be considered by you instead of risking it online.

  • Jared

    The missing logic is that Airlines could easily program their systems to never allow a price less then the cost of the flight to be entered or use the same logic I’m supposed to know a fair is unreasonable. If a unreasonable fair can be defined they can have code that prevents their employee from entering such a fair and also constantly scan their listed fairs for anomalies because of a change in exchange rate. Amazingly the ticket can also be verified again at time of issuing the ticket to verify against their “unreasonable” definition and altert themselves and error out until its corrected

    There is no reasonable excuse given a definition of unreasonable fair that one should ever enter into the system. It is 100% the fault of the airline for not putting in the proper safeguards into their computer systems. If an airline cannot explain to their own employees (programmers) what an unreasonable fair is then it is 100% unreasonable to expect a consumer to do the same.

    tldr; If an airline can define unreasonable then they can prevent it and it is their fault. If they can’t define unreasonable then no one should be expected to know and they should honor the tickets.

  • Wandering Historian

    Qualifying someone taking advantage of fare error as theft seems to me a little extreme, even your question stems from the presumption that Lauren’s act was theft, at most this would be an act of Moral dubiousness. Whether one knew of the error in the listed price would bring to question the level of empathy in that individual, but I fail to see how knowing of error or an taking advantage of an intentional sale are different. If a company decided to put to sale their offering at 90% discounted price, any customer would be hailed as a savvy consumer, perhaps the line get’s blurred when it feels like a consumer is taking advantage of a supplying company but again i would say that it is a moral question. Those offering any product or services have a duty to provide that product or service in exchange for a set listed price, how that price is determined is typically driven by market demands, competition, and differentiating factors. The fact that Airlines have decided to use a very complex system where prices may change minute to minute is their prerogative and all the power to them to be able to implement this, but then complaining and leaving a consumer in the cold when it comes to honouring that contract because of an “error” seems disingenuous on their part. Airlines are not required to use a complex algorithm to set their airfares that typically has no human oversight over than model verification, they choose to use those systems as they’ve identified that this was the method they can use to Maximize their profits. If that choice has allowed errors to creep into the system the fault is their own.

    I realize that I sound like I’m trying to justify the questionable actions of those that took advantage of this error, and perhaps I am, but rather I am trying to object to the negative characterization of the consumer as the fault is rather the airlines, and not the consumers. Leaving the customer out in the cold is no way for any customer oriented business to behave. Perhaps an analogy of an outlet mall may be poignant here, if a customer purchases all their “name brand” products at 30 cents on the dollar from outlet stores, they can hardly be blames for taking advantage of a bargain that the company has offered through a portal available to them.

    Yes, forums such as flyertalk may have spread out this error on the internet, but global companies such as airlines cannot complain that the same tactics they use to charge signification different prices for the same product have been used on them when they make an error.

    Airlines and agent sites have the power to set any prices they choose for a product or service, consumers should have the same right to purchase that same product or service at any listed price they provide.

  • Daniel

    If she’s a thief, what law did she break?

    Furthermore, even if the company had the right not to honor the contract (ticket), it can still be responsible for damages arising out of its untimely cancellation of her ticket.

  • Keilee

    Playing by the rules isn’t stealing. It’s responsible. Airlines are responsible to their shareholdersstakeholders and focus on generating revenue while reducing operating costs. They analyze laws applicable to them and take advantage of unintended loopholes when they can. Private citizens are not being responsible to their stakeholders (their families and themselves) if they don’t do the same thing.

  • MaxNanasy

    I believe Rowan’s point is that he’s not a world traveler, so he doesn’t always realize that a given price is “too good to be true”.

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