Korean Air cancels tickets because of fare error

Korean Air fare error problems.

Here’s a case that’s been keeping me up at night. It’s not just because this one’s about fare errors — one of my favorite topics. It’s also because it raises several difficult questions about ethics, journalism and consumer advocacy.

I’ve spent my career studying errors and have made plenty of my own. But back in September, it was Korean Air’s turn to screw up.

It accidentally loaded what appeared to be a discounted travel agent-only rate — a so-called “fat finger” fare — into its reservation system.

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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.

Then, instead of immediately canceling the tickets, it waited two months, reportedly consulting with U.S. government regulators on how to appropriately compensate those who were inconvenienced by the slip-up before notifying its customers.

The affected passengers were eventually given two choices: either a full refund of the ticket or the opportunity to purchase a discounted ticket on the same itinerary.

Korean Air also offered to reimburse passengers for any additional expenses incurred as a result of canceling their Palau trip, such as cancelation fees for previously booked flights, hotels, and ground transportation. And it threw in a $200 travel voucher for a future flight to any Korean Air destination from a U.S. gateway.

By the way, that’s not a terrible offer. The timing could have been a lot better, though. A whole lot better.

The media campaign

Some passengers refused to go along with it.

“I am not interested,” one of them told me. “My girlfriend and I just want to go on vacation as planned, for what we paid.”

I received the first request for help early on Thanksgiving Day, according to my email records. When I promised to investigate, I quickly heard back from several other Korean Air customers who had similar problems with their Palau tickets. They had gotten organized, they said, and they were happy to have me as their advocate.

On Friday morning, I had a conversation with someone at a fairly high level at Korean Air about the situation. The offer on the table was fair, I was told, and besides, what more could they do?

“Well,” I said. “You could honor the tickets to Palau.”

My contact agreed to send another request up the chain to see if something could be done. Accepting the tickets would be expensive, but Korean Air really wanted to “do the right thing.”

Getting organized

More emails had arrived from others asking for help with the same problem. One of them revealed that they were getting behind-the-scenes help from an organization whose claim to fame is lobbying the government for tarmac-delay laws.

“I think we can mount a media campaign very successfully,” its leader wrote in one of the emails.

Then she enclosed detailed instructions for the Korean Air passenger group, suggesting she had a network of journalists at her command. She even dropped a name or two.

It made for some entertaining reading.

That, in itself, is no reason to reject a case. In fact, I’ve been the wingman for other consumer advocates a couple of times, and as long as it helps a deserving customer, I can be a team player.

But the more I investigated, the more skeptical I became of the story these passengers were telling. I discovered an absurdly long exchange on a popular forum for frequent fliers that clearly identifies the fare as an error, and invites participants to exploit it. (I cringe to even link to it, but there you go.)

Asking Korean Air about this erroneous fare

I phoned Korean Air back.

“I’m deeply conflicted about this case,” I said. “On the one hand, there are passengers who booked these fares, not knowing they were a mistake. I think you could make an argument to honor their tickets.

“On the other hand, there are people who booked these fares because they knew they were a mistake, and they probably thought they could shame Korean Air into honoring them,” I added. “I can’t advocate for them.”

That’s the problem, though. Korean Air can’t really determine the motive behind a reservation, nor should it be expected to. Either it honors all the fares or none of them.

I told Korean Air I wasn’t sure I could urge it to accept the tickets any longer, and asked them to convey my misgivings about this case to the powers that be.

Meanwhile, the media campaign appears to be in full swing. One of the stories appeared yesterday, and it at least acknowledged — but then dismissed — the stealing issue. Based the questions these journalists have been asking of Korean Air (I told you I have good sources) it appears that most of them find nothing at all wrong with knowingly booking an erroneous fare.

This is deeply troubling.

Enabling fare thieves?

I’ve been over my arguments many times before on this site, so here’s the Readers Digest version: If you book a fare that you know is a mistake, you are stealing from the airline. If you give aid and comfort to those who do it, you are an accessory to theft.

This entire episode has made me wonder about what it means to be a consumer advocate. Do you always side with consumers, even when they behave unethically? Is the customer really always right?

Apparently, there are some capable journalists whose work I respect, who feel that the answer to both questions is “yes.”

In the coming days, we’ll see some of these same writers weigh in on the canceled tickets to Palau case. They will probably highlight the hard-luck stories, like the canceled honeymoons, of which I’m told there are several. That’s how I would write the story if I wanted to embarrass Korean Air.

But I hope they also give the problem of the fat-finger fare thieves the attention it deserves. And I hope they do a little independent thinking instead of obediently participating in a media campaign.

Now what?

I really don’t know what to do with this case. Honestly.

I think Korean Air made a series of mistakes: the fat-finger fare, the lengthy delay, and underestimating the resolve of the spurned passengers. It’s one thing to cancel a wrong fare right a few hours after a reservation is made — but two months seems a little excessive.

Is there any other American business that is allowed to void several hundred transactions months after the purchase date, with the apparent blessing of regulators? I can’t think of one.

So what should I do? Should I push Korean Air to honor the tickets, even though some, and perhaps many, were booked by criminals? Or should I leave well enough alone and urge the passengers to accept the airline’s latest offer?


388 thoughts on “Korean Air cancels tickets because of fare error

  1. Even if i think that honest mistakes should get a chance to get corrected, waiting 2 months to do it is a bit too long ! 
    I also wonder wether the compensation put forward by Korean Air might not cost them more than flying those buyers, covering all cancellations expenses for other parts of people’s trips.
    But still, I would stay away from it if I were you : some did buy those fares knowingly, and helping them would be ethically wrong !…

    1. Waiting two months!?! If only these passengers were so lucky!

      The guy in the linked article was told his refund would not be processed until after the booked travel dates–sometime in February. That’s over five months!

      I understand the ethical difficulties, but waiting that long to get a refund is unacceptable. Korean Air wouldn’t wait that long for a customer to pay for a reservation, why should the customer have to wait that long for Korean Air to pay them back when canceling a reservation?

        1. 6% APR over the year comes to less than $15 interest on a $560 refund over 5 months (forgive my back-of-the-napkin math). Honestly, that’s not much.

          The bigger issue is that these people are unable to use that $560 to buy (or to pay toward) another ticket. I’d venture that most leisure travelers are not able to afford two tickets to a destination, particularly if the second ticket is more expensive. 

          It’s opportunity cost more than it is an investment value. Because Korean Air is holding a person’s $560, the person cannot spend that $560 on anything else. Which might mean missed opportunities to take advantage of other (legitimate) sales, or whatever else you’d prefer to do with a decent chunk of cash. 

          The opportunity cost is worth more than $15 in interest. Indeed, for something that involves planning in advance, I’d say it’s worth a lot more.

  2. If it were a matter of Korean cancelling them a day or two after they were bought, then I would say that it’s reasonable for them to do so. But two months really is unacceptable no matter who bought them.

    Even if the tickets were not bought in good faith, you still need to use common courtesy and be reasonable when dealing with such customers. Korean not only was being unreasonable by waiting two months, but was quite difficult to reach and communicate with, which only made things much worse for those who were affected.

  3. The key here is the two month delay. If they knew about the mistake, they should have canceled it as soon as the error was detected if they weren’t going to honor it. The time they waited is mind boggling!

  4. I wish there were some way to exclude the entitlement-complex idiots on FlyerTalk, but Korean Air really should not have waited so long to cancel the tickets.  At least a warning letter that the tickets may, at some point in the near future, be invalidated (and offering a full immediate refund), as soon as they discovered the mistake would have been a good idea; it’s par for the course for fare errors.

    On another note, any industry can correct pricing errors prior to fulfillment. It happens all the time in just about any business, and it’s perfectly legal, under certain circumstances. A retailer that accidentally posts a sale for an XBox for a buck is going to kill those sales, and there won’t be too much fuss except amongst those you probably don’t want as your customers anyway.

    Here is a borderline case (or would have been if they hadn’t waited so long): Many of those that bought the fares were indeed aware that they were a mistake; legally they would normally be entitled to nothing more than what Korean was offering, but of course they are impossible to separate from those that simply thought they were getting a killer deal. I believe those that genuinely and reasonably thought they were simply getting a good deal would normally be entitled to have the contract fulfilled as agreed.

    But since they waited so long, the scales tipped… reliance and expectations reasonably changed, even for many of those original FlyerTalk posters. It’s not unreasonable to think, that after many weeks, your “mistake” ticket is going to be fulfilled as agreed.

    1. I agree sirwired. Looks like this will be Flyertalk CyberMonday on Elliott’s site. It’s surprising how these “experts” in racking in mileage points, many who have access to fare rules (i.e. ExpertFlyer) and can read the minutiae of the fare rules are now coming here to say they did not understand the meaning of AD75. [I suppose the reason why KE waited for 2 months is they considered if they would demand IATAN IDs from the passengers and cull those that could not show one. But realized that cancellation with a coupon is less stressful.]

      So now they want Elliott to bat for them, or bash KE at this site? Good grief, take the $200 coupon and use it somewhere else in SE Asia. The Philippines has a much cheaper fare than Palau and the beaches are wonderful. Go to Boracay instead.

      1. Tony I’m going to assume you mean me since you and I are the only people on this site who have mentioned AD75. 

        As I said I’m NOT on FlyerTalk.  I’m reading the thread Chris posted but I don’t go on it normally.  I’ve tried before and I find it too confusing, there are far too many acronyms and they are a different type of flier than I am.  I fly based on price.  I don’t do mileage runs and I don’t fly business or first class.  I also did not buy a ticket to Palau. 

        Can you please explain how the average person is supposed to know the ins and outs of all these fares?  the AVERAGE person, not the insider.  Because my bet is while some of the folks on FlyerTalk booked these flights that only amounted to what, maybe 50 tickets?  100 tops? 

        1. You’d be surprised.  Flyertalkers are an amazing group.  They have people with tens of thousandsof posts.

          One of its murposes is scouring deals and posting them on Flyertalk.  The position is that its up to theindividual traveler to decide upon the ethics of purchasing sketchy deals.

          I’ve seen folks purchase dozens of deals just for themselves

          1. There were only around 300 tickets cancelled (as per the FlyerTalk thread posted above).  While I get that FlyerTalk is big and it’s users hardcore fliers I find it hard to believe that they are going to fly to Palau over and over again.  I haven’t been paying attention to the names of the people posting in the thread I’m reading but my guess is, like many chat rooms, it’s the same few people over and over again. 

            Palau is a big diving destination, the really good fare could just as easily have been posted on diving boards where people likely aren’t insiders with detailed knowledge of airline booking codes. 

            I just fail to see how airlines can cancel fares that they post which could very well be real.  If I saw a $50 each way NYC -London, well that’s a bit unreal but $100 each way?  Those were common in the fall a few years back with Virgin, Continential, and BA.  

            I also worry that airlines could very well start saying, “well that fare was too low so we’re canceling it” for ANY fare.  I got an awesome deal for my flight home at Christmas time, should I plan on another means of transportation just in case they decide to cancel the fare I booked back in July because they can likely sell it for a lot more now?   

          2. We bought JFK-LHR tickets for $198 plus about $70 in fees in November 2005 for travel over thanksgiving 2005 . . . .  its not like they were not there – the British Travel Authority was subsidizing the tickets- how the heck is the AVERAGE [note – not the FT 100k posts mileage runner] traveler going to know what fare classes mean.  My gosh- if the fare is posted for sale on Expedia – doncha think you can BUY the fare? 

            Its like selling a bottle of Vodka for $3 instead of $15 – the seller intended to sell it for $3, priced it at $3, put it on the shelf and sold it for $3.  Its not like you needed to go up to the clerk and tell him the password of the day to get the $3 vodka . . .

        2. Zonk, whether you or others know it or not, when you buy a ticket based on a certain fare code you are agreeing to the terms as stated in the TARIFF. If the tariff says AD75 then it means it is intended for IATAN Travel Agents (AD75 means A=Agents, D=Discount, 75= 75% discount). If you are not an IATAN Agent then you should not buy this fare. You should really be angry at the AGENT that sold you the ticket and not KE. Any *live* travel agent will read the rules that is accessible to them before they sell you a ticket. If they did, they would have seen (according to flyertalk) the AD75 requirement. The problem with OTAs is that they are GARBAGE IN GARBAGE OUT. There is no human being there to READ THE RULES FOR YOU. Sorry but you bought from a lousy vending machine.

          1. Expedia and whatever other online agents sold it as a normal fare for anyone to buy. They would be the ones responsible for selling the passenger an invalid ticket.

          2. Prove it.  Show us the fare rules that serveral say they never read.  People just look at price and screw everything else from what I am reading in their posts.  Just because it is online doesn’t mean it is for real….buyer beware!

    2. Your argument is all very well but does not really address the ethics of Chris’ dilemma. Knowing, as he does, that some of purchasers were fare cheats, and in fact were encouraged to cheat, I don’t see how he can advocate for the entire group, unfair as that may be to the legitimate buyers.

  5. The customer is not always right.  Considering the 2-month delay, this case certainly is tricky, but if you advocate for known thieves, Chris, you will lose your credibility.

    1. “Known thieves”

      As an affected customer (or thief as K would style me) who had never heard of a travel agent fare before this mess, I am really appalled with your response. The fact of the matter is that >95% of the people who bought these tickets thought it was a great deal to an exotic place and wanted to fly. The people who bought this with the hopes it would be canceled aren’t opening their mouths and contacting consumer advocates. They’ve quietly taken their refunds and vouchers.

      1. Funny, then, Jay…I went to the site Chris linked and it seems that the group is moving to a “private” discussion. People generally don’t do that unless they have something to hide.

        1. The private discussion is to avoid Korean Air – which they don’t trust for good reason.
          Besides, there are probably only 20-30 of them, and there still are the few hundred others like Jay who did think that this was a normal fare at a good price.

          1. What is the source of your statement that there only 20 or 30 cheats and that there are hundreds of others like Jay?

      2. If you are not someone who bought this fare knowing that it was a mistake, then don’t count yourself in that category.  I am not “styling” you as such.

      3. Jay

        I don’t know you so I am not speaking about you specifically. I am doubtful that most of the bookings are honest.  The reason why people tend to be skeptical is that this is par and parcel for Flyertalk.  I have been and remain a Flyertalk member for the past decade.  The conversation generally goes like this:

        “Poster1:  Hey  Company A just posted a rate that’s really low.  Somebody probaby made a mistake.  Book now before they catch the error.

        Poster 2:  Make sure you book online so no human sees the booking before you make it.

        Poster 3:  And don’t call to confirm the rate cause that’ll spoil it for the rest of us.”

        That just doesn’t seem consistent with honest error.

        1. But again, that isn’t everyone who bought it – only a handful of them that are flyertalk members are the ones acting this way.

      4. Unfortunately, the “known thieves” have made this an untenable situation for those who really did NOT know, such as yourselves.  Once these fares are publicly advertised as fat finger, and then exploited, that most suredly is theft.  What you did would not have been.  But sadly, you’ll be lumped in with them.

      5. Where do you get the information that >95% of the people were legitimate buyers? And how do you know what the intent or the actions of the fare cheats might have been?

    2. K

      I completely agree (well 99.999%). Knowingly purchasing a fat fingered fare is a moral and ethical failure akin to thievery.  However, in the rare case when the person honestly believes that it was a just a great deal, and depending on the deal, I tend to be skeptical, then that person isn’t a thief.

  6. Yes, there were some people who purposely purchased the fare in hopes that the airline would honor it.  And yes, there were people who bought these tickets believing that it was genuinely a promotional fare.  Regardless, the more pressing and disconcerting issue is how Korean Air has waited well over two months to inform passengers about the cancellation.  Presumably, affected passengers have passed over other vacation opportunities, especially during the holiday season.  

    As a customer who has been directly affected by Korean Air’s decision, I don’t quite understand how Korean Air can claim that this fare/ticket price is reserved only for travel agents.  When I purchased my ticket on Travelocity, I looked over the fare rules:  there were no travel restrictions, sale restrictions, or any indication that this ticket could only be used by travel agents.  Even as I look over the screen shot of the fare rules, I’m increasingly troubled by the hypocrisy here.  When a passenger wants to make changes to his itinerary, the airline points to the fare rules and abides by them.  But when an airline makes a “mistake” and the passenger points the airline to the fare rules, why do *they* get a pass?  Here, Korean Air is ostensibly saying, “Oh, those fare rules were wrong, and we’re not going to follow them”  The implication, of course, is that fare rules–which are the terms to a contract–can somehow be manipulated to fit an airline’s needs.  In short, the entire situation has been handled poorly and unprofessionally.  If the airline can’t even play by the rules that they’ve set up, what can consumers trust and rely on?

    1. Quote: “And yes, there were people who bought these tickets believing that it was genuinely a promotional fare…When I purchased my ticket on Travelocity, I looked over the fare rules:
       there were no travel restrictions, sale restrictions, or any
      indication that this ticket could only be used by travel agents.”

      According to some posters in flyertalk, it is labelled AD75 fare.
      Well, AD75 is not a PROMOTIONAL fare for the common traveler. It is for offical cardholding travel industry employees.

      Unless you are one of these travel professionals with an ID then you don’t have a leg to stand on. Sorry if you cannot understand what AD75 means. You should have known better because that is what the RULE means.

      1. “According to some posters in flyertalk, it is labelled AD75 fare.http://www.flyertalk.com/forum…Well, AD75 is not a PROMOTIONAL fare for the common traveler. It is for offical cardholding travel industry employees.” 

        Does everyone know this?  I wouldn’t have known this. I’m also not on FlyerTalk (I find it confusing).  Does EVERYONE who bought this ticket have an account on FlyerTalk?  Plus if you read the thread (all 54 pages of it, I’m up to page 6) you can tell that even they are confused by the fare.  Some say it’s a “fat finger”, others a “travel agent fare”, and others think it might be a promotional fare since it’s a new destination for Korean Air.

        1. Well, it is still an AD75 fare whether you understand it or not. It is a VALID FARE if you show up with an IATAN  PERSONAL NUMBER that is yours and the other documentation required by KE. Too bad if you are not a registered IATA travel agent. You don’t get to use this fare.

          1. Should it have been on Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak for days/ upwards of a week then?  Why should I have to read all the terms and conditions before I buy a ticket?  If it’s there and reasonable and bookable then I should be able to buy it and fly it.  Some on FlyerTalk say the fare rules weren’t even available at time of purchase for their particular flight (page 31 I believe).  Other said that the fare rules were updated and STILL the flight did not say it was only for travel agents. 

            I get what you’re saying but the issue I have is that while some booked this fare for unscrupulous reasons but my bet is the vast majority did not.  Korean Air took months to tell people the fares would be canceled and by accounts is STILL holding on to money they should have immediately refunded. 

            Would Korean Air be so geneous if passengers made mistakes?  Why is this a one way street?

          2. If the fare rules (TARIFF) are not available for inspection then why would you buy from that vendor? That’s your problem if you are blinded by the cheap fare. How do you know what’s in the contract if you cannot read the contract?

          3. Tony I do not read fare rules when I buy a ticket.  I doubt I am alone in this.  If I need to go to LA I buy a ticket from Newark or Philly to LA.  I buy based on price for the most part as while frequent flier miles are good I don’t collect them at every opportunity. 

            As for being “blinded by the cheap fare” perhaps I’m just jumping on a potentially really good deal.  Like people did this past Friday.  If someone was offering a big flat screen TVs for $200 would you believe it?  No?  But yet people bought flat screens for $200 on Black Friday all over the country. 

          4. This comment is exactly the issue with people buying online and then complaining they can’t do what they think they should be able to do.  You click to accept the terms and conditions, which includes the fare rule(s), therefore you are liable for buying something you are not qualified to use. 

          5. oh please.  I hardly think one should use a site such as Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak and have to read all the terms and conditions of the flights they sell.  Those are well known and reputable flight search engines.  From my understanding they give you fares the AIRLINES publish.  It’s not like Kayak is the one saying Korea Air is offering a $500 flight with Korea Air having no say in the matter.  They are sites well known to the PUBLIC, Korea Air screwed up and published the wrong fare, not Kayak.

            Now if I was to buy a flight off some website I’d never heard of like, “Bob’s overseas travel” then by all means, I’d check and double check. 

          6. Well you are wrong on several counts. Not all fares are published fares.  All you see is a price and therefore ASSUME you qualify for them.  Expedia, Travelocity have a responsibility is making sure what they put out there to sell is valid.  This fare was not valid for the traveling public.

          7. Who put the fare out there Bodgea?  Who put the fare out there for Expedia, Kayak, and Travelocity to pick up?  Who put it out there and left it out there for a week?  Who put it out there, left it out there, then realized their mistake and didn’t cancel tickets for over 2 months?  And still aren’t refunding people? 

            The customers are NOT to blame here.  Korea Air is.  They put the fare out there, they left it out there.  They are pulling the “it was in the fine print” card when the MAJORITY of people buying airfare tickets do not read the fine print. 

          8. Not reading the fine print is the purchasers error. Plain and simple.  Don’t you watch Judge Judge 🙂

            The OTA that sold these fares have a responsiblility, too, as I have stated in another post.  Just because a fare is in the system, doesn’t mean we can legally sell it.  The airline can come back to us on it with a debit memo. 

            As for the 2 month period, I can’t answer that, but regardless, the discount used isn’t allowed by any one but those with the proper ID cards.  You would be considered misusing this ticket at any point of departure and would not be allowed to board the plane, so at least they are notifying you ahead of time.

          9. I’m through with this, we shall have to agree to disagree.  I do not believe that a normal person should have to read page after page of legalese to book an airline ticket.  I was actually going to cut and paste the “fare rules” from an Air Korea flight but they were far too long. If the flight was not bookable by non-travel agents then they should have CLEARLY disclosed that, not hidden it in the fine print. 

            For what it’s worth I have never booked a ticket with a travel agent.  I’ve been to 39 countries in the past 11 years and have always booked my tickets myself online.  I buy based on price.  I have never read the fare rules.  I have never had a problem.  I guess I should be thankful for that and knock on wood it continues because I worry that this may set some sort of precesdent that airlines will start canceling cheaper tickets bought in advance claiming the fine print allows them to do so. 

          10. You have been very lucky. To check the box saying that you accept all terms and conditions when buying an airline ticket online exposes you to considerable risk and you can’t go back and use the excuse that no one ever reads the fine print or that people shouldn’t be expected to do so if you have a problem. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with Korean Air posting an AD75 fare and leaving it there. It’s a valid fare for certain people.

          11. Did you know that your federally-regulated long-distance phone service is also subject to the terms of a Tariff, one hundreds of pages long?  Did you know that the only way for you to access said Tariff is to physically travel to DC, show up at the FCC building, and then request they retrieve it from the file room so you can read it?  (At least this was true several years ago, things may have changed since then; you may now be able to retrieve it online.)

            Did you do so before obtaining long-distance service?  No, you didn’t.  That would be stupid.

            And so is expecting travelers to read page upon page of fare rules before buying a ticket.  If the ticket is offered for sale to a end-traveler, then it’s not unreasonable for a traveler to assume that they are eligible to purchase it.

          12. But you are clicking on the box that says you read the terms and conditions.  I don’t do that with my phone service.

            You have learned a lesson from this Sirwired.

          13. I’m fairly confident that the Terms and Conditions for your LD service (probably sent to you in the mail when you signed up, if you didn’t sign up online) mentioned the Tariff and included them by reference.

          14. Actually, since it WAS ticketed as an AD75, even if you had not known the terms, you would never have been allowed to fly without an IATAN card.  So yes, these OTAs should have listed the terms and conditions.  And it was an error that should have been addressed earlier, but Korean probably wanted to ensure how to move forward in this case.  They should have, however, contacted everyone and let them know there was a problem, and it would take them time to fix it (and you might have to be cancelled).

          15. And where did KAL tell retail customers who bought the fare that they needed to provide information BEFORE buying the ticket?  AD75 means no more to me than H12 or B7W14 or any other inane code the airlines use to book tickets . . . now – if they said in a pop-up “This is a IATAN agent fare only subject to booking restrictions please see rules” and you needed to click through then that would make sense. 

            Further – as soon as they decided to not honor the fares they needed to immediately – as in even BEFORE they contacted the customer – return the money.  People should NOT be waiting 3 weeks later for a refund to post to their credit cards. . . .

          16. Joe, if I understand it correctly the people complaining bought their tickets from Expedia’s or Travelocity’s websites. The did not buy a ticket from Korean Air’s website. That said, the responsibility lays on Expedia’s and Travelocity’s hands. It is those two OALs who need to provide access to the tariff in question. I dug up the tariff using my GDS and this is what it said:

              ADULT – CHARGE 25 PERCENT OF THE FARE.                      
                    TICKET DESIGNATOR – AD75.                             
                     NOTE –                                               
                      DISCOUNTS APPLY.  PLEASE CONTACT KE FOR MORE        

            The heading “AGENT DISCOUNTS” says it all. If these passengers are not agents then too bad for them, Expedia and Travelocity should NOT HAVE SOLD THEM THE TICKET WITH AD75 DESIGNATOR.

            As to why people are complaining it is taking too long to get a refund. This is purely my opinion —
            The tickets were sold through agents OTAs. These agents must process the refund through ARC. All KE has to do is give them a SAC (Settlement Authorization Code). Since we have no idea if agents made commissions on these sales, then the accounting between the OTA and ARC and Airline can be complicated that what people think. A big part of the blame here should be on the OTAs that sold the tickets and are not helping get a refund.

    2. Actually, AD75 clearly is designated as Travel Agent 75% discount for IATAN agents only.  Not even non-IATAN travel agents are eligible.  Since Travelocity sold this, and did not forward this information, this is something they should be held responsible for as well.

        1. And ONLY owners and top managers actually get this discount. The need personally issued IATAN numbers. This is an OTA problem and KE is getting the blame. Wonderful.

          1. Not true. Any working travel agent who meets minimum requirements as to hours worked and gets an application signed by an owner or manager can get a valid IATAN card which entitles that person to use AD75 fares. However, I agree that it an OTA problem.

          2. You still need to get the owner or GM to sign the IATA 880 request form (or equivalent) EVERY TIME you travel (international). Sure you can apply for the IATAN card if you are so inclined to provide copies of your W2 and get your boss to sponsor you. In reality if you are not the owner or the owner does not like you, you will get nada.

  7. I voted to stay away from this one. It’s the proverbial sticky wicket and not worth tarnishing your name over. Please continue to help people who have indeed been screwed by airlines/hotels/car rentals…but not these people. After all, they have “organized.” Let them “organize” themselves into the media spotlight with someone else’s name attached to it. 

    Airlines get enough bad press for things they do wrong. Aside from the two month delay, I can’t see what they did wrong here–decent compensation was offered.

    I’m sure there are a few hard luck cases, but the compensation offered is NICE. However, here, I think the greedy “let’s book a ticket and see what we can score when they discover the mistake” crowd outweighs the former. Sadly enough…

  8. As others have said if you advocate on behalf of less than honest consumers you will lose credibility as a consumer advocate with businesses.

    Let Korean Air decide what to do and have them take the flack.

  9. These people are exploiting their ability to generate negative publicity and Korean airlines tradition of offering superior service. If this happens frequently enough, every carrier is going to turn into Spirit Airlines and view all publicity as good publicity. Right now they are getting publicity that says: Korean Airlines offers good fares to Palau and when flying Korean Airlines, you follow their rules. That’s not really bad for Korean Airlines. I don’t think anybody is going to take away that Korean Airlines doesn’t offer as good customer service as United because most people know that in the same situation, United would do the same thing.

  10. Chris, 300+ people were affected by Korean Air, of those only a few knew the fare was an error. Korean wants to make this a big issue, so they don’t have to be responsible for their mistake. 
    Focus on the main issue, cancelling after 2 months and refunds who knows when. Is this acceptable?

    1. Going off the article Chris posted people are STILL awaiting refunds for trips booked at the beginning of September.  If Korean Air wanted to do this right they should have cancelled those tickets right away and done refunds within a few days of customers saying they wanted refunds.  They should NOT be holding on to customer money.  It’s the same as taking a sweater back to Macy’s and giving back the sweater and them saying, “we’ll give you your money back sometime in the future”

        1. “you people”?  I wasn’t aware I am more than one person. 

          Tony why do you feel that Korean Air is correct in holding refunds that it promised in early November?  (going off the FlyerTalk thread Chris posted above which I’m reading).  If I said that I would give you $600 on November 1st, in fact I OWED you $600 and had a very easy way to get you the refund, would you be ok with it being November 28th and you still haven’t received your money?

    2. if 2 months is ok, why not 3?

      if 3 is ok, why not the day before travel?

      How do then ever know that any fare we buy is EVER valid?

      What if there is an emergency someplace, such as an Earthquake in Los Angeles and people will pay any price to get out of town where there is water and power, and USAirways decides that $50 for a ticket from ONT to PHX is now unreasonable since people will pay $1000 each?  and so that ticket they sold was ‘unreasonably priced’ when they sold it?

      allowing more than a few days simply invites all sorts of skullduggery on the part of carrier and passenger. . . .

  11. Chris, 

    First, thanks for listening and doing everything that you have done including publishing this article. I am thankful for your attention and patience. I had never heard of a travel agent fare before this.

    Fast forward almost three months now and Korean Air has gotten a nice interest free loan from me (still waiting for a chargeback). I really wanted to fly this ticket. It’s astonishing that Korean Air waited two months to cancel as they consulted the DOT and their lawyers to formulate a legal strategy to minimize blowback. People’s lives don’t stop and start on their whim. 

    If they had canceled within a few days, even up to a week or two, I would have been fine, taken my refund and put this to bed. After I’d begun travel research, contacting hotels and the like, it’s a slap in the face. 

    As someone else has alerted me, Korean Air flights, especially on the lucrative JFK-ICN route are usually full, regardless of what price they charge. Take a look on Kayak. Korean Air is consistently one of the most expensive carriers on this route. Applying a $200 voucher to one of these fares is like throwing a deck chair off the Titanic when the same route could be had for hundreds less sans voucher. It’s a shame that they want to maximize their profits at the cost of alienating hundreds of potential customers. Since they feel that we are not (to use the industry term) “high value customers,” that would give them tons of repeat business, they kicked us to the curb like undesirable trash.

    I really hope you decide to advocate for us in the end. I’d wager that the number of people who booked this in hopes that Korean Air would cancel are ~5% of the total. These are not the people reaching out to advocates. These are people who are silent, have taken their refund and voucher and called it a day already.



    1. If you’re not even willing to use the $200 voucher because you could save more money on another carrier, then you are not a potential customer. Maybe the flyers who do fly Korean have had the fare honored and are also keeping quiet. Sorry, but I agree with other posters that Chris should stay away from this one because of the possible loss of credibility advocating for dishonest customers. I disagree that they have taken the voucher and moved on. That group of customers have every reason to try to generate publicity to get as much compensation as possible. And since they never intended to take the flight they have no deadline. In this case, a few bad apples spoiled the whole bunch.

      1. Jenny are you loyal to one or just a few airlines regardless of price?  Perhaps Jay, like myself and many others, flies based on who has the cheapest price.  In that case a $200 voucher for a $1500 fare when there are other flights for $1000, doesn’t make sense.

        If Korean Air REALLY wanted to be geneous they would honor the fares.  Or perhaps they could have offered a $200 voucher on the cheapest flight available AT TIME OF ORIGINAL PURCHASE not now, when flights have gone up considerably.

  12. If MY finger is fat and I punch in the wrong day, or mis-spell my name by one letter, will the airline be as understanding as Korean wants its passengers to be in this case? I don’t think so. The answer is to cancel the fat-finger fares but allow passengers to make changes to their flights in the future when there are typo errors.

    1. But this is NOT a fat-finger fare – it IS a legitimate fare – but only for travel agents with an IATA card.  The fact these people bought a ticket they were NOT entitled to is the OTAs problem – if they had purchased a child’s fare or senior fare, they would have had to pay the difference – and it is in the fare rules that if you do not have an IATA card, it is an invalid fare and you will be denied boarding. 

  13. I say push.  Yes there are people who booked it knowing the fare was wrong but are they the majority?  Do the majority of those with tickets live on FlyerTalk just waiting for those posts about low fares?This wasn’t a $200 roundtrip ticket, you said yourself, it was low but not crazy, insane, “I can’t believe they are offering tickets for this price!” low.  Whose to say then that all airlines won’t start canceling the cheap tickets and saying they were “travel agent fares”? 

    They waited too long to cancel and want passengers to play by rules they weren’t told when they bought their tickets.  I agree with those who have said the people who bought the fares knowing they were wrong have likely taken the money and ran.

    1. SINCE this is a legitimate fare by terms and conditions to fare rules, they could have done nothing – and when you went to check in for the flight, and did NOT have an IATAN card, they could legally have refused you service for a fraudulent ticket.  Instead, they ARE trying to remedy the situation.  The fact that you don’t think the consumer needs to follow the fare rules shows how one-sided YOU believe these cases should be.  I would have hoped they had moved quicker to inform folks there may be a problem, even if it took up till now to resolve it. but that still wouldn’t have changed the situation that average travellers were purchasing LEGAL tickets for a restricted few.  And that the responsibility for proper documentation (IATAN card) would lie with the traveller.  I think we need to start looking to the OTAs which never listed the ticket fares/restrictions as well.

      1. Thank you for making this excellent point!
        KE can simply do nothing and wait for these folks to check in and ask for their IATAN card. Without it, they will refuse boarding. Sorry folks, checkmate.

        1. It’s not really checkmate.  You’re correct that they can refuse boarding but most people who are not travel agents or lawyers don’t really understand the terms and conditions of a product or a service.  For example, I’d highly doubt that you read the terms and conditions of every piece of software you purchase and wouldn’t really understand what EULA would be.  

          I find your posts to be exceedingly arrogant when it is more than likely that people who have no clue what Flyertalk is could have found that ticket and booked it without knowing what “AD75” would be.  I have no idea what AD75 would mean and granted, I don’t know what the normal person who booked the ticket would have seen on their screen when they bought the ticket.Whether Expedia/Travelocity or Korean Air is to blame is probably more of a legal issue and it’s clear to me that while you know the semantics of the travel agency, you sir, are not the end all on what actually happens here legally.  The law is not predicated on just what the law states but rather on how the courts interpret the law.  I can see a case in which the affected consumers who had no idea this was a fare mistake could file suit against Korean Air, Travelocity, and Expedia and based on the current interpretation of consumer rights laws, this is not the slam dunk case you make it out to be.

  14. Your attitude mystifies me, honestly. When someone buys a ticket the deal is done – if he made a mistake on a date and calls immediately to cancel or rebook, does the airline allow it? Not without a hefty fee. The airline profits from the buyer’s mistake. Those are the terms of the contract.

    If a trip must be cancelled due to illness or death does the airline allow the passenger to rebook or transfer the ticket to a friend? As if! No rebooking without a hefty fee. No transfers at all. The airline collects the fee and gets to resell the seat, benefitting from the buyer’s misfortune. Those are the terms of the contract.

    But an airline makes a mistake and it is “stealing” to buy the ticket if you realize it’s probably a mistake? They shouldn’t be held to the terms of the contract, poor delicate things?

    I really don’t understand how you can defend that kind of double-standard.

    Sorry, that’s a double standard and I don’t buy it.

    But flyers benefittin.

    1. rebecca

      That’s not true.  Many airlines have an unofficial grace period to where even the lowest level agent correct/cancel a ticket.

      Many airlines will allow you to rebook for illness with a doctor’s note.

      1. 2 months in not a reasonable grace period by any standard. If KE caught it and canceled the tickets within a day or even a week, then it would be reasonable. But 2 months out (potentially less than 2 weeks before the trip) no airline will let you change a ticket for a ‘mistake’.

  15. They waited too long to cancel.  This is a multi-million dollar corporation with the resources to have properly vetted the fare before posting it.  The fact that one of their employees was an imbecile…well, deal with that internally.  They have probably spent more on legal counsel over those 2 months than it would cost to have honoured their obligations and swept it under the rug.  Typical moronic airline logic.  As others have posted, if WE had dared to enter a wrong name or date, they would have gouged us.  They cannot have it both ways.  As they say in Korea, “like hot cakes, sweet happy days!”

  16. How many of the tickets were sold just because it was a great fare?  How many would have been sold regardless, but it was a great opportunity to get an outstanding fare?  Are any willing full-fare passengers being displaced by “fat-finger” discount tickets?
    The marginal loss in revenue vs. the media costs may dictate an answer.  IF they honor the fare, will the positive media reaction be beneficial?
    Do the math and you have the answer.

  17. I can’t add anything new to what has already been said in previous comments.

    Stay away from this one if that’s what your gut is telling you to do.  Part of being a good journalist is listening when you’re telling yourself something’s wrong.

    These people seem to be bordering on the malicious now with their threatening KAL with going to the press.  While we all have that right when an injustice has been served, based on your story, it seems they are using the press to strong-arm the airline.

    While I don’t think KAL should have waited two months to get the opinion of our government (because we ALL know our government has only our best interests at heart) I also feel they’ve offered a pretty fair compensation package.

  18. Stay far, far away from this one.  It’s troubling to me that first one person contacted you and very quickly several people contacted you all on the same issue.  The level of coordination and organization among this group suggests to me that several people did knowingly book these “too good to be true” fares in order to profit from the mistake.  Let them handle this.  I agree that Korean Air sat on this way too long and that delay works against them.  Let them reap what they have sown.

    The argument that “well, the airlines screw us over all the time, so we should get our own back” is childish and immoral.  It reminds me rather forcefully of the “he started it” whining I would hear from my children when they were small.  I’m not aware of any moral code that allows bad conduct in retaliation of bad conduct received or perceived.  The commandment in the moral code to which I subscribe does *not* say “Thou shalt not steal unless they were mean to you”.  Sometimes being a moral adult means taking the high road and watching others seemingly get ahead.  Isn’t that what we try to teach our children; to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing?

    Christopher, I really, really hope that you don’t use the voting results to determine your course of action.  As I’ve written privately to you before, if I refresh the web page, I can vote all day long.  Matter of fact, I tested it again a few minutes ago.  If this Palau group is organized enough to become media hounds and to create a private discussion group on FlyerTalk, then they’re certainly organized enough to stuff the ballot box, so to speak.

    Okay, off the soap box . . .  Thank you for sharing your crisis of conscience on this.

  19. If you voluntarily associate yourself with a person or group of people clearly acting with suspect ethics, then move away quickly. If you don’t, you will be accused, with a certain amount of justification, of abetting those who are acting unethically, even if some of the people have a legitimate complaint. If there is a way of identifying and advocating only for those with a legitimate complaint, then do so. If not, then express your regrets.

    My feeling is that in order to protect your future credibility you must step away from this particular issue. We consumers need for you to be credible years from now, too.

    1. I agree with you, LTMG.  Chris operates in good faith and asks of his readers/writers to do the same.  To move forward after learning of some dishonesty related to this puts him in the same category in the minds of some.

  20. Chris,

    I’m really not sure where you get “stealing” from.  There’s no obligation not to purchase a ticket just because you think a fare could be a mistake. (After all, how silly would it be if it were a real offer, and you missed it because you were worried that it was a mistake?)  You should be able to trust that if it does turn out to be a mistake, the airline will handle the situation appropriately, which in this case it most certainly did not.

  21. Sure sounds to me like their make-up offer was rather generous.  The two month delay could have been because they consulted with the government on how to do it right.

    Consumers can’t have it both ways.  They can’t push a consumer advocate like Chris to help them when they are getting taken advantage of by a corporation, then turn around and take advantage of those same corporations. We can’t argue that the $150 change fees are unfair if we aren’t good enough to be understanding when an employee at an airline makes a mistake.  I know some people will use this to say, “That’s exactly the point,” but at some point we need to show we are better than them.

    And in this case, it sounds like the airline is going out of its way to be understanding.

  22. Chris:  I agree this is a hard one. I voted you intervene:  1.) There are clearly innocent people that would otherwise suffer significant harm. 2.) Apparently Korean Air kept the fare available long enough for others to take advantage and spread the word to others. 3.)  Call the bluff of those taking advantage of the fare–they still need to take the time to travel and the associated costs of spending time in airports/Palau/etc. 4.) Korean Air’s lengthy response time–clearly they need to work on their PR. 5.) By the time you add up the cost of the various reimbursement offers (and the time to verify them), I think Korean Air is better off honoring the fares.

  23. I’m one of the passengers who bought tickets to Palau on Korean Airlines. I saw them on Expedia, so I bought them two months ago, paid for them, and was waiting for my Nov. 30 departure. We wanted to go somewhere different. But two weeks before departure, Korean Airlines decided they wanted more money for those tickets and canceled them. They still have my money though, 86 days later. If this was indeed a mistake fare on their part, they needed to have canceled two days after booking, not TWO ENTIRE months. They’ve held on to my money all this time, and they’ve held my vacation plans hostage all this time. We were left with two weeks to try and scramble together plans for a new vacation, and we were not successful. I don’t know how booking a flight on a publicly available website somehow makes me the “thief” here. That’s pretty insulting. I’m not some hacker — I’m a person who saw a cool fare to an exotic location on Expedia, and I booked it. We went to Galapagos on LAN a few years back when LAN first started their service, and we got an excellent deal — often airlines will offer great deals on new service, and I thought that’s what this was, since Korean didn’t fly to Palau before. I am telling everyone now to avoid Korean Airlines. I will never trust them again.

  24. Thanks for bringing more coverage to this unfortunate issue, Chris. As one of the affected passengers, I appreciate your interest in helping to right this wrong.
    I take issue with the fact that I might be branded as part of a group of “thieves,” as I purchased the fare for a wonderful (and much needed!) diving vacation with my wife, not to try to screw the airline or get more points or vouchers or something ludicrous like that. I was NOT aware of the fare mistake (or the travel agent designation of this fare, or anything of the sort) until AFTER Korean unilaterally canceled our plans and completely ruined our dreams of diving in Palau. Like many of the other affected passengers with whom I have conversed, I purchased the ticket on Expedia just as I would any other ticket for a business or family trip – there was nothing abnormal about my purchase process, and nothing to brandish me as a thief for my actions! I don’t appreciate being lumped in with a few bad apples, but alas, that’s what you’ve chosen to do. I think that’s also a convenient story for Korean to tell, as well, since that takes most of the blame off of their REAL issue (see below).
    That all aside, I think the major issue here is the fact that Korean waited TWO MONTHS to cancel these tickets, and that they’re still holding my money they said they’d refund. I can’t imagine – as you rightfully point out – any other industry or company where they take 2 months to “correct their mistake” and yet still hold onto consumers’ money. THAT is what needs to be addressed most fervently by you and other consumer advocates: what is the time to act when a merchant/company makes a mistake? How long after they declare a mistake can they continue to lead you on, hold your money, etc?
    All in all, this experience has made me never want to fly Korean Air again. They’ve done a great job of ruining their reputation in my eyes, and my business (and now most friends) will never use their Trans-Pacific services.
    Thanks again for your interest and reporting.

      1. Hi Jerome,

        I’ll admit – this is indeed a “first world” problem, my vacation being canceled, and all. I’m sure bummed, but there’s a larger issue at play here.

        I don’t think we’re on Chris’ website debating matters of philosophy or world hunger: we’re talking about a consumer rights issue. My original comments were geared towards a resolution of just that – a consumer rights complaint, not the cancellation of what would have been an awesome vacation. I’m pissed that an airline has the wherewithal to cancel a contract they made 2 months later! That’s all.

        Thanks for your comment – it made me chuckle and remember not to take things too seriously.  🙂


  25. It’s interesting to know that people were trying to use the ‘erroneous’ fare for two months. I am sure almost all airlines have their staff watching flyertalk or other forums that Chris mentioned. Somehow this one was missed? Besides, if we believe that some of these people did book the trip without any knowledge of the fare being in error, is it ethically right to leave them at the airline’s mercy? I have never been to Palau and wouldn’t know the details but I can’t see myself booking a trip to Palau just because the ticket prices are low. There are many other things such as hotels, time off from work, family and pets arrangement before one could plan a trip. I would look for a deal IF I already have plans to go to that place. I am sure quite a few of those who booked did it not because it was a deal but because they wanted to go there and found a good deal. Besides, if you look at international travel deals, you do see these kind of fares in the range of $500 to $1000 to many places around the world including Australia, NZ, China, India etc., which have a lot of caveats. Like you mentioned earlier, $560 is not at all a ‘too good to be true’ fare. Korean Air can get hold of the hotels/restaurant association in Palau and might be able to work a deal with them for bringing so many people to Palau, to recover some of their ‘loss’, instead of shaking its head and cancelling the already sold tickets. I know this is not a religious forum, but one can refer to Genesis 18:23-32 for those who are Christian. For the others, there is Blackstone’s formulation, “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”.

  26. When did KA realize they had pooched the fare schedule?  How soon could they have fixed it?  When did it become common knowledge that KA had made an error?  That tells us the time frame in which KA should honor bookings.  Sometime in there, KA could drop the blade: “We will honor all bookings made through midnight of (date).  All later bookings are (cancelled/subject to adjustment/whatever).”

      1. Also, it seems these are the airline codes that the airline industry uses.  Just to let you know, in Korea, Korean Air is referred to as KAL.  So it’s not just KE.

  27. My girlfriend and I are two of the affected passengers.

    We don’t travel a lot and knew nothing about travel agent fares, just looking for a dream vacation. We’d been talking about tropical islands for a while before this one showed up. We purchased the tickets from Expedia and went through the same process you always do when buying tickets. Nothing out of the ordinary. Korean Air even reissued the tickets on Sept 22 (changing the flight number). Everything we knew about business said that this is a promotional fare and after two months thought it would be honored.

    Now if the issue is stealing, you fail to mention that Korean Air is stealing from us. We still have not gotten the refund and our money is effectively an interest free loan to Korean Air for two and half months. How is that not stealing? What about the equipment I’ve purchased (>$200) that Korean Air refuses to refund because it’s ‘non-travel’ (one item is a map of Palau, like I can use that for anything else).

    How long did it take Korean Air to find out about this mistake? You say the consumer should know if it is a mistake when they buy it but shouldn’t the airlines fix it quickly? I’ve tried to get an answer from Korean Air and DOT with no luck, but I suspect they knew fairly early on. Why not cancel then? It would be sad, but I could accept it. Instead, they’ve used my money as a loan and refuse to refund my money for Palau expenses while extorting me. My choice is to pay that extra $200-300 (I’ve been told different amounts) per person or not go and lose out on using that $200 worth of equipment. Korean Air has made this lose-lose for the majority of the travelers affected and that is why you should support us.

      1. Honestly, it said all the normal stuff you usually see in airline fare rules. Not until much later did I see (when other people posted screenshots of the rules because they actually removed the fare rules on Expedia on Sept 6th and I haven’t been able to see them since) “AD75” in there. No words that mentioned travel agents. I’m not a seasoned traveler and I don’t think I can be expected to know all the fare codes. As far as I know, all my flights have had that or similar codes. And airlines could tack on “AD75” to all future fares so they can have a reason to cancel the tickets if they want to. It was offered on a public site with no mention of travel agents, no page saying it was a special fare, no follow up email from Korean or Expedia making sure I knew it was only for travel agents, and the only way I would have known it was for travel agents is by knowing what “AD75” meant beforehand.

        And don’t other business sometimes give employee discounts to the public? Even if I had known what “AD75” meant, how would I have known that it wasn’t that kind of promotional fare?

        1. I’d like to see someone’s screenshot if there is one around. AD75 is usually on the fare basis and the fare rule will state who is allowed to use it.  Like an SD10, which is fare basis for a senior discount and the rules will state the age allowed for this discount.
          Fare basis and fare rule are not the same but the former needs the latter to be used. 

          1. Bodega, as we TAs know we need to use (override) the AD75 ticket designator  when we autoprice the itinerary in order for the GDS to compute the 75% agency discount. So the “normal” fare basis code SLXEE (weekday low season FBC for KE to ROR) would have a suffix AD75 appended (to the end) when the fare quote is stored.

            So even if we autoprice it correctly and get the right ticket image (valid eticket), it does not mean the airline will not INVALIDATE it (or charge us a debit memo) if we do not observe ALL THE OTHER REQUIREMENTS.

            I think so many people do not understand that the TARIFF RULES are computer coded by ATPCO so that the GDSs can interpret them (hopefully correctly). The airline fare analyst words the rules in such a way that an ATPCO analyst can encode it in a way that the computer captures the meaning of the rule. What I am trying to say is the way rules may appear in PLAIN ENGLISH is not exactly the same way computers evaluate those rules. Since OTAs have no people reading those rules, then they are entirely dependent on the machine interpretation of their GDSs. As far as I know, the GDS companies will reimburse  debit-memos to ordinary agents who erroneously issue tickets that the GDS *autopriced*. I don’t know what the deal is between GDS and OTAs.

            Why so many people want to blame the airline, KE, and not the OTA who issued the wrong ticket is beyond me.

          2. “Why so many people want to blame the airline, KE, and not the OTA who issued the wrong ticket is beyond me.”

            It’s a case of blaming the “ultimate”, if not the “contributing”, source of the problem. In this case, KE ultimately caused the problem to happen in the first place, even though the OTAs contributed to it via selling them directly to passengers.

            Remember Chris said KE took two months to finally do something with those tickets while they talked to whoever and whatever? The OTAs were likely waiting for KE to respond promptly as well.

            As a (maybe flawed) analogy, customers blamed Toyota for some of the mishaps they encountered due to their faulty brakes, even though they purchased them through dealers. That’s just addressing that part of the issue, though, and not the rest as being debated.

            Sadly, everyone loses something here: KE, the passengers…and Chris.

          3. David, you have to understand how the airlines treat their distributors.  Just because it is offered for sale, doesn’t mean it can be sold.  You are required to follow the terms in the rules of the fare.  We NEVER assume a price is valid and now those of you buying online are learning this too. 

          4. “David, you have to understand how the airlines treat their distributors. ”

            I do, actually. In my experience, though, customers don’t know and don’t really care about the devil in the details except to get the advertised (and expected?) results based on what they’re willing to pay for.

            Sure, those on the travel provider side do care about these things. On the customer side, the only thing they care about is if the product or service does as “advertised” or if it meets what they expect or look for.

            I think that’s what people like zonks have been also saying from the start, even though you, Tony A et al are emphasizing another point from another perspective. One can insist on the other to understand what they’re explaining, but obviously one can’t force the other to agree or accept it.

            If anything, a challenge is to see where the two can meet and work out.

          5. You are correct.  All online shoppers care about is price.  With the internet, everyone THINKS they know about tickets, but this is an excellent example of what people think and how things actually work.

          6. Let me attempt to explain the “why” in your question.

            I purchased the ROR ticket in question.  I buy all my tickets from online sites like Expedia, or directly from airlines but I am not a TA and I can only read plain English on these *consumer* sites and rules.

            Having said that, 1) I was charged by KE, not Expedia for the purchase.  2) I first spoke with Expedia about the cancellation.  I was told the fare including all the rules was published by KE and they (Expedia) simply show those rules.  The airlines decide or not to offer tickets to consumers or specific groups (in which case they are not available on Expedia.com)  The contract, I was told, is with the airline, not Expedia.

            So, as a common consumer, I am trying to understand your statements that it is Expedia’s fault, not KE’s, and that I should have been aware of all cryptic codes in fare rules.

            From my point of view, I bought the tickets and no restrictions showed up (yes, it said no restrictions in fare rules and I really had no idea what AD75 is at that time), my credit card was charged, I spent many hours/days/weeks planning my trip, foregoing all other holiday travel plans for this winter.  And after all my effort I am told: “oops, sorry, forget about it all.”

            I presume you are a TA and you would have handled this differently from a giant like Expedia (and would not have let your customer buy this fare.)  That’s probably a great thing about dealing with a person instead of a huge corporation.  But this is not how most people buy tickets these days, for better or worse.

            So please try to put yourself in my shoes as a consumer and then, honestly, say if you think KE/Expedia/Travelocity handled this well.  In the end I’m the one who got screwed up.

          7. *not sure why my post got deleted, so here’s another attempt* 

            Let me attempt to explain the “why” in your question.

            I purchased the ROR ticket in question.  I buy all my tickets from online sites like Expedia, or directly from airlines but I am not a TA and I can only read plain English on these *consumer* sites and rules.

            Having said that, 1) I was charged by KE, not Expedia for the purchase.  2) I first spoke with Expedia about the cancellation.  I was told the fare including all the rules was published by KE and they (Expedia) simply show those rules.  The airlines decide or not to offer tickets to consumers or specific groups (in which case they are not available on Expedia.com)  The contract, I was told, is with the airline, not Expedia.

            So, as a common consumer, I am trying to understand your statements that it is Expedia’s fault, not KE’s, and that I should have been aware of all cryptic codes in fare rules.

            From my point of view, I bought the tickets and no restrictions showed up (yes, it said no restrictions in fare rules and I really had no idea what AD75 is at that time), my credit card was charged, I spent many hours/days/weeks planning my trip, foregoing all other holiday travel plans for this winter.  And after all my effort I am told: “oops, sorry, forget about it all.”

            I presume you are a TA and you would have handled this differently from a giant like Expedia (and would not have let your customer buy this fare.)  That’s probably a great thing about dealing with a person instead of a huge corporation.  But this is not how most people buy tickets these days, for better or worse.

            So please try to put yourself in my shoes as a consumer and then, honestly, say if you think KE/Expedia/Travelocity handled this well.  In the end I’m the one who got screwed up.

          8. Yes it is Expedia’s fault. They sold you a fare that you are NOT ELIGIBLE to use. Either you buy a fare that you are eligible to use or get the refund offer that KE gave you. When they informed you of their cancellation of your ticket last 07NOV, they gave you options to choose from. You could have elected to get you money back + expenses you have incurred + $200 vouchers. Or instead of a refund you were offered the ability to buy the lowest fare KE has charged to ROR or similar markets + the $200 voucher.
            If you expect KE to fly you to ROR for ~$500, then I must say you are expecting to much for your money. Get real.

          9. A few more things:
            (1) KE did not charge your credit card. Either Expedia did or ARC did. Either way, they are the ones that charged your card and they settled with KE after.

            (2) KE does not really “publish” the fares as you know it. KE uploads fare rule definitions to ATPCO which is distributed by ATPCO as automated rules. OTAs and GDS companies use the automated rules so that they in turn can automate pricing and quoting. My GDS never had the faulty fare basis S**EE/AD75 defined. I assume that Expedia’s pricing system faultily defined that fare basis by incorrectly interpreting Category 21 of the rules. So I ask you, if my system did not have the wrong fare basis defined for sale from 01SEP to 06SEP, then why did Expedia have it? My GDS and Expedia were simply looking at the same ATPCO automated rules. Why is mine correct and theirs wrong? So how can Expedia blame Korean Air when my fares were correct?

            (3) I will repeat this for the nth time. You should have never been sold that fare by Expedia.

            (4) the idiots from flyertalk most probably tainted the credibility of innocent buyers, too. I read their posts. Those people were playing a bad game. I hope you are not one of them.

  28. I think that KAL did wait way too long to correct their mistake but on the other hand they were discussing the matter with ‘regulators’ on how to address the mistake. They should/could of let the affected travelers know of the issue immediately, but they didn’t.

    I think they should honor tickets bought prior to a certain date based on when the exploitation started. To those that bought after that date, the original compensation offer should be honored. 

  29. No airline follows the laws/regs and they always try to get over onthe consumer. You high & mighty types forget that some of us just buy a cheap ticket without hours& weeks of deep study such as udblah.
    Koreanair knowingly and with wilfull intent has ripped off these customers. And really hoped to get away withit.
    If chris does not help these people they will continue torip us off anytime they want.and then those of you backing the corporation that you love will allow it to continue it’s unethical /imoral practises .
    Funny I thoughtwe should beagainst that.
    “all it takes is that good men do nothing”

    1. Actually, this fare was properly registered as an AD75, and is a valid fare under those terms and conditions.  It should never have been purchased as such by the general public.  HOWEVER, they could have let these poor souls go to the airport and ask for the valid IATAN card at that time, and could have legally denied service.  Instead, they worked with the DOT to see how to handle this problem.  Granted, they could have let them know earlier, but I think working with the DOT may have been an additional problem.

  30. I am one of the affected travellers.  My husband and I are avid scuba divers.  I frequently read scubadiver.com’s forum for ideas on dive destinations and dive deals.  If you look at that site, you’ll see many posts of special air fares to dive destinations.  That’s where I heard back in early September about the Korean Air deal to Palau – http://divertodiver.scubadiving.com/m.aspx?m=228618&mpage=1&key= . I’m taken aback (insulted) to be labelled a thief for purchasing ticket at what I thought was a great deal.  By the way, even though I thought it incredibly unfair of the airline to cancel my tickets, I did accept their offer to pay an additional $221 per ticket to keep our trip.  I did that 2 weeks ago.  The result – Korean Air billed my credit card $1,414.  As of this morning, still NO refund for the original, cancelled tickets.  So Korean Air continues to hold on to $970.60 which I paid back in September for tickets they cancelled 11/11/11.  So really, who is the thief here -me or the airline?  I accepted their offer because I didn’t want to spend  any more time fighting this airline.  But, as it turns out, I guess I still need to fight for my refund.

    1. I wonder if you booked the original flight directly with Korean Air?  If not, then your refund is due from the “travel agent” website that booked the fare.  I am sympathetic to your situation, and agree that it should have been handled better.  Is a credit card chargeback for the original tickets possible?

    2. I guess I made my comments before reading the other comments, which in hindsight seems foolish.

      Korean Air has really screwed up here.  They could eat $221 per ticket, it isn’t as though they sold them for a tenth of the cost.

      1. Acutally they sold them for 75 percent off the full coach fare.  There are also tax implication for these fares which is probably why they spoke to US government regulator.

        This is what gets me.  Just because you find it online, doesn’t mean you know what you are buying.  What many of your are saying is the you bought something solely on price but didn’t read the rules or know the rules of what you were buying and plead ignorance. Yet, you are still repsonsible for what you purchased.

        Where does it say that you can’t let someone else use that ticket that you made in your name?  It doesn’t come up when you make that purchase, but your know you can’t do it.  A mistake was made by the carrier and one that isn’t as clear cut as many of your think it should be.  If this was just a basic discounted fare that would be different, but this fare has specific rules.

        1. I’ve read through about half of the posts and keep thinking, yes, they should be responsible for the terms, etc.  However, I also have to go back to the AD75 rule – I certainly wouldn’t have known what that meant, and would have assumed it was the promotion code or something.  When you find a fare on a well known site like Expedia or Travelocity, there really isn’t any reason to even consider that it might be restricted fare (not sure if this is the correct term) for travel agents only.  I really am torn on this one, but I can’t say that people who legitimately bought the tickets thinking that they were getting a good deal should have suspected that these tickets were for travel agents only, even if there was something about AD75 – unless of course, it clearly said AD75 and spelled out in detail what that was. 

          1. Go down this site and see the posting of the rules.  It shows that contact with the carrier was a requirement and that it was an agent discounted fare.  If this indeed was in the fare rules at the time of purchase and the purchasers had to click that they agreed to the terms and conditions, then they are out of luck because they are violating the fare rules that they said they read. 

            Lesson learned today:  READ the fare rules BEFORE purchasing your ticket.  When in doubt, call BEFORE clicking you read the terms and conditions.

          2. I just finished with the comments and saw the fair rules and your arguments that they were clear, but to me, they were not.  And, as I said, because the were offered on sites like Expedia and Travelocity, I would have understood that to mean that those “discount” sites (acting as agents) were being offered these tickets at a promotional price.  I would not have thought that these tickets were intended for travel agents only, as it would seem that those tickets would not be available on such sites and I can honestly say that I personally wouldn’t have even thought that it was an TA price that was accidentally being displayed on Expedia.  I fully admit that I am not a seasoned traveler, and regularly read this site to learn what mistakes to avoid when I do travel.  Now I know what AD75 means.

          3. Don’t you think it is bizarre that Expedia and Travelocity will SELL tickets only intended to IATAN card bearing travel agents. Heck those TAs can ticket themselves.

          4. I have a feeling Expedia’s and Travelocity’s systems aren’t set to “discriminate” which fares are intended for who.

          5. And that is a problem they get to deal with.  I am sure they got many debit memos that they get to pay out of pocket on.

    3. I agree with some of the others – that there seems to already be groups and spokespersons involved and that as Chris even feels himself that there are too many questionable queries on this matter for him to represent ‘the group’, he should stay away.

      But a matter such as this, where you have accepted THEIR responding offer and THEY then messed up even that, that is a case I would definately suggest for Chris to advocate!!

  31. Chris:

    This is indeed a tough one.  I feel for those people who acted honestly and were simply thought they had found a good fare.  They certainly deserve to have their tickets honored.

    However, there are enough dishonest people who — working through FT — are simply looking to take advantage of an honest mistake.  The offer they received from KE is more than generous.

    As you point out, KE’s two month delay complicates the entire matter.

    On the other hand, the organized campaign by the FT group also complicates the matter.

    This is a no-win situation for you, Chris.  I reluctantly (and out of character for me), voted that you should keep away.  Despite KE’s unfathomable delay, the FT group have simply made this too toxic.  Perhaps the resulting outcry will shame the FT crew from acting in such a low-handed manner (or perhaps it will shame FT in to no longer allowing such threads to exist).

  32. While I agree in principle with your position on people who knowingly take advantage of fat-fingered discounts, I am deeply troubled by Korean Airlines’ two-month delay in addressing this matter.  For those innocently caught up in this, Korean Air’s compensation offer
    would have been more than fair if it had been offered a week or two
    after booking.  Now, those people have lost time and, in some instances,
    the opportunity to book certain dates, fares, discounts, etc.

    I wish it were possible to separate the innocent mistakes from the not-so-innocent, but it isn’t. Those people know who they are, but most are unlikely to come forward.  Unfortunately, past experience has taught me that many times, those
    who complain the loudest when a company rescinds a fat-fingered
    discount are those who knowingly took advantage of it. Neal Andrews (who was featured in the article to which you linked) may very well have been an innocent victim, but his extensive travel history suggests that he is probably savvy enough to know better when he sees a fare like that.  However, I don’t know that for certain, and apologize to him if I am in error on that point.

    They say the “fish stinks at the head.”  In this instance, it stinks from both ends — from the airline who waits far too long to correct an error, to those who stomp and yell because they got caught with their hand in the till.  It is those caught in the middle we feel sorry for.  It’s a tough call, but at the end of the day, I think you must follow your conscience and walk away from this one. Since those aggrieved have numbers, an place to organize, and a (sometimes) naive media to support them, let them go forward on their own. 

  33. There is nothing “sticky” about this case.  The airline published low fares and kept them active long enough for 300 people to book.  Then it waited 2 months to say “oops”.  Well — too late.  A passenger has 3 days to cancel an erroneous reservation.  It is only fair to keep the airline to the same standard.

    Dishonest people?  “Thieves”?  Come on.  These are not the X-Boxes you can resell on eBay.  Some people may have been aware of this fare being a mistake.  However, the only way they can take advantage of it is by ACTUALLY FLYING to Palau.  They are not MAKING MONEY off the airline.  Besides, $560 is still a hefty amount.  That’s why I think that the number of conscious thieves among those unlucky 300 is rather small.

    In fact, the only way a thief can PROFIT from the airline’s error is by taking its $200 voucher offer.  Perhaps that’s what the dishonest insiders were hoping for — a cancellation and a sweet offer, like miles, vouchers, etc.  So honoring the deal and NOT letting anyone to cancel is the best way to punish the thiefs!

    Finally, to add insult to the injury, the airline is still not refunding the money to the customers who took their offer!  One can only imagine how long it will take them to make good on the next part of their offer — reimbursement of hotels and other reservations.

  34. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the ‘average customers’ here are really FT members who come post under a different name…

    1. so what?  300 people book a fare – with web boards today I’m sure that many divers decided to buy that ticket as soon as someone posted it as a valid fare – I’m sure many Palauns did as well to visit family – with the web information is readlly available and transferable among people

      Carver-  have you never heard of viral? 

        1. no reason to call me names now – how do you think 300 bought tickets?  Its not like Palau is a hot vacation destination that everyone needs to go to right now . . . .

          1. Yeah, we have a prankster on the site who likes to assume the identity of other commenters. It’s a flaw in Disqus and other cloud-based commenting solutions that can lead to some real problems. I’m afraid it’s already driven @Brooklyn:disqus  away, and now they’re going after @b71b38c218e54406c24b061e678cc787:disqus  

            I can delete the offending comment, but that often creates more problems because it leaves a gap in a conversation that looks strange. If anyone knows what to do, please send me your suggestions.

          2. This is probably going to make more work for you, Chris. But if you’re able to edit those comments, just perhaps make some kind of note it’s not the same Brooklyn or Carver or whoever, or edit it like Carver1 or brooklyn1 as Joe suggested above.

    2. Hey

      Stop posting under myi name.  This is NOT the same Carver the attorney.  This is some coward without the cajones to post under his/her own name.

  35. Chris… You should get involved, not because of the current people affected, but because of the FUTURE people who will be affected by this.  Korean Air is setting a precedent that an airline can cancel at ticket TWO MONTHS after it is issued.  Think about what that means for the future!  Will any ticket be safe if an airline can wait TWO MONTHS to cancel a ticket?!

    1. How can FUTURE would-be travelers be affected by this? Are they going to start reading fare rules more diligently? Or they are gonna force their own understanding of the rules like so many of those who bought those dirt cheap erroneous tickets?

      1. I think if this goes over then airlines could very well put coding and what not in the fine print, in the fare rules no one but airlines and travel agents understand and pull out that fine print when it suits them.  Someone buys a couple tickets in July for Christmas and gets a great deal?  Fine, the airline will let it sit.  Until fares go up and they can suddenly sell that ticket for more money.  Then they cancel it using the “fare rules” as the reasoning and the customer is left at Christmas without a ticket. 

        Korea Air waited 2 MONTHS to tell people they were cancelling their flights, some of those people were within a week of flying.  And they still haven’t refunded people. 

        None of how this was handled was correct, not a bit of it

        1. Zonks, if there is any point I can agree with you, it is the REFUNDING NIGHTMARE.

          But you need to understand that this is not your plain vanilla non-refundable ticket cancellation. The fact (supposedly) that Korean Air went to the US DOT speaks volumes of the complexity of this case.

          It’s a big screw up and 2 of the largest OTAs are involved. So don’t expect to get immediate resolution. The term ONLINE for online shopping stops when customer service is needed. If you are a “victim” start calling your agent and begin talking nicely. You might get what you want.

  36. When stationed in Korea & Okinawa, I would frequently fly Korean Air Lines, which also was tied into NW Airlines. Now hearing of this game that KAL is supposedly playing, I wonder how many other carriers also do so. Any names?

  37. So what was the correct fare?  $1560?  $1200?  This is completely unhelpful for deciding whats up.

    Fat finger fare mistakes are usually dramatic -like $15 instead of $150 etc.  This is not a true fat finger that is discovered within hours and pulled and everyone refunded immediately.  What happened here is simple:  Korean Air posted an ‘incorrect’ fare and then wrung their hands for two month debating the political and legal consequences –  relevant facts include:

    when was the fare posted
    when was the ‘mistake discovered’
    what did the internal discussion over the issue
    when did they contact ‘regulators’
    what, how and when did the regulators reply
    how long was the fare available
    what fare should have been posted
    do they have any contracted or consolidator fares at this level

    Once ALL of these questions are answered-  then we can truly understand what happened on their end. 

    Two months with no information is waaaaaay too long.  They needed to tell the people there was a problem with their tickets on the DAY that they discovered it and told them that they were researching what their liability was – to give people a chance to address their possible lack of air transportation.

    What I suspect happened is that they posted a consolidator or group / vacation bundler fare as a publicly available fare – and now want to back out of their mistake. 

    The simple one here is to sue KAL in small claims court –  ALL THREE HUNDRED TICKETS – where ever the person resides – the cost of KAL defending 300 tickets – the need to send a corporate officer with authority to bind the company to 100 separate jurisdictions with the attendant risk of 150 different rulings should be enough to

    $560 is a very very good fare but not outrageously enough for the average person to think it is a mistake – its not like they put business class tickets on sale for $100 from LAX to Seoul.  Its not like the Four Seasons offered rooms for $50 instead of $500 . . .

    1. This is what I’ve gathered so far

      Fare was posted on or about August 31st

      Fare was pulled on September 5th

      Korean Air knew about the mistake nearly immediately. 

      Korean Air contacted the US DOT two weeks after they noticed the mistake.

      Korean Air waited TWO MONTHS to contact customers!

      1. Re: “Korean Air knew about the mistake nearly immediately.” When? To what extent? Do you know this for a fact? Where did you read this info?

  38. Sorry KA but they made a mistake big time.  2 Months?  not acceptable for a ticket that they sold for $560.   If they made the correction in two days and then tried to wiggle out of it that is one thing.  But they only wanted gov approval to cover they liability. 

    A theft is the illegal taking of another person’s Property without that person’s permission or consent.  KA gave them their consent because they had the fare posted for how long?  Yes it could have been an error but their computer system should have caught it also.

    In my state if a retail store post a price it must honor the price regardless.  KA must honor the price.

    Chris is it theft when the Airline charges a fat finger fee for a walk up last second flight?  Do they honor extra charges when they charge one customer twice as much as the first customer? 

    What KA should do is use this as a marketing stunt to show that they did offer the discounts and get a LOT of advertising out of it.  But instead they are going to get a whole lot of PR nightmares and turn into JetBlue tarmac delay regulations. 

  39. The FlyerTalk issue is a red herring.  It is only tangential to the real issue, which is whether or not a “fat finger discount” is somehow morally unethical.

    If I make a fat finger mistake and input the wrong dates on my reservation, I get no symphathy from the airlines… just a $150 change fee.  If I  mistakenly input my maiden name, all hell breaks loose.

    The airlines have plenty of technology to avoid fat finger discounts.  All of the algorithms they use in their pricing models can be employed to check the rates that they’ve entered.  Any rate that is reduced more than x% from the prior rate could be flagged and reviewed before it is loaded.  Or if they don’t have a technical solution, then they can hire extra people and do it manually.  But no….   Instead of making sure they do it right the first time, their attititude is “who cares… we’ll just write the rules — or have our lobbiests in Washington write the rules — so that we don’t have to honor the mistake”.

    It’s not my job to decide what is a real fare and what isn’t.  The world of travel has seen much crazier things than a $560 fare to Pallau. 

    Korean should have quietly honored the rate.  They offered it.  They’re responsible for it.

    1. I’m not sure I understand how people know that a fare is a mistake unless they just think it is too good to be true.
      Now if the Airline books a passenger on a flight for a price then it is obligated to get that person to that destination for the fare paid. I assume it was paid. 
      I don’t quite understand what the hassle is about. The airline is obligated to get the flight done, not give out refunds and quirks. Passengers have made plans and the airline function is part of their plans.  If the fat fingers don’t want to take the flight then they don’t have to, but no ticket refund. The airline can’t cancel a flight just because it finds out it didn’t charge enough. I have had to fly Korean Airlines and I didn’t find it as nice as Delta. I even had to move because my original seat TV was broken. 
      As soon as the airline found the mistake they should correct it. They may have to book the paid passengers on another airline at their cost.  Later passengers will be paying more for the same flight, but the booked passengers deserve to be delivered what they paid for. 

  40. I voted that you should stay away from this one.  If what you believe has happened truly did, the “well has been poisoned” and you cannot compromise your credibility and your conscience by continuing to support any of these claimants.  It is sad, but it is a fact of life that the good have to suffer for the bad.

    Everyone hates when airlines make mistakes to our disadvantage, but I would have questioned this $560 return fare by calling the airline myself.  I remember the days (’60s and ’70s) when friends of mine paid several thousands of dollars for return airfares to the Orient and Australia.  And we were poor students then, without credit cards.

    If the Korean Air offer is still on the table,  I would advise all concerned to take advantage of it. 

  41. Chris,
    Like so many of your votes, I find I can’t choose either one.

    How long was this fare up and online?  Was it two days?  A week? A month?

    When was this post made to encourage people to exploit it?

    Finally, was it several hundred people?  I suggest this “organized group” be told to figure out amongst themselves who was honestly misled and who took advantage knowing it was wrong.  I also suggest you talk to Korean Air and decide, privately, if this group comes up with a number, which percentage of them Korean Air would be prepared to make good on and which should be told to forget it.  Finally, for those who did try to scam Korean Air, they should only get a refund, nothing else.  Actually, they probably shouldn’t get a refund….but

    If is time for this “group” to become ethical, fess up, and disclose who actually was harmed and who tried to take advantage.

    If they don’t go for it, then screw ’em.

    1. I saw the fare up for at least four days and it could have been a day or two more. I saw it on a Saturday, bought it on Sunday, and tried to convince friends to join me for two more days (on weekdays) before it was taken down.

    2. This is what I’ve gathered so far:Fare was posted on or about August 31stFare was pulled on September 5thKorean Air knew about the mistake nearly immediately. Korean Air contacted the US DOT two weeks after they noticed the mistake.Korean Air waited TWO MONTHS to contact customers!

  42. I say stay away from this one.  Why?  Because, while the fare was made public, the rules of the fare dictate how it can be used.  It requires a special ID number by the passenger. 

    You can find great deals on things online, but many people don’t get what they purchase because they don’t take the time to check on what they are purchasing or they lie or break the law.  You can buy a car on line, but if the car being sold isn’t titled to the seller, you aren’t getting that car.  You can buy Cuban cigars online, but if you are a US citizen you are not allowed to buy them and have them delivered to your US address.  You can buy alcohol online by saying you are of age when you are not.  You can buy prescription drugs online from Canada but as a US citizen you are not allowed to do so.  So just because this fare was posted doesn’t mean you were qualified to purchase it.

    1. Wrong analogy.

      1. Car with no title.  The seller goes to jail for that.  Are you suggesting the Koreans (or Expedia execs) go to jail for selling something they weren’t supposed to?

      2. Cuban cigars and Canadian drugs.  Can you buy these on Amazon or other reputable sellers?  No.  You take a risk when you go to those sites with poor grammar, lots of pop-ups, often loaded with malware.  Expedia is certainly a reputable seller.  If there are visa requirements — they clearly warn you.  THERE WAS NO CLEAR WARNING IN THIS CASE.  The fare may or may not have been marked “AD75” — which, to an average traveller, means squat.

      3. Alcohol for underage.  You have to lie to get it.  Nobody lied to get the Palau fare.  In particular, no one had to click on a checkbox “Are you a travel agent”.

      1. Actually I think they work.  Just because you find it online doesn’t make it correct to purchase it WITHOUT knowing what your responsibility is.  The airlines do find online bookings to be a huge headache.

        1. “Actually I think they work”.  I assume you are referring to the analogies.  OK, let me ask you again.

          1. Would you like Korean Airlines or Expedia/Travelocity executives to be jailed, like the car seller in the first analogy?

          2. Do you liken Expedia to the shady online pharmacies?  I’m sure Expedia personnel will be thrilled about your analogy.

          3. Did the customers directly LIE in order to purcahse the tickets?

          “The airlines do find online bookings to be a huge headache”.  I’m sure they do.  All those pesky customers finding and booking the best fare in seconds.

          “Just because you find it online doesn’t make it correct to purchase it WITHOUT knowing what your responsibility is.”  I agree, actually.  However, if the seller does not make a reasonable effort to educate you about your purchase, the seller is at fault as well.  Customers coming to the Expedia site know what to expect.  They enter their names and travel dates; they get a list of suggested itineraries.  Unless an itinerary is marked with large red letters “For Travel Agents Only” (or residents of Florida, like Disney does), we assume we are in the clear.  Small letters “AD75”, even if they were present, do not cut it.

      2. Actually I think they work.  Just because you find it online doesn’t make it correct to purchase it WITHOUT knowing what your responsibility is.  The airlines do find online bookings to be a huge headache.

  43. Korean’s grace period to cancel the tickets should be just as long as the one they offer for their customers’ mistakes — when someone “fat fingers” a name, or a travel date, and realizes it a day or two later, does Korean graciously allow those minor changes to be made?

    What?  They don’t?  Well, then they don’t get the chance to correct anything they later decide to call an “error” either, especially not months later, when not only are hotels etc booked, but other opportunities have been passed up (some people would have chosen a different destination that was within their price range at the time, but is now not).

    The airline has full and complete control of their processes and procedures as to how fares are loaded, and every opportunity to put checks into that flow.  Having to honor fares they load into the system may be the incentive they need to add a line to the software code that says “are you sure?”, instead of trying to turn it into their customers’ problem.

  44. I would have sided with Korean Air here, but they waited two months to fix their mistake! I say they have to eat any losses from the sale of these tickets.  While this isn’t the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last, let it serve as a reminder to ALL airlines that cancelling a mistake of a posted airfare after two months is just not acceptable.  1 day, 1 week, maybe even two weeks but anything longer than that, customers have every reason to believe the fare was legitimate.

  45. I think the airline should honor the ticket. I have noted that airlines sometimes raise the fare eventhough it may not be warranted; that is also a stealing from the customers. So now it is their turn to pay back.

    1. No, the purchaser bought something they didn’t qualify for.  You don’t understand how fares work which is an issue for those who buy online then claim they were wronged.

      1. Then these fares should NOT have been made available to the general public.  If Korea Air only wanted to sell them to travel agents they should not have made them readily available for all on non travel agent specific sites.

        1. I haven’t read where these were purchased on the carriers website, only through OTA’s.  They need to verify the legality of the fare.  We have to do it. 

      2. What’s there to understand about fare basis and fare rules? Some very large percentage of the traveling public goes to kayak, orbitz, expedia, travelocity, or where ever, and puts in origin, destination, and dates; they then pick the cheapest fare that suits them.  Half the time, I don’t even pay attention to the fare bucket I book in, because I don’t care.

        The stuff you mention comes into play with Flyer Talkers who are trying to go on a mileage run and want to construct the most amount of miles for the cheapest price.  The rules come in when people want to do very specific things with their tickets or routings.

        I’m more educated than most when it comes to travel, but I don’t claim to even begin to be an expert on fare rules and what not.  I don’t know how many dozens of tickets I’ve bought without reading fare rules, and I haven’t had any problems.

        1. Well you have learned something day about your responsibility of knowing what you are purchasing.  The rules of the fare were just posted if you go find them in another post.  It clearly states that this is an agent discounted fare.

          1. The rules (as posted further down) do NOT “clearly state” anything as far as I’m concerned.  As you pointed out it says “no auto pricing” towards the end of the rules.  But towards the beginnig it says, “auto pricing- ok”  It’s says, “Agent fare” but it also says there are “no eligibility requirements”. 

             I would think it the rule were CLEARLY stated they would saying something along the lines of, “this is a fare for ISTN (or whatever the initials are) travel agents.  In order to book and fly on this fare you must be able to produce an ISTN travel agent card”  

            I would also think such travel agent only fares would not be sold on websites geared towards the public for over a week and that once known about the fares, the airline would immediately contact customers. 

          2. Bodega, I get what you are saying: “you should have known, you should have learned about fare basis vs fare rules, you should have etc, etc, etc.”I can appreciate your point of view. However, the larger point here is that no “normal” buying person actually looks at the different codes, either before and sometimes even after purchasing a ticket. I consider myself a normal consumer, and only care about my dates of travel, destination, and getting the least expensive fare; how the web agencies sell them to me is not my concern as I assume they have taken care of the details… after all, that’s why I patronage them. Nothing against your vast knowledge, but I have to wonder if you truly understand the argument here: a mistake on the part of KA is by no means a basis to blame consumers for their lack of knowledge. KA made the mistake; they could have easily limited their liability by quickly rescinding the posting of such a fare and they could have honor the small amount of tickets they may have sold. But, and you will have to agree here, KA didn’t do such a common sense thing; and instead waited days before fixing the error and months before deciding to yank the tickets. A mistake which can’t be attributed to ignorance on the part of the consumers. Even Elliott acknowledges that this rate was not a clearly a mistake, just a “very good rate” which is all many of us care about when buying travel tickets! FTR: I am not a KA customer, nor did I purchase such a ticket… 🙂

          3. Bodega

            I am having issues with your position primarily because it is inconsistent with common experiences.

            When you go to a booking site, the site only displays rates which are available to the general public.  No further eligibility analysis is required.

            If you desire a special rate, e.g., Travel industry, government, even the commonplace  AAA, you have to affirmatively request such a rate quote. 

            Yes, one can easily misunderstand the various rules and tariffs, (change fees, min/max stay requirements, etc.) but eligibility requirements in one area that, barring an error by the travel provider, the online systems have nailed down.

            I have been booking online for nearly 20 years and I have yet to book a rate that I didn’t qualify for.

          4. Just because you haven’t experienced it Carver, doesn’t mean these fares aren’t out there.  As I mentioned yesterday, awhile back I was about to issue a ticket to a client when I found a residency requirment under the ‘eligibility’ section of the fare rules.  It was an international fare only good to those who lived in the country that my client was flying into.  This situation with KE shows you know that you do need to pay attention to fare rules and don’t assume you are in the free and clear just because you made that purchase.  By clicking on the acceptance of the term and conditions tells the carrier or OTA that you read the rules.  A lesson everyone who read this yesterday should have learned.

          5. “By clicking on the acceptance of the term and conditions tells the carrier or OTA that you read the rules.  A lesson everyone who read this yesterday should have learned.”

            Bodega, I think that’s the point you’ve been trying to explain but weren’t exactly clear from the start. That’s probably what caused the “disconnect” with zonk and the others.
            Of course, that potentially creates a whole new set of issues arising from KE’s allowing the sale of fares not intended for the general travelling public, which is what caused this whole thing in the first place anyway.

          6. It was the OTA that allowed these to be sold through their site.  We get restricted fares all the time and it is the agency’s repsonsibility to read the rules BEFORE selling the ticket.  This is the missing part.  The OTA didn’t pay attention and now will probably be paying lots of money to KE…at least they should be as we would be fined for it.

          7. DavidZ, weren’t you a former TA or something?
            You know that KE simply dumps all its fares to ATPCO.
            Then large companies like GDSes, metaSearch sites, etc… pay an enormous monthly subscription fee to ATPCO so they can download the fares.
            From that point it is the user’s responsibility to deal with the fares and its associated rules.
            I showed everyone what the KE fare looked like last 01SEP-06SEP for NYC-ROR. Anyone with a GDS can search historical fares and get it for other US origin cities.
            The fare was not $506, it was at least $1522 plus tax.
            The argument is NOT the fare. The argument is about whether ordinary adults CAN/MAY get the Travel Agent’s Discount.
            The obvious answer is NO. But Expedia and Travelocity allegedly gave it anyway.
            So tell me HOW CAN THAT BE KE’s FAULT.

          8. Tony, I posted my reply above regarding ultimate and contributing. And yes, I worked on the travel agency side before, though I’m not necessarily as knowledgeable on the details as you and Bodega are on that side of the fence.

          9. Carver’s point is exactly what I was trying to say yesterday.  In your example, you site a situation you ran into as a TA, not as someone from the general public buying airline tickets from a well known site such as Expedia.  We expect that if the fare is posted on a site such as Expedia, it is for sale to, and for use by the general public.  That is not to say that Expedia doesn’t make mistakes.  Obviously, it does.  And maybe this is entirely the fault of the OTAs – but if that was the case, then why did none of them catch it?  I could understand if it fell through the cracks at one, but it was apparently out there for sale at several different sites.  That would lead me to believe that there was something missing from the coding when the fare was first put out there for sale.  But I don’t believe you can blame anyone who legitimately bought this ticket, thinking they were getting a great deal, for not knowing the rules. 

          10. I fully get that all online shoppers do is look at price and don’t care about the details UNTIL they get caught up in something like this.  This was bound to happen and now you know that you have a responsibility as an online purchaser to know that what you are buying is legit.  Mistakes happen in our industry and now it happened online.  We are use to it, now this is an eye opener to the rest of you. 

  46. I should point out the difference between “fare rules” and “fare basis”. “Fare basis” is a coded literals that indicates how the airline came up with the fare, which is absolutely not of a concern to the ordinary consumer, and “fare rules” is the binding agreement between the airline and the consumer. In this case, AD75 was merely a “fare basis”, not mentioned anywhere in the fare rules about the requirements. The requirements about AD75 is not easily accessible, and I still cannot find anything from Korean Air’s official web page. Based on a (non-official, googled) page explaining AD75, it’s Korean Air’s regional office who is responsible for checking for requirements BEFORE selling the ticket, not the consumer. It’s up to Korean Air what fare basis they apply to come up with a price of a ticket, but after SELLING it, they should abide by the FARE RULES, not how they came up with the price. 

  47. Honestly I don’t think the motives really matter here.  I can buy your stealing argument but how exactly did the people who were taking advantage know the price was a mistake?  You mentioned the fare wasn’t completely outrageous just a really really good deal.   Doesn’t seem like there is anything underhanded going with a internet forum that users post the great bargains they find.  

    This seems like a prime example of living in an internet age.  Information moves instantly, and buisnesses benefit greatly by this.  You can book yourself a world tour in 30 seconds with no thought at all (and probably no refunds if YOU fat finger that one).   The airline really should be monitoring these things and catch that mistake before it becomes an issue.  There is no legitimate reason why the airline shouldn’t notice a certain route selling like crazy and look into why.

    Perhaps an extra 30-40 tickets go through before you catch the mistake but honoring those 30-40 probably makes a lot more sense than fighting about it.

  48. Chris,

    This really comes down to contract law.  In a case where there is a mistake in the terms, the contract is only voidable if the mistake is obvious to the “reasonable man.”  Who cares about the experts at flyer talk, who know how to pull up fare rules, routing restrictions, and all of that?  They’re not “reasonable men” and therefore aren’t the standard to which this is held.  This is the principle on how airlines can get away with socking us for a $150 change fee for screwing up a date.  I might have made a mistake, but it is not obvious to the airline — therefore, the contract is valid.

    KE screwed up on this one.  They should have sent out notice ASAP that they did not intend to honor the tickets, with a disclaimer that they would if the appropriate regulatory authorities required them to.

    I still go back to BA’s fiasco a few years ago, with the NA-India fares priced at $500.  BA is notorious for taking on high fuel surcharges.  Can they really say that the fare was obviously a mistake, because it was a $40 fare with $460 in fees, charges, and surcharges?  In that environment, can even a Flyer Talk expert distinguish between a fare that is too good to be true, or an airline getting creative with its pricing and advertising to avoid some taxes and minimize some discounts based off the “published fare?”

    I understand your hesitation to get involved with these cases, and especially attach yourself to the Flyer Talk community.  To each his own.  But, what I think you should do is establish a list of objective criteria that a lay person could use to determine whether a fare is a mistake or valid.  Then, when requests come in, you can use that list to decide whether or not you help.  If the fare passes a high-level common sense/smell test, it’s good.  If not, pound sand.  And BTW, that’s precisely the legal standard that would be applied.  No need to call people thieves.

    1. The purchaser bought a discounted ticket that they didn’t qualify for.  This far different than the BA example.  The fare rule dictates who can use this ticket. 

      1. Does a reasonable man know what AD75 means?  I sure as heck didn’t.  As an ex-industry employee, I know what an ID75 is, and it’s not a confirmed ticket.

        And that’s what this all comes down to — what does the average man off of the street know about what he is buying?

        1. That is why you should ask questions and not assume anything online is for real.  This seems to be solid basic fodder in complaints for Chris is almost all articles.

      2. Please read my comments below about ‘fare basis’ and ‘fare rules’. There was no requirements and restrictions in the fare rules when these tickets were sold. 

          1. Because the ‘fare basis’ says AD75, but there is no information (even on Korean Air’s web page) what it means. Again, fare basis means how they calculated the price, and it is totally possible that Korean Air announces promotional fare to their new route based on the deepest discount existing in their system. What matters in this contract is fare rules, not fare basis.

    1. I seem to be one of those people and I will defend myself. What did I do wrong? I bought it from Expedia on Sept 4th (my friend told me about it and it was up for at least 4 days), my flight was re-booked on Sept 22nd (why if it was a mistake would they do that?), and finally ‘cancelled’ on Nov 7th. I’ve bought equipment in preparation for the trip that Korean Air refuses to refund because it was valid for over two months. What did I do wrong? Because somewhere in the fare rules (which since Sept 6th I can’t even see) had “AD75” in them? Would you know what “AD75” meant? It’s not like I bought it and it said “TRAVEL AGENTS ONLY” and I clicked that I was a travel agent.

      1. Go back to Expedia and ask them why they sold you a ticket meant for travel agents only. It’s that simple – ask them to fix it.

  49. Yes, they should have cancelled the tickets promptly, and refunded equally promptly;  most disappointed customers would have accepted and said nothing.   They did  not.  Now, why not simply honor the fares, instead of all this delay and bad publicity … or is it even too late for Korean Air to recoup the bad publicity, so why bother.

    It seems to me that if the error is not caught promptly, then the airline normally is both legally and morally obliged to honor the fare, and that applies whether or not those buying the tickets are insiders who are attempting to profit from a mistake, or others who simply found an unexpected bargain.  Anyone is entitled to be as lucky or as industrious as they please in finding bargains.

    One final note:  thanks Chris for the link to the FlyerTalk web site – most interesting reading.   Are there really some people who have all this time to write on blogs in this detail?   Oops, I should be careful, or someone may accuse me of being a time waster;  but then I am retired.

  50. If Korean had acted promptly to prevent travelers booking the erroneous fare, they would have been assured that all people already booked were acting honestly, and could simply have honored the tickets. In that part of the world, saving face is worth a lot more than a small amount of foregone revenue. But by waiting so long, korean exposed itself to possible viral spreading of word about the low fare online.

  51. I voted not to get involved for two reasons: 1) First and foremost, Chris needs to stay clear of association with people who are apparently trying to game the system. 2) But, even if #1 wasn’t an issue in this case, his role in helping would be to get a fair settlement from the airline and he admits that Korean Air has made a decent offer in this case. It may not be perfect, but it’s better than many carriers would likely offer. Therefore, there really isn’t anything for him to do in this case.

    1. I do not agree Korean Air has made a decent offer. And I think what Chris meant is that it’s not a ‘terrible’ offer if the offer was made on time — which is not the case here.
      They sent out vouchers only to a handful of people, and their voucher is only valid when we book directly with Korean Air. I still did not get any voucher nor refunds. They’re not giving out clear answers how they’re going to refund all non-refundable fees occurred due to cancellations of the tickets. Being a Korean, I am a frequent flyer of Korean Air, regularly flying to Korea, and their $200 voucher really means nothing since ticket prices are much higher if you book directly through Korean Air. I would not call that a decent offer. 

      1. GJ are you telling us that your fare is for USA to Seoul (ICN) only?
        Many of the people were flying BEYOND Seoul. Is the problem bigger than the flyertalk article on Palau? Please clarify.

        1. Many Koreans, including me, booked this flight for a stopover (with $100 additional cost) at ICN, since the route was (KE airports in US) to ICN to ROR. My main purpose was also visiting Korea, and Palau vacation was a huge plus. I heard about this cheap air fare personally from my  friend, who is also  Korean. My mentioning flying to Korea just means that I know vouchers that are only useful when you buy directly from KE does not mean anything for most of their routes. 

  52. I think this is one of those times the airline needs to suck it up and put it down to a business expense.  As it has been pointed out by many (both here and on the other web-sites), this is not a completely out of the realm of possibility fare.  It is low, but not so low that it seems to be a “fat-fingered” error on its face.  I also have an issue with lumping everyone in with deliberately taking advantage of the deal, not all were doing so with the intention of taking advantage of the airline. 

    I have a solution that the airline has not offered, that may or may not be most fair to everyone involved.  Instead of offering the cheapest fare today (or the day the passengers were notified of the error), why not the cheapest price on the date they booked?  If the airline cannot figure out what the price was/should have been on that date, then I think they owe it to the pasengers to honor the rate at which they booked.  A flight booked back in September for a February departure probably cost less than a flight booked this week for a February departure.  Korean Air can do better than their current offer.  It did take them over 2 months to figure out how to fix the problem and what may sound “fair” to you certainly does not to me.  They had a contract with the airline and should be made “whole” since the airline has now breached the contract. 

  53. It was also posted to SlickDeals.net see: http://slickdeals.net/forums/showthread.php?t=3282932

    While FlyerTalk is getting a lot of heat on this thread, the guys at SlickDeals are more like the type to try and exploit something they know is false.

    1. Rich, flyertalk posted it.

      Requests for travel agent’s discount ticket is approved solely at the
      discretion of the respective Korean Air Regional Sales Office.

      – Agent’s request must be on original agency letterhead and must include
      the agent’s name, itinerary and booking class. The request must be
      signed by the owner or manager of the agency.
      – The request must be accompanied by a copy of the agent’s valid IATAN
      ID card.
      – AD75 tickets must be issued by Korean Air, and will be valid for 3
      months from the date of ticket issuance.
      – AD75 travel is subject to embargoed travel dates. Embargo dates may
      vary each year.
      – Agent’s spouse travel is discounted at 50% of the ‘S’ class fares from
      Area 1 to Area 3, or ‘T’ class fares from Area 1 to Korea.
      – AD50 must be accompanied by the AD75 ticket user throughout the entire

      AD ticket Fare application.

      ¤· The following published fares apply

      – P/F/C Class : R/P/F/J/C/C2RT fare
      – Economy Class :
      * Applicable Fares from the U.S. : TEE/SEE/SO2/Y/YO2
      * Applicable Fares from Canada : TEECA/SEECA/S/SO2/YO2
      * Applicable Fares to Japan : Please check with the Ticket
      Office for up-dated applicable fare

      ¤· Validity : 3 months after ticket issuance [No Ticket Extension]

      So based on this how did Expedia or Travelocity purportedly issue AD75 tickets to the general public?

      Please note that the only information I have on this event is what I read here and the link to flyertalk. It would be interesting to see an actual ticket (ETR) so I can read the fare construction line and the FBC. The point is if these were AD75 tickets as flyertalk folks say it is, then you need (at least) an IATAN ID to get it. That’s what I was saying all along.

      1. If you need a travel agent ID to purchase the ticket then that should be part of the original booking process–not something after the fact.  When I book a Hilton hotel and want my AAA discount the AAA card number is required to by typed into the online form before I can book the hotel at that rate.

        1. So why didn’t Expedia and Travelocity do that (ask for IATAN NUMBERS)? Do they even know where to put those numbers in the GDS? This is an OTA mistake, not Korean Air’s. 

  54. Honestly, reading some of these comments makes me wonder if I’m living on a different planet.

    Talk about blaming the victim!!!  As Chris said, this was “a very good fare, but not too good to be true.”  If the tickets were being offered for $5.60 rather than $560, well, that might have been another story, no?  How can anyone fault a person for snatching up “a very good fare”?

    If the fare was only for travel agents, then WHY were they sold to ordinary guys at all?  Good grief!  If I’m not supposed to be able to buy something from you, then why are you trying to sell it to me?  Imagine, e.g., a company that sells medical supplies to doctors’ offices.  If a non-doctor like me tries to make a purchase, wouldn’t you EXPECT them to tell me, “sorry, doctors only!”  How is this the customer’s fault?

    Finally, why would somebody’s motivation in buying from KE even MATTER?  Let’s say I find a fantastic deal on towels at a department store, and after buying a few for myself, I then tell my friends about it.  So they run over there and get the deal too.  Then we discover somehow that the fantastic deal is really due to clerical error.  Well, SO WHAT?  How is that OUR FAULT?  How could anyone call us “thieves?!

    I would expect any airline to conduct business with the same basic ethics that I do.  As someone with a side-business, I often send emails to potential clients quoting my rates.  Here and there, I have caught myself just in time, before sending an email with a numerical typo.  If I hadn’t caught it, and someone agreed to a rate that I had wrongly offered… ethical standards would dictate that I HONOR IT.  And I’m not a multi-zillion dollar company like KE, either.

    I really feel for the people who bought these tickets.  Since I’m not a TA, I can easily imagine myself ending up in their shoes, congratulating themselves on finding a great deal.  But after reading this article, what I CAN’T easily imagine is that I would ever buy a ticket from KE after hearing the way they treat their customers. 

    I have an east-Asia trip coming up in the next year or so.  I will avoid booking through KE because of this incident.  Are you reading this, KE? 

    1. Yes, we do live on very different planets.  

      If I notice that a cashier at the local grocery store has handed me $20 when I
      asked for change for $10, I kindly stop and ensure that the error is corrected
      before I leave the store.  Those are the
      ethical standards of the planet I choose to live on.

      Apparently, on your planet, if someone notices that a
      cashier is giving $20 in change for $10, you are supposed to rush home and tell
      all your friends, so that they too can take advantage of this incredible
      opportunity.  Moreover, when the store
      says “oops, we made a mistake,” the people who rushed over to take advantage of the mistake are entitled to stomp their feet on the ground and
      cry, “HOW IS THIS OUR FAULT?”

      People can argue about whether or not people should have
      known this was realistic fare or not.  I
      think we can probably agree that some would and some wouldn’t. Some people look
      at their change before leaving the grocery store, some don’t.  Okay, fine.  But clearly there were some people who knew full well that this
      fare was a big old fat finger mistake and rushed to take advantage of it.  I don’t think people so much begrudge them the attempt, but they are offended by the
      false moral outrage and strangled ethical and legal arguments some are using to
      justify themselves.

      Nevertheless, I think people of both planets can
      agree that Korean Air lost any standing it had when it waited two months to
      correct the error.  A day, or two … a
      week, maybe.  But two months?  That’s absurd and wrong.

        1. Hi, I agree with you in that taking “extra change” for a smaller bill is not only morally wrong but a felony in your planet and mine as well. But I think the point here is that the airline did in fact published the new rate, knew about it for a while (at least enough time for expedia, and other web agents to publish it on their web sites for anyone to buy), waited two months to “think about it” and then decided it can get more money by yanking it. Yes, mistakes do happen and yes taking advantage of them is also morally wrong but to equate it to “taking” away form someone with full knowledge is probably not accurate. KA actually published the rate or normal people wouldn’t be able to have found them on normal web agency sites, at least that’s what I understand from the article above… I say, people should be shamed for taking advantage of KA, and the right thing to do is to accept full reimbursement, but the PR costs of having to do manage control for denying ticketed flyers what they paid for might be greater than simply honoring the tickets. We don’t disagree, we simply say your analogy is not equivalent.

          1. Okay, so maybe I should improve the analogy; but let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be hard to do in order to make the very same point.  And again, my criticisms were intended to be leveled at a very narrow spectrum of people who purchased this fare with full knowledge.

            Yes, the two months to “think about it” is a real problem.  A day or two or even a week after the tickets were booked, KA’s compensation would be fair.  Two months later, because of the investment of time and money people have put forth since in planning their vacation, it’s not.  

            I personally think that after two months KA should have just honored the tickets and moved on; take it as a lesson learned. 

      1. Beenthere, your analogy is totally flawed.  A parallel would exist IF, say, the advertised fare was $560, but somebody purchased it and later found that his credit card had only been charged $280.  THAT scenario would equate to your comparison, but that’s obviously not what happened here.  These people paid the advertised price, fair and square. 

        1. It’s not flawed and my point stands.  Some people rushed in to take advantage of a fare they knew full well was the result of a simple clerical error (it was posted by mistake, and but not advertised as you wrongly submit), and now want to claim some sort of moral and ethical high ground and argue that they are somehow victims here. 

          I feel deeply for those who innocently bought this fare, and am appalled by Korean Air’s inexcusable delay in rectifying this situation, but I don’t want to live in place where people who knowingly try to pull a fast one are accorded sainthood.  As I said, different planets. 

          1. Sorry, but I do think your analogy is flawed. Closer to what happened is a store advertising a special price for frequent shoppers and not checking for the customer’s frequent shopper card upon checkout. Clearly being charged a lower amount than the agreed upon price is unethical if noticed and not told, but getting a promotional price is not. Remember that most people were unsure if it was actually a mistake and you can see in the fare rules that,
            “01. ELIGIBILITY
            which implies that it is simply a promotion, not knowing about what an AD75 is.

          2. I am sorry but I guess I don’t understand your point then. What seems to have happened, as far as I can tell, is:
            1.) People found a cheap fare that while low in price is in-line with what other promotional fares have been in the past.
            2.) People bought it because there were “NO ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS” even though the basis was AD75. The RULES say that anyone can get it or at least make it unclear.
            3.) Korean Air and Expedia did not contact people with this information or try to correct their mistake until two months after purchase.

            Your analogy is much closer to being charged $500 for a fare advertised as $1000. What happened here is that people were charged $500 for a fare advertised as $500 if you were a travel agent (this was unclear as told above) and the airline did not check if they were. Sure some people seemed to be okay with the airline cancelling the tickets, but the majority bought it for miles or a good trip. Just because it’s a good deal, doesn’t make it stealing.

          3. Please read my other posts in this same thread, both above and below yours, where I’ve endeavored to ensure that my point is explicitly clear. There is nothing in your post I really disagree with or intend to argue, but that’s because you’ve again missed my point entirely. 

          4. Yes. I understand that you do not like the ‘moral high ground’ aspect of some of the consumers. But my point is that while you say that people knew for sure it was an error, the line “NO ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS APPLY” in the rules does not back that up. Reading the FT forum posted, people knew it was an AD75 but are unsure if it really applies or what. Also of note from reading that forum is that Korean Air is just starting to fly to Palau and the fares could have easily been intended to advertise that route.

            If it were obviously a mistake, I’d agree with you. But because it was up for several days and all companies do promotions it’s a lot more unclear that it actually is a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, Korean Air has made it clear it is a mistake but the average consumer does not know what AD75 is and sees that there aren’t any special requirements for the flights and sees that it’s still expensive to fly and has no reason to suspect it’s really a mistake. Your analogy at the beginning was that the consumer was charged less, knew it and didn’t say anything. But what happened was the consumer was charged an advertised rate, and was then asked for several hundred more dollars later because Korean Air messed up.

          5. For goodness sakes, please READ, because you are STILL missing one of the key elements of my posts.  I never said, suggested, or implied that EVERYBODY who bought this fare knew it was an error.  Quite the contrary, I repeatedly used the word “some,” as in SOME people knew.  I was around FT and SD when this all happened and had an interest in booking a dive trip to Palau, and I know this to be true.  But I also explicitly said this was most likely a “minority” of people.  And I’ve said repeatedly that I support those who bought this innocently, especially given the fact that KA took two months (instead of a day or two) to try to correct the error. 

            The bottom line is, you are arguing against someone who, for the most part (but undoubtedly not all), agrees with you.   I’m done. 

      2. Get off your high horse, will ya?  The fare was $560, which is about the same as the “normal” fare to Europe in the off-season.  Unless you are an insider, there is no way to figure it was a mistake.  THAT is the difference with your cashier example.

        See a deal — tell your friends.  What’s wrong with that?  See a dumb cashier and tell your friends to take advantage — THAT is obviously wrong, but that is NOT how most people saw the Korean deal.

        Yes, there are people who took the deal while knowing it was a mistake.  Some of them are now trying to shame the company into honoring it — and they lack moral ground.  However, I think they are a minority, since there is really no way to turn this situation into monetary profit IF THE DEAL IS HONORED.

        Does this sound real: “I’ll spend my vacation time on a remote Pacific island, just because Korean Air made a mistake posting the fare.  I’ll laugh at their expense, knowing they lose money on transporting me.  Meanwhile, I’ll spend lots of money on hotels and entertainment on that island.”

        Or is THIS more real: “Korean made a mistake.  No way this is the right fare.  I’ll book it, but they are bound to cancel it, so I’ll take whatever they offer to get me off their back.  If they give me a measly $200 voucher, I’ll try to shame them into giving more.”

        1. Actually, Andrew, I think we are on the same horse.  As I’ve said, I support those who innocently booked this fare. I have no problem with their outrage, especially given that KA waited two months to rectify their error.  That’s wrong, and the compensation KA is offering is inadequate in those circumstances. 

          My gripe is with the moral outrage some people have expressed about losing a deal they knew to be flawed.  As I clearly said, I don’t begrudge them for the attempt (and I think your last paragraph is accurate as to the likely intent), but take offense to the attitude some have expressed here, on FT, and on SD.  Those people, who we both agree are likely in the minority,  and who you say (and I agree) lack moral ground for their complaint, are the people I have a problem with.  If I didn’t make that point clear, or used too tall a horse to make that point, I apologize. 

  55. At this point I believe that KA should just honor the tickets (I voted for you to stay away from it!) and here is why: It will give them (KA) the ability to always say they made a mistake, waited two months and yet honor the tickets. Nothing strange about that, it truly ignores the criminals but not because they deserve the ticket but because I sincerely believe that they will pay, one way or another. It also truly forgives the non-criminals who booked the flight genuinely thinking it was a great deal. As a company, they can’t really make the kinds of choices you are wrestling with, they simply have to decide to either honor them or risk a PR nightmare (even if undeserved) or own up to their mistakes (after all, the “thiefs” were taking advantage of KA’s mistake, they didn’t directly hacked the system and changed the rate) Take care and thanks for continuing to keep us updated on all things travel…

  56. The US has a policy of accepting legitimatly issued tickets. I once had a RT fare in our GDS ( Galileo booking system) that allowed RT Morgantown WV to LAX for $90.00. When I called USAIR to verify the fare, they said it was an error, but currently tickitable. We issued about 30 tickets for our  “let’s have a great weekend” clients. It took 2 hours to remove the fare. We got the hotel commissions, car commissions, and they all had great times and with 0 commission on the air, it was worth our time. All of these people are not traveling on the same flight and the same date, so Korean can easily absorb the fare. If the ticket issues, then the airline needs to accept it.

  57. I didn’t vote because I don’t like the terminology.  If there were an option to “urge” the airline to honor the tickets, I could have voted for that.

    The airlines are between a rock and a hard place.  If there’s an error in an advertising circular, it can be discovered and corrected before people get to the store.  Airlines, though, aren’t allowed to advertise prices before they’re available.  This does indicate to me, though, that they need to be extra diligent in their quality assurance and quality control (they’re two entirely different things) BEFORE posting the fare.

    That said, there can still be some tickets sold before the fare is corrected.  I’ll give KE the benefit of the doubt concerning checking with the government first, but the fare still should have been pulled within minutes of its discovery (at most 24 hours, since it can take that long to work through some distribution systems).  The only real problem is what to do about the tickets already sold.

    As a general rule, I think companies — and people — should take responsibility for their mistakes.  In this case, as I said above, I would *urge* the airline to honor the fare for the tickets that were sold, then come up with some way to deal with the ID issue for eligibility (maybe create a new fare code for this one instance and update the PNRs).

    BTW, the vast — and I mean VAST — majority of FlyerTalk members are not out to take advantage of errors.  There are those few, yes, just as there are in any other public forum (I don’t mean just online).  Most who are looking for good fares do so in the same spirit as minimizing their taxes: take advantage of what’s offered, but stay within the rules.

  58. FWIW – 

    OTA (online travel agents) such as Expedia do not upload the fares or the rules when a search is done they get pulled from another external source and assembled in to a web page for consumers to look at and make selections. It is my understanding that OTA do not have a mechanism in which to detect what could be a possible fare mistake unless done on the fly for each an every fare as the come in (no pun intended).

    OTA such as Expedia also did not actually make the credit card charge Korean Air did. Korean Air pays Expedia to advertise their fares on their site.

    As for the far rules and restrictions here are the most important ones (that could be read before purchase and up to 5 September):

    From: Los Angeles, CA (LAX-Los Angeles Intl.)
    To: Koror, Palau (ROR-Palau Intl.)
    Fare Basis Code: SLXEE/AD75
    1 SLXEE/AD75 S R 406.00 —- – -/12M PA01
    USD 406.00 0450 E01SEP11 D-INFINITY FC-SLXEE FN-



      OF THE FARE.

    There is nothing in the rule and restrictions that make any mention of any requirement that only a travel agent could buy the ticket. So while the AD75 basis is typically reserved for travel agent pricing how does a consumer know the difference between that a promotional discount basis.

    1. I am not sure I believe your comment but here is exactly what you posted from the rules, which CLEARLY states AGENT DISCOUNT.  This is just like a SENIOR DISCOUNT entry in a fare rule.  It also states, contact KE for more infomation, not valid for auto pricing.

      What don’t you see there?  And thank you for posting this.


      1. But it also says, “01. ELIGIBILITY  NO ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS APPLY”  which to me, even if I read the fare rules (which I don’t), I’d take to mean, ANYONE can buy this fare.

        I fail to see why anyone, who isn’t a travel agent or looking for say a specific booking code or whatever, would look at these rules.  They are not clear and do not tell the average person anything. 

      2. Knowing what I know now I would agree. But when I first read the rules and restrictions my question was what is “Agent Discounts” Is Travelocity or Expedia the agent? Is Korean the agent?  I really had no context for its meaning. Which is the problem with the rules and restrictions – in general they are written for the travel industry not the consumer. But the airlines expect us to read and understand them. 

        Now throw in the OTA and the mess begins. For instance, what the hell does  “NOTE – TEXT BELOW NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTO PRICING” mean?? I have no clue what auto pricing is so how should I know what “Agent discounts” is suppose to mean. 

        BTW No rule for Senior discounts but:


        Which means to me there is no child fare.

        1. This is why the internet isn’t such a great thing for airline tickets.  People don’t pay attention, it is confusing…even for me with 3 decades of issuing tickets…and after all the dotting of the i’s and the crossing of the t’s, we still get hit with a debit memos.  Airline tickets are accountable documents, not just pieces of paper.  KE is a international carrier and has to file fares and fare rules with the US, which is one reason they had to contact the US Gov. 

          People think that now that tickets can be purchased online everything is just a piece of cake.  It isn’t.  There are rules and laws that control international fares and as such, you the purchaser can be caught in the middle as with this KE situation.  It isn’t just as easy as online shoppers think it should be.

          To read a silly statment by someone here that they don’t have time to read these silly pages of rules is ridiculous.  It is a contract you are entering into, just like your rental car agreement, you insurance policy, etc.

          I don’t defend the airlines for a lot that they do, but at the same time I won’t defend those who think they have rights when they don’t bother to pay attention to what they obviously don’t understand and don’t think they need to.

          1. If they were totally covered with canceling all these tickets by citing the fare rules then why did it take so long for them to do it?  Why did they have to contact the DOT and get approval?  They obviously had it in there so the could obviously, legally, cancel the ticket at any time.

          2. What are you talking about? It clearly says,
            “01. ELIGIBILITY
            Doesn’t that add to the confusion? Perhaps under “01. ELIGIBILITY” it should have said “TRAVEL AGENT ID REQUIRED”. Also, not everyone has been issuing tickets for decades and instantly knows what to look for. AD75 meant nothing to me. “AGENT DISCOUNT” does not say “TRAVEL AGENT DISCOUNT” and thus could imply that the AGENT is Expedia or Korean Air and is offering a discount.

          3. This is used for resident requirements, unaccompanied minor information like must be traveling with a paid adult.  Not for discounted information, which 75AD is.

          4. Chris, allow me to explain how a fare rule is formatted in ATPCO (Airline Tariff Publishing Corp).

            There are a number (about 33) of Rule Categories —

            The structure within the rules system designed to
            identify various kinds of restrictive information regarding a fare.
            Restrictions are listed in the FareManager Rules database and are sorted
            by various categories of application such as day/time and season of

            01 Eligibility

            02 Day/Time

            03 Seasonality

            04 Flight Application

            05 Advanced Reservations/Ticketing

            06 Minimum Stay

            07 Maximum Stay

            08 Stopovers

            09 Transfers

            10 Permitted Combinations

            11 Blackout Dates

            12 Surcharges

            13 Accompanied Travel

            14 Travel Restrictions

            15 Sales Restrictions

            16 Penalties

            17 Higher Intermediate Point

            18 Ticket Endorsements

            19 Children Discounts

            20 Tour Conductor Discounts

            21 Agency Discounts

            22 All Other Discounts

            23 Miscellaneous Provisions

            25 Fare By Rule

            26 Groups

            27 Tours

            28 Visit Another Country

            29 Deposits

            31 Voluntary Changes

            33 Voluntary Refunds

            35 Negotiated Fare Restrictions

            50 Application and Other Conditions01 Eligibility refers to the published fare itself.For example, here is the published fare from NYC to ROR for low season.NYCROR-KE  3SEP11      *RULE DISPLAY*     TARIFF 0378 RULE A003* ADD APPLICABLE TAX * FED INSP FEES *                         013-FARE BASIS         USD       NUC                PTC  FT  GISLXEE              R   1922.00   1922.00               ADT  EX  PASLXEE/CH25      R   1442.00   1441.50               CNN  EX  PASLXEE              R   1922.00   1922.00               UNN  EX  PASLXEE/IN90       R    192.00     192.20               INF  EX  PASLXEE/CH25      R   1442.00   1441.50               INS  EX  PABOOKING CODES        S                                         FIRST TRAVEL    – 1SEP11    So the ordinary adult pays a base fare of $1922 roundtrip from NYC to Palau. That Base Fare does *not* include Taxes and Surcharges.01 Eligibility  NO REQUIREMENTS means that ALL adults are given this base fare $1922 (subject to further rules). If there was an Eligibility Requirement you probably will see MILITARY or SEAMAN. Since there was none then all ordinary passengers can get this fare.Category 21 specifies the Travel Agency discounts.These are the discounts (not fares) to apply if the passenger is a IATAN card bearing travel agent. AD75 means the travel agent will get a 75% discount off the BASE FARE. So the travel agent will only pay                                25% of the ADULT Base fare or $480.50 before tax and surcharge.So every adult is entitled to the BASE fare as per Category 01 but not every adult is entitled to a Travel Agent Discount. You (passenger) must be a travel agent to get that discount. You are confused because Expedia only printed the Categories and NOT THE FARE BASES THEY WERE REFERRING TO. That’s why I posted a fare that the categories were referring to.Makes sense to you now?

          5. And yet thousands of travelers purchase airfare everyday online.  Having an obscure rule noted in the extended verbiage and not before booking seems a bit late in the ticket purchase game.

            I’ve been on the fence since first reading about this travel issue but as the opinions and thoughts have been posted I think Chris should steer clear and KE should honor the tickets.

            It worries me very much that this could set a precedent for airlines canceling good deals (I flew to JFK for $99 on Southwest would that be considered a fat finger deal??) and calling them mistakes in the future.

          6. Again, I am not defending the carrier and how they are handling this, but this is different from a regular discounted fare mistake which most carriers honor or have bended to pressure to honor.  This type of fare is not applicable to the average traveler.

          7. Bodega, I don’t mean to belabor the point but this fare was available on publicly used consumer sites so that it wasn’t restricted from the point of purchase makes this an indefensible issue for me. 

          8. It probably was on my GDS, too, but I still couldn’t sell it.  It was an error, but the rules clearly stated who could use the ticket.  The OTA screwed up and shouldn’t have allowed this fare to be ticketed.

      1. What you can’t understand with this?

        #if __GNUC__ > 2 || __GNUC__ == 2 && __GNUC_MINOR__ >= 7
        #define __strfmonlike(fmtarg, firstvararg)
        __attribute__((__format__ (__strfmon__, fmtarg, firstvararg)))
        #define __strftimelike(fmtarg)
        __attribute__((__format__ (__strftime__, fmtarg, 0)))
        #define __strfmonlike(fmtarg, firstvararg)
        #define __strftimelike(fmtarg)

        It is perfectly understandable to me. But then again I look at text like this most every day.

        As I wrote below who is the agent? There is no context for wording unless one is/has either worked in the travel industry or one taken the time learn the lingo. Which a travel agent should. I am not a travel agent – but you appear to be one. If the airlines want to sell their fares directly to the public then they need to make their rules clear to the lay public. Further, one can read the first 10 lines of the fare rules and see the AD75 amongst the other gobbly-gook but I guarantee you that by the time they, the lay public get through the next 20 rules they will have forgotten about seeing the AD75 unless they are specifically looking for it. 

        BTW – Did you read and understand every line when you signed your mortgage? Which is one reason is why the banks were required to provide a Good Faith Estimate which included the APR interest rate.

        1. By the way, your programming code is understandable to me. I am a programmer.
          But I also understand Fare Rules and the complexity of CODING IT.
          Whether you like it or know it, US LAW defines that the contractual obligations between the airline carrier and the passenger are described in the TARIFF (Fare Rules) and a Contract of Carriage (and recently a customer service plan). And they must be within the rules required by the DOT, FAA and International Conventions which the USA is a signatory (i.e. Montreal and Warsaw).
          There are a lot of laws people do not understand and the are NOT EXEMPTED from observing them.
          Too bad if airline passengers do not understand the Fare Rules or what they are buying. You hire a lawyer if you don’t understand the law or a programmer if you cannot write code. So why not ask help from a travel advisor? Call the airline or the agent you are buying from and ask questions BEFORE you buy. Is that too difficult?

          1. Tony A – As I and several others have stated, this fare was available on several well known OTAs, where we, as the general public, can expect to go and buy an airline ticket for use by the general public.  We do not expect to see tickets available to travel agents only on such sites, nor should we be expected to know what an obscure code of AD75 would mean, nor should we need to consult a lawyer or a TA just to buy an airline ticket (I’ve actually been told that TAs would prefer not to handle airline ticket only purchases).  Maybe every OTA who published this rate screwed up (although I find it hard to believe that they all missed it, but I don’t know how that whole thing works), but to blame the traveler, as you have done throughout, almost seems like you are upset that someone would dare buy a ticket that was only intended for TA use, and had the nerve to not use a TA when buying said tickets.

          2. MarlaM, if one is not a travel agent with an IATAN card and insist to get this rate (or discounted fare) then surely I will tell them that they are not entitled to this fare. That’s not BLAMING them. That’s just telling them what it is.

            Even if the OTA actually SOLD them the fare, they are still NOT entitled to the fare. That FACT does not change whether they know it or not. As Bodega has described there are thousand of fares in the system, but we cannot and should not sell them to all passengers. That’s why if you read my post, I blame the OTA that sold the fare.

            The way the travel industry documents if a fare has a travel agent discount is to describe it in Cat 21 of the tariff rules. Obviously, if  one is NOT a travel agent then what is in Cat 21 should not concern them since it does not apply, UNLESS they insist that they are entitled to a 75% travel agent discount.

            The LAW says that airlines simply need to keep a copy of the tariff and the contract of carriage in its office (or a website) and show it to passengers. If they cannot read or understand it, then it’s their problem.

          3. It is interesting that the feeling is that because the OTA has it posted, they rightfully should get it.  We know on our end, the airlines have NEVER allowed that with us and now they are experiencing how the airlines operate. 

            I find it so interesting that so many don’t think they have a responsibility in reading the rules and that even by clicking on the agreement to the terms and conditions doesn’t apply to this.

          4. Honestly Bodega, it’s depressing to see how people are so engulfed into this convoluted consumer rights trip. Very few even understand the concept of Common Carriage and what Airline Tariffs mean in the first place. To them it’s a game – how cheap a fare can I get even if I have to cheat with the rules or take advantage of someone’s mistake. They are so good at playing the victim card, too.
            Let’s take this S-class AD75 fare to Palau (ROR) as an example. You get all these people who you’ve never seen in this forum before suddenly show up pleading that Elliott advocate for them. Let’s see how selfish they can be.Suppose they get their way and are provided flights to Palau on S class AD75 fares for something like $500-600 R/T. Did these people ever consider that there were others who bought ordinary Q and T class tickets for the same flight and will pay around $1600~$1800 minimum. Those honest people who bought Q and T class tickets using the regular fares will be the real VICTIMS. They will have been cheated by a gang of “thieves?” (as the article alluded to them).And since S class fares are one of the most expensive fares in Korean’s economy class inventory, then the KE yield manager may automatically zero out the cheaper Q and T class inventories forcing HONEST customers to pay even more.And then you hear these BS – oh it’s our honeymoon, our trip of a lifetime, family reunions, robbing a blind Phd student of blah, blah blah … Ok so why should these bunch of opportunists PAY LESS than anyone else who will follow the rules? Common Carriers are required to publish a tariff of fares, and to charge the same fare to everyone complying with the same set of rules and conditions in that tariff.  Providing these self-centered losers with a discount (NOT intended for them) and NOT providing the same discount to similar types of customer might actually BE ILLEGAL because it is highly discriminatory. Of course self-centered folks will never see this point. But Chris Elliott should.

  59. I hope Korean Airlines takes this blog with a grain of salt. Most of the comments here are astroturf, created by the very people holding bogus tickets. Most of Elliiott’s regular commenters are at the beginning and stood by Korean Airlines handling of the situation. The people who seem to be expressing outrage are the one’s who bought tickets based on a tip from FlyerTalk.

  60. As I have reviewed this blog. I notice that the fare being used is an AD75 fare. This “REQUIRES” an IATAN travel agent ID to use whaen traveling. Quoting your story”  The affected passengers were eventually given two choices: either a full refund of the ticket or the opportunity to purchase a discounted ticket on the same itinerary.
    Korean Air also offered to reimburse passengers for any additional expenses incurred as a result of canceling their Palau trip, such as cancelation fees for previously booked flights, hotels, and ground transportation. And it threw in a $200 travel voucher for a future flight to any Korean Air destination from a U.S. gateway. Take there offer and run!
    Travelers are responsible to abide by the fare basis AD75; ie I am not in the military, so I am not eligible for the military discounts in travel. Therefore, Korean has the right to collect the full fare from anybody that shows up at the gate without a proper travel agent ID.
    Please do not get involved with this horrible error by the purchasers.

    1. 1.) Korean Air is not refunding everything. I will be out about $200 items that I would never had purchased if not going to Palau.
      2.) Korean Air did not inform passengers of this fare status until two months after they pulled it. They made no effort to contact passengers about this status until two months later (effectively getting an interest free loan). You may know what it is, but I didn’t even know to look for it. If the ticket had come with the obvious stipulation of travel agents only then you would have a case.

      Also if you read the fare rules posted below it says
      “01. ELIGIBILITY
      Further adding to the confusion and idea that it could be a valid promotional fare.

      1. It seems you were an innocent victim of the mistake.  I am on your side as I wouldn’t have known either what a AD75 fare was, nor would I have read all the ticket terms once I saw the “no eligibility requirements apply”.  You won’t really win the general opinion here though as most who read this blog are in the travel industry and don’t think anyone should book travel except through a travel agent (TA).   

        As a Christian, I believe it is wrong to knowingly cheat someone and those who knew it was an error were wrong.  I also find it very sad that some will knowingly take advantage of an error.  But because there are innocent victims such as yourself, I do think Korean Air should do the right thing and honor the price they quoted.  

        Good luck with your quest to make Korean Air honor their original agreement with you.   Don’t give up.

      1. Rich I’m sure Traveling Man checks every ticket.  In fact EVERYONE checks all the legalese of every airline ticket they ever buy but you and I.  We are the only ones in the world who did not know prior to today that AD75 meant only travel agents could buy and fly on this tickets (apologies if you did know and I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t).

      2. For international tickets I check the rules on each and everyone.  I remember pricing a ticket for a client on LH from one international destination to another.  I was about to ticket when I read the rules and found out the fare was only good for residents of the country my client was flying into. 

        With airline tickets, just remember the rule:
        Just because you can, doesn’t mean you are allowed to. 

      3. ** Hint, Hint, Hint ***. If you are a travel agent selling KE fares you get used to seeing their common Fare Basis Codes (hint they end with EE). Travel Agents have to autoprice their sold itineraries and STORE their fare quotes (these become part of the ticket image), so they read the fares basis codes. Any travel agent knows that a fare basis code concatenated with ticket designator AD75 means Agency Discount 75% off base fare. A travel agent knows this because this is HIS or HER own (personal) discounted fare if he/she has an IATAN card. In other words, if a travel agent starts issuing an AD75 ticket for someone else he/she should be scratching his/her head because that other person SHOULD BE A TRAVEL AGENT who can book it themselves using their own GDS.
        This is how idiotic this situation is. A good travel agent knows this.

    2. Fare basis is not what customer should abide, it just means how airlines come up with the pricing. If it had certain requirements to meet, it should have been written explicitly in the fare rules. Fare basis have meanings only for airlines and travel agents who are selling the tickets. What matters in the contract should be ‘fare rules’. $200 travel voucher is useless, because we should buy tickets directly from Korean Air. As being a frequent flyer on US-Korea route, KE tickets are way cheaper if you buy it from travel agencies. 

      1. The fare rule comes first, then a fare basis is assigned to it.  The letter and numbers in the fare basis often tell us about the type of fare it is. VWNR23 would tell me that this is a weekday fare, good for travel on a Tues or Wed and is nonrefundable and you have to book V class, to get it.  But online you never see all the classes of service, but the airline and a TA with a GDS can.

        1. So it is the TA’s responsibility to check those rules, not customer’s. If an airline authorizes such fare to be published by OTA, the responsibility should lie somewhere between OTA and the airline, not any place closer to the customer.

          1. Yes, the OTA screwed up, but then so did the clients since the rules were there and they didn’t read them thoroughly.  Since you are not speaking with a person, it is your responsibility to know what you are purchasing and when you click that you understand the terms and conditions, you are not really being truthful…or so many have stated here.

          2. I think the law requires the seller to provide ‘terms and conditions,’ which were not provided correctly in this case. If the buyer agreed only to the terms and conditions provided on the screen, I do not think buyer have any further responsibilities beyond that. I think I am repeating the same point over and over. KE never stated in the terms and conditions, or fare rules, that customers should be qualified for anything. They never contacted OTAs regarding to this error, which cannot be explained if this has been the OTA’s responsibility. 

          3. GJ you are using the alleged behavior of KE AFTER you bought a ticket from the OTA which has nothing to do with terms and conditions that existed and you agreed to by clicking “yes” BEFORE you bought a ticket. Whether KE contacted the OTA after they realized the problem has nothing to do whether you agreed or not with the terms of the sale (which included the Tariff Rules).

            Please concentrate your argument on the salient points of the Tariff and the Conditions of Carriage OR any DOT rules you think KE violated. Not all the things you don’t like are violations.

  61. Chris … This is one of the few times that I have that “better you than me” feeling.
    In general, I hold airlines to the same standard they hold me. They give me a price and take my money, then a deal is a deal. I really don’t care if they made a mistake loading the rate.
    In this case, I side even more with those caught in this because the airline waited months to fess up not days like others. By that time, people had made plans, taken vacation days etc.
    Having said that, the fact that some less than scrupulous people on websites like FlyerTalk knowingly took advantage of this mistake instead of letting the airline know, causes me issues. Sorry but that is the equivalent to me of switching price tags of an item. You know its priced wrong and you still attempt to purchase which is theft.
    Ultimately, I think that Korean Air needs to fly the people at the price they paid and shoot whoever loaded the fare. If they can prove that someone purchased it knowingly, send them a “enjoy flying anyone but Korean Air” letter with a refund of what they paid. Given the “other” parties involved in this one, I think you need to bow out gracefully and let them fight the fight.  There’s too much dirt on the consumer side for a class act like you.

  62. Chris, you clearly have an ethical problem taking up this cause: you don’t defend consumers exploiting fat-finger fares, and you have a good reason not to. So of course you should not take up this cause.

    Anyway, they seem to have their own resources on this one.

  63. ***HINT,HINT*** Hardly a FAT FINGER

    See Korean Air process for AD75 Tickets. Does this look to a fat finger to you? Selling tickets on the wrong distribution channel

    You seem to be a travel agent, Can you please describe the usual process to book an AD75 tickets?


    Requests for travel agent’s discount ticket is approved solely at the discretion of the respective Korean Air Regional Sales Office.- Agent’s request must be on original agency letterhead and must includethe agent’s name, itinerary and booking class. The request must be signed by the owner or manager of the agency.- The request must be accompanied by a copy of the agent’s valid IATAN ID card.- AD75 tickets must be issued by Korean Air, and will be valid for 3 months from the date of ticket issuance.- AD75 travel is subject to embargoed travel dates. Embargo dates may vary each year. – Agent’s spouse travel is discounted at 50% of the ‘S’ class fares fromArea 1 to Area 3, or ‘T’ class fares from Area 1 to Korea.- AD50 must be accompanied by the AD75 ticket user throughout the entirejourney.AD ticket Fare application.¤· The following published fares apply – P/F/C Class : R/P/F/J/C/C2RT fare- Economy Class :* Applicable Fares from the U.S. : TEE/SEE/SO2/Y/YO2* Applicable Fares from Canada : TEECA/SEECA/S/SO2/YO2* Applicable Fares to Japan : Please check with the Ticket Office for up-dated applicable fare¤· Validity : 3 months after ticket issuance [No Ticket Extension]

    1. It can vary from carrier to carrier, but you have to be on your agency’s IATA list and have a current IATAN card.  Some carriers allow you to issue the ticket in the GDS others handle it in through their sales offices.  An agent is responsible for reporting the ticket on their IRS statement and airlines can turn your savings on a ticket into the IRS.

    2. Rich, that is the *proper* procedure for KE. If you are a travel agent with appointment to sell KE tickets (and you have a password) you can read more agency rules and procedures here https://kal4agency.koreanair.com/Default.aspx

      But you miss the point. KE never issued these tickets directly as the process requires. It’s the OTAs’ systems that issued tickets using the AD75 designator without following the above procedure. As a travel agent you can override the autopricing system of your GDS and issue AD75 tickets but these tickets can be INVALIDATED by the airline making them useless (or the airline may also simply charge the travel agent for the difference of the correct fare are through a debit memo).

      IMO this is primarily the OTA’s problem. They issued the AD75 tickets. I am afraid only the Travel Agents (TAs) in this site are understanding that issue. The TAs should know because they don’t like getting debit memos from airlines. It hurts their pockets.

      Also, here’s another common misunderstanding. They said Korean Air cancelled their tickets. I wonder if any of these passengers waiting for their refunds really know the status of their e-tickets. Their reservations may have been cancelled (all segments with status HX) but their e-tickets may still have some value since they are UNUSED (maybe open status). IMO those who really want their money back should contact their OTA and demand a refund. Ask the OTA if they have an authorization code from KE to refund the fare. If they have it, then the OTA should process the refund (put back to the original form of payment). I repeat the OTAs should be on the hook for fixing this problem. They sold the tickets.

      1. Tony, I am not very sure it’s at OTA’s fault, based on how KE handled this problem. Many travelers contacted Expedia and Travelocity multiple times after getting an e-mail from Korean Air, and they simply had no idea and repeated that our tickets are ‘confirmed’. KE did not notify Expedia at all before directly contacting customers. I wonder why their procedure was like that if it was OTA’s error.

      2. Korean has never put the blamed on Expedia and Expedia says its all on Korean’s court. Expedia basically saying that they pull what ever Korean puts out there, also payment goes directly to Korean. So Tony I don’t have enough understanding of the whole process but I everything points to Korean. I wish it was expedia, I will much rather deal with them, Korean is a nightmare. I have a whole new appreciation for US airlines.

        1. Rich and GJ, my office sells KE tickets to SE Asia day in day out.
          I have plenty of experience dealing with KE fares. I’m very familiar with their fare structures, rules and commission schemes.

          I dug up and read the fare rules for this Palau problem. I also compared them with the current fare rules. I know where KE made the changes. I read fare rules as part of my work so I pretty much know what I am talking about.

          If I sold you a ticket, I would need to, first. create an itinerary, then, second, PRICE the itinerary. An agent’s GDS has an autoprice mechanism  that checks the fares and all their associated rules. It will display the price of the ticket for your itinerary. If the agent was a LIVE person, s/he will see the FARE BASIS CODE (FBC) and any TICKET DESIGNATOR used to price your ticket. If your are not a travel agent and the AD75 ticket designator appeared as a suffix to the FBC used to price your ticket, then the LIVE agent SHOULD STOP and re-read the rules. S/he can direct the autopricing mechanism to price your ticket correctly.

          Also any agent who sells Korean Air to SE Asia destinations SHOULD know that the regular fuel surcharge (Q code) to BEYOND SEOUL is $360 (twice $180). Add the US Int’l and Seoul taxes of about $80. So before the BASE FARE is added, there is already about $440 of taxes and surcharges. A round trip ticket price of $560 to Asia from the USA (especially East Coast) is a Black Swan event. Most human travel agents will know that (unless they are idiots).

          This error is a phenomenon we are seeing more and more with ONLINE TICKET AGENCIES. Why? Because their model is garbage in – garbage out. There is no human being watching those machines spit out tickets. And frankly if you call the customer service of the OTAs, their average call center (outsourced) person is NOT A TRAVEL AGENT. They are more like booking clerks. They are not going to be able to read fare rules any better than you.

          I really believe that the OTAs should have caught this problem because a human travel agent would have. Maybe the reason why KE is not blaming them is that they sell so many KE tickets and KE does not want to ruin that relationship. So after some time (long) KE decided to tackle this problem by themselves. I doubt they have sufficient manpower in the USA to go through all these tickets and refund them one by one quickly. I would not be surprised that KE personnel are very regimented and do not want to make decisions on their own. So, the boss gets to approve each and every ticket exception. I bet the accounting issue between KE and the OTAs will also be a nightmare.

          1. I am very disappointed at this comment. Do you mean KE is pursuing consumers instead of OTAs because they think customers are easier targets than OTAs, even though it’s clearly OTA’s fault? “I really believe that the OTAs should have caught this problem because a human travel agent would have. Maybe the reason why KE is not blaming them is that they sell so many KE tickets and KE does not want to ruin that relationship.”  

          2. GJ, from Korean Air’s point-of-view, they may very well be the victims. All you need to do is read Flyertalk and other forums (I believe) where posters were piling on the MISTAKE FARE BANDWAGON.

            If KE did approach the DOT (I assume together with their lawyers) then they were serious in addressing the LEGAL issues involved with the problem. And, they probably got the DOT’s consent on their plans to deal with the problem. Maybe that’s why it took so long for them to respond (according to the so-called “victims”).

            You need to know that it is entirely possible for an agent to UNDERPRICE a ticket. All that will happen is there will be an ADDITIONAL COLLECTION in form of a debit memo that the airline will send the agent. Why KE did not ding the OTA, who knows?

            My guess is that the OTA is blaming their GDS and the GDS company is blaming the way the airline uploaded their rules to ATPCO. To prevent endless finger pointing, maybe KE decided to cancel the bookings and did what they are doing today.

            The problem of people who buy from OTAs is that the OTA is NOT ACTING AS THEIR ADVOCATE in times of need. As I have said again and again, the OTAs are nothing but Internet VENDING MACHINES. To complain you call a number that rings somewhere in India or the Philippines. Good luck.

            PS. I do not agree with your statement the Korean Air is targeting customers because they are easier targets. If you want someone in KE to help you then I suggest you tone down your approach. KE agents are people, too. I have had multiple problems with KE and other Asian airlines, but I have always been able to resolve them by talking to my vendors nicely. To prove to you that the US travel population LIKES KOREAN AIR, just count the number of flights from US International Gateways KE has. Can you name me any other Asian airline that flies from JFK, IAD, ORD, ATL, DFW, LAS, LAX, SFO, SEA to Asia non-stop. A vast majority of my Asian-American customers prefer to fly Korean Air. They will continue to fly KE despite this Palau fiasco.

  64. From the perspective of consumer rights, one important thing is that what could happen if airlines are allowed to cancel ‘their mistakes’ last minute. Suppose an airline has not very popular route that rarely get fully booked. The airline could publish an ‘error fare’ for the route, and people jump in. Later, if the demand goes up for the route, airline can ‘cancel’ their error fare at any arbitrary time point and e-mail them useless voucher, then sell those tickets at higher prices. There should be a specific guideline about timeline that an airline can take such actions, and it should be much shorter than 2 months.

    1. One more thing to add is that I (and many other Koreans affected) also contacted Korean Consumer Agency (KCA), which is a government agency of Korea. KCA investigated the case, consulted their lawyers, and told me that this case is clearly at fault of the airline which is not acceptable. They advised Korean Air to honor the tickets. Since Korean Air is refusing to honor the tickets and my departure date is next week, they recommended me to go to the court with their recommendations. 

          1. Did you buy your tickets in Korea? Why is that the venue of a court case. Isn’t the origin the USA and the destination PALAU? What jurisdiction does a Korean court have on a USA Tariff? Good Luck.
            Hey Atty. Carver, got an opinion?

          2. That is possible because I am a Korean, and Korean Air is an entity in Korea. Korean law system is governed by the nationality of the entities involved, not by the fact where the transaction has occurred. For example, if I gambled in Las Vegas, I am still under gambling laws of Korea, as a citizen of Korea.

        1. No we can’t but I heard that the airlines are thinking of doing something since there are far too many screw ups from when only their agents and travel agencies did all the ticketing. 

          As proven by some comments here today, purchasers assume something without even reading the rules and then complain about it.

          1. Again, I want to emphasize that fare rules provided by OTAs did not have any additional requirement stated for the fare. People read the rules, found no problems. Later, KE came up with a different opinion that was not written in the rules and restrictions, which could be familiar to the TAs and some of the FT members, but not for the ordinary customers. If they did thing correctly and OTA got things messed up, they should have sued OTAs, not canceling out customers’ tickets.

          2. KE will not sue the OTAs. You do (or may have to). All KE has to do is either send the OTA a debit memo or cancel the reservations (as they apparently did). It is really the OTA’s job to process a refund since they made the SALES TRANSACTION in the first place. Didn’t you enter your credit card number on Expedia? So why not dispute your credit card charges?

  65. OK.  Here’s a new analogy.  I’m pretty good with d-i-y plumbing projects around the house, but I’m not a licensed plumber.  Often, I need some specialized part that I can’t find at Home Depot, so I search the web. 

    Sometimes the part I want is made by a company — let’s call them KoreanAirPlumbingParts — that only wants to sell to licensed travel agents… er, I mean licensed plumbers.  And before I can buy from KoreanAirPlumbingParts, they require me to click a button saying “I’m a licensed plumber”.  If I click that button, and buy that product, I’m a dirty rotten liar, and I deserve all of the disapprobation you guys throw at me.

    But if I find the same part on a reputable plumbing website that is well-known as a site that sells to the general public — let’s call it ExpediaPlumbing.com — I would assume that KoreanAirPlumbingParts was cool with ExpediaPlumbing selling it to the general public.  And I wouldn’t expect the general public to search through pages of legalese to find out that KoreanAirPlumbingParts really only wanted to sell to licensed plumbers. 

    Moral of the story: if Korean Air didn’t want regular joe consumers buying $560 tickets to Palau, then it shouldn’t have made them available on consumer websites.

    1. Was the fare available at Korean Air’s own website? I haven’t heard anyone complain about buying one from Korean Air directly.

      So thinking with your plumbing cap on, maybe the leak was caused by Expedia and Travelocity and not Korean Air.

      1. The tricky part is that ROR was not on Korean Air’s route list when this fare was booked. Korean Air is starting their new route to ROR from this December (announced in Sep, when the fare was made available), and purchasing the ticket was not possible from Korean Air’s web site at all (at any price). “New Route” was one of the reasons people believed this was a promotional thing. 

        1. GJ, the new route is FROM ICN to ROR v.v., 1 flight 2 days per week.
          Asiana has 4 days a week.  Frankly, I have been selling KE for quite a while and I never expected a FIRE sale from them at all. ~$500 fares to SE Asia from East Coast is unheard of in 2011.

          IMO, the person assigned to upload the fare to ATPCO was not the regular person doing it for the other SE Asian destinations. I read Fare Rules daily (yes I do really) and KE is one of my biggest sellers so I must know their rules. The rules they uploaded for 01SEP11 for USA to ROR looked so different than the rules for other SE Asia countries.

          But anyway, if this is such a big problem that it is, why not create a system wide WAIVER CODE that will allow Expedia and Travelocity to refund all AD75 coded tickets to ROR sold from 01SEP to 06SEP 2011?
          I really don’t understand why this is such a big deal at this point.

          1. The whole problem is that it’s been two months ince they sold the tickets. I agree to all of your points including ‘this is not a big deal at this point’ if all these problems were handed in Sep. You know making vacation plans are not that trivial for most of the people, especially Korean people in US who planned to visit their families during the high season. 

          2. Koreans visiting family in Palau? I thought most of the folks there are Filipinos. Maybe except for the 2 weeks of Chinese New Year (starting 23JAN12) the rest of JAN to APR is LOW SEASON. As I said, I sell this stuff to SE Asia day in day out so this is second nature to me. And most Koreans I know here in NYC buy their tickets from a Korean agent in Koreatown or Flushing where the price is better compared to those offered by the OTAs. Frankly I have not heard of this Palau price issue from the Korean Airline Consolidator Community. This may have been a problem only associated with Expedia and another OTA.

            Any agent who sells Korean Air knows that “S” class tickets are very expensive. Q class is the way to go. If there is V class, grab it. Believe me, this problem wouldn’t have happened if a HUMAN Travel Agent was involved. They would have seen the KE Booking Class Hierarchy first – Q – T – S class, and try to find you seats in Q class. NOT S CLASS. A smart KE agent knows that if S class tickets are way cheaper than Q class tickets SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG.

            Sorry but IMO you were screwed by the agency that sold you your tickets. They should have known better.

      2. I recall a situation many (20+) years ago where I booked an infant fare for an adult traveler. The fare was loaded into Sabre incorrectly (as an adult fare).
        Unfortunately, even though Sabre honored all fares when priced and stored correctly, the airline refused to accept the ticket and the traveler had to pay a walkup fare to get on the flight. I was able to get Sabre to reimburse the fare my customer paid since it was done by autopricing as an adult correctly on our part.
        While the fare paid was inexpensive, it was not an unheard of fare for a flight of its duration.
        I wonder what would have happened had the people who purchased these tickets showed up and been unable to produce their IATAN card. I guarantee that all the kicking and screaming in the world would not have gotten them on the flight without paying the fare difference from the AD75 and the base fare.

        1. I guess they will learn the real meaning of Tae Kwon Do. Just kidding. We have plenty of Korean friends and they really are very nice people. Just give them time to fix the problem and they will.

  66. Ok folks you asked for it. So I will post the Fare Rules in its entirety.
    The fares were loaded online on 01SEP11 0115 and removed  06SEP11 0721 (according to my GDS). The fares in question are KE Fare Basis Codes S**EE (where ** are L/K/H for seasonality an X/W for day of week indicator).  Sample below is for SLXEE FBC.

    Note that lower-class fares (Q/T classes)  do not have Agency Discounts. So ADs appear only from S class and upwards.  Here goes, good luck. Doubters forever be quiet.

    NYCROR-KE  3SEP11      *RULE DISPLAY*     TARIFF 0378 RULE A003
    * ADD APPLICABLE TAX * FED INSP FEES *                        
    013-FARE BASIS         USD       NUC                PTC  FT  GI
    SLXEE           R   1922.00   1922.00               ADT  EX  PA
    SLXEE/CH25      R   1442.00   1441.50               CNN  EX  PA
    SLXEE           R   1922.00   1922.00               UNN  EX  PA
    SLXEE/IN90      R    192.00    192.20               INF  EX  PA
    SLXEE/CH25      R   1442.00   1441.50               INS  EX  PA
    BOOKING CODES        S                                        
    PFCS MAY VARY BY RTG                                          
    MPM – PA 10824 VIA PACIFIC                                    
    FIRST TRAVEL    – 1SEP11                                      

    APPLICATION RULE                                              
         THESE FARES APPLY                                        
         BETWEEN AREA 1 AND MICRONESIA.                           
       CLASS OF SERVICE                                           
       TYPES OF TRANSPORTATION                                    
     CAPACITY LIMITATIONS                                         

       CARRIERS BEST JUDGMENT                                     
    MAXIMUM STAY                                                  
      THE OUTBOUND TRANSPACIFIC SECTOR.                           
      ON THE OUTBOUND TRANSPACIFIC SECTOR.                        
    ADVANCE RES/TKTG                                              

    CHILD DISCOUNT                                                
    FARE RULES TEXT                                               
        THE FARE.                                                 
      OR – UNACCOMPANIED CHILD 5-11 – NO DISCOUNT.                
             NOTE –                                               
              ANY CHILD UNDER 5 YEARS OF AGE WILL NOT BE          
              ADULT PASSENGER.                                    
             THE FARE.                                            
      ADULT – CHARGE 25 PERCENT OF THE FARE.                      
            TICKET DESIGNATOR – AD75.                             
             NOTE –                                               
    SALE RESTRICTION                                              
      TICKETS MUST BE ISSUED ON KE OR KE.                         
             NOTE –                                               
              MILEAGE UPGRADE PERMITTED ON KE ONLY.               
          USD 100.00/CAD 100.00 EACH.                             
             NOTE –                                               
              S OR Q- FARES AND S- FARES.                         
        CHARGE USD 150.00/CAD 150.00 FOR CANCEL/REFUND.           
             NOTE –                                               
              1.VALID DEATH CERTIFICATED REQURED                  
              TE FAMILY MEMBER.                                   
                INFANT NOT OCCUPYING A SEAT.                      
                ANY DATE/FLIGHT/ROUTING CHANGES.                  
             NOTE –                                               
              1.VALID DEATH CERTIFICATE REQUIRED.                 
              TE FAMILY MEMBER.                                   
                INFANT NOT OCCUPYING A SEAT.                      
              3.REVALIDATION IS NOT PERMITTED.                    
              4.TICKET MUST BE REISSUED WITH A CHARGE OF          
                USD100.00 PENALTY FOR CHANGES TO DATE/FARE/       
              5.PENALTY USD100.00 ALSO APPLIES ON ANY             
              VER POINTS.                                         
              OF THE TICKETED FLIGHTS.                            
              THE USD100.00 PENALTY.                              
              TOWARDS THE USD100.00 PENALTY.                      
              PENALTY USD100.00 IS NON-REFUNDABLE.                
               TO THE ORIGINAL FORM OF PAYMENT.                   
               THE REISSUED TICKET.                               
              DATE/FLIGHT/ROUTING CHANGES.                        
       DOUBLE OPEN JAWS NOT PERMITTED.                            
       PROVISIONS – CATEGORY 23.                                  
      OPEN JAWS/ROUND TRIPS/CIRCLE TRIPS                          
        -TO FORM ROUND TRIPS WITH KE FARES                        
       PROVIDED –                                                 
          RULE IN THIS TARIFF.                                    
       PROVIDED –                                                 

    MISC PROVISIONS                                               

    1. Hi Tony,

      How the heck did the AD75 fare show up as available to the average internet consumer using OTAs?  I’m trying to make sense of the printout, but it sure looks like the actual fare was $1922 or thereabouts.  Not sure what all the other #s mean.  How did Travelocity, for one example, translate that into a ~ $500 fare?


      1. Jeanne, here is my GUESS. The pricing engine that those OTAs were using mistook the ADT passenger type code in Category 21 Rule – Agency Discount and applied it to ALL ADULT passengers.

        So they gave 75% off 1922. That’s $480 for base fare after discount. The US and Korean tax is about $80. So you get 480 + 80 = $560 total ticket price.

        Note that the former tariff forgot to include the normal surcharge that KE adds for ASIAN CITIES beyond Seoul which is $180 each direction.

    2. This is what I saw, although I learned of the whole AD75 deal a bit late.
      I wonder who wiped the rules. I guess it had to be Korean, right? Airline rules & regulationsTickets are nonrefundable. A fee of $150.00 per ticket will be charged for itinerary changes after the tickets are issued, provided that the booking rules were followed.Tickets are nontransferable and name changes are not allowed.This price includes a nonrefundable $14.00 booking fee.Please read important information regarding airline liability limitations.Prices do not include baggage fees or other fees charged directly by the airline.Other penalties may apply.See an overview of all the rules and restrictions applicable for this fare.View the complete penalty rules for changes and cancellations associated with this fare.Fare rules and restrictionsWe have not received information regarding the rules or restrictions for this flight. When you purchase your ticket, you agree to the following rules and restrictions.Please assume that the fare is non-refundable and any change or cancellation will result in full forfeiture of the value of the ticket with no refund or credit available.Rules and restrictions as imposed by the airline(s) will be applicable to your fare should you need to change or cancel your flight(s).Airline tickets are non-transferable.Some flights do not qualify for frequent flyer mileage accrual.

      1. Where are you getting your Fare Rules? Do you have access to a GDS?
        If you do it’s all there. That’s exactly where I got mine.

        1. Mine came from an actual paid fare. It includes much of what you have but much more. However, none of the other information is not really german to the issue at hand.

          So let me ask this question. If as you say the AD75 is only for travel agents. Please point me and others to where in the Korean Air rules and restrictions, contract of carriage, tariffs, booking rules, etc. explicitly state that AD75 are strictly for travel agents.

          1. Try reading the IATA rules for a change. AD75 is the TICKET DESIGNATOR for travel agency discounts. Then read Category 21 of the Fare Rules. It plainly says TRAVEL AGENT DISCOUNTS.
            If you are not a travel agent the discount does not apply to you.
            If (passenger_type  != “travel_agent”) goto /dev/null

          2. No it actually says “Agent Discounts” which is ill defined. We will have to agree to disagree on that point. 

            As for the IATA rules. Please point me and all to exactly where it states that (web page please). I just went to their site and tried a search on ad75 and got nothing.

          3. Iceman,
            APTCO Category 21 should never be used for NON TRAVEL AGENTS. This is where the KE Tariff indicated they would give AD75 (discount ticket designator) to travel agents. And please contact KE for details (presumably to submit the authorization form and IATAN ID).

            IATA 880 defines how AD75/AD50 Travel Agent discounts are used. google it.

            If you are NOT a travel agent (like some of us here) ATPCO Cat 21 and IATA 880 should not concern you. If you don’t understand it and say things like it is “ill defined”, it means you are not part of the travel agency industry because it is not addressed to you.

            Expedia or Travelocity should NEVER HAVE SHOWN YOU the fare in the first place.

          4. Ah but you said I am expected to read and understand the fare rules. So which is it? That said I get your point that I should have never seen it or the fare. But I did and now I am sightly more knowledgable. However, there is still lots of gobbly-gook in the fare rules that I would call ill-defined unless one is a TA. 

            Perhaps the point you are trying to get across is that TA understands the gobbly-gook whereas the OTA and the airlines passes the buck to the PAX and thus the problem. I notice that when I buy direct from the some airlines I do not see or at least can not find the fare rules only the CoC. Also when I was on KE site and brought the rules they were human plain language readable.

            So given that the OTA is being paid by KE to advertise KE fares and KE gives them a list of fares some of which are incorrect who is responsible? Is the OTA or Sabre responsible for proofing the carriers fares for mistakes? Especially, when the PAX makes a purchase and their money does directly to the carrier (i.e. Expedia did not get my money KE did). Expedia is nothing more than shell as if I went to KE’s on line site to buy the ticket. Which is why KE is getting the heat and not the OTA. Also KE stepped in and told the OTA they are to do nothing as KE will handle it. Which implies KE is taking all forms of responsibility for the screw up.

            Frankly I am not sure any one in this discussion know how the OTA actually work. But given KE actions It seems they are holding the OTA blameless unless there is some going on behinds the scenes. And given the way KE has handled things the OTA are probably quite happy as KE has caused what a business school would call a text book case in poor damage control management. Which is really how a company should be judged – not solely by their up front service but how things are handled when shite hits the fan.

            KE should have nipped this in the bud on 6 September. But that flight has long since flown and is now sitting on the tarmac with 300+ PAX and the clock is ticking.

          5. You should read the fares rules and understand the parts that apply to you. The general public is not eligible to receive travel agency discounts. Category 21 Rules Restricts the discounts to Travel Agents. If you are an adult not traveling with Children or Infants then those provisions don’t apply to you either. You are free to read them but why would you since they don’t apply to you.

            You and I do not know what happened to KE and why they made their decisions. The only factual information I have is the historical fares and rules since they were published as tariffs. We can speculate as much as we want but in the end its useless. Flyertalk published the emails and letters sent by KE to the affected people. It explained their options. Let’s leave it at that.   

  67. With all due respect, Eric, when you are unable to choose between
    aggrieved consumers and the entity that is inflicting the harm, then you can no
    longer call yourself a consumer advocate. In that hypothetical rare instance
    where there is a true draw, a true consumer advocate would offer the benefit of
    the doubt to the consumer. You have failed that test miserably, Eric, and for
    that you deserve the heavy criticism coming your way.

    Your asymmetrical argument that a consumer is unethical when
    buying a mispriced item, but a company is not when it intentionally withholds knowledge
    of the error until the eleventh hour (depriving the consumer of alternative
    arrangements), borders on the absurd.

    Let’s try a different scenario and see how difficult it is
    for you to determine who is in the wrong:

    Let’s say Macy’s inadvertently offers $120 shoes for $40
    (the price it intended to offer only to certain customers). It sells many of them,
    some to shoppers who were in the store and believed the pricing to be a good promotional
    value (Macy’s hadn’t carried them before), and some to others who received word
    of the mispricing from their colleagues.

    Over 2 months lapse, and Macy’s then forcibly confiscates
    the shoes sold to every buyer. Worse, it won’t refund any money until a time of
    its choosing.

    Tell us, Eric, who would have the high moral ground here?

    Where is the condemnation of the company that deliberately suppresses
    information for several months, while benefitting from a 3-month interest free
    loan from cash-strapped consumers?

    Why are you not outraged that, given the false choice
    between honoring all tickets or none, the company chose the outcome most
    harmful to the innocent?

    Why is the motivation of the multitude of buyers so critical
    to your analysis that it trumps the unethical tactics of the seller?

    To whom can consumers look for protection against injurious corporate
    decisions ?

    Not you, Eric.

    Not you.

    1. I think a more applicable comparison would not be with a physical product that could theoretically be consumed, but with a service that has been paid for but has not been rendered.

      Imagine maybe some error in an online ticketing system (maybe TicketMaster) that allows people to access a 75% discount normally only available to members of some professional organization.  The performance venue finds out about it and asks that it be corrected, but offers to allow the tickets to be used for a small additional fee (that sounds like the offer Korean Air was giving) or otherwise it would be cancelled.  In the meantime, perhaps some people were making hotel reservations or other preparations in anticipation of using said tickets.

      Now the lengthy delay in refunding cancelled tickets does appear to be a concern.  I don’t agree with that.  However, it does appear that Expedia was selling something to the general public where they weren’t authorized as such.

      I have had experience with booking engines that offered something that looked to be really generous.  I once stayed at a modest hotel at a special rate.  It was $20 more than the last minute rate, but supposedly came with an offer of $80 worth of gift cards for use at a local restaurant ($30) and a local mall ($50).  It sounded good, and I even called the hotel to see if the offer was legit, although I only spoke to a desk clerk.  When I got there, the manager was on staff and checked us in.  He said the rate wasn’t valid, and the chain’s online website booking engine wasn’t supposed to give that offer for a single night’s stay.  The offer required one night’s stay at $20 more than the last minute rate, and another night’s stay at $60 more than the last minute rate.  So that meant paying $80 more (plus additional hotel taxes) for $80 worth of stuff.  That didn’t sound so great to me.  The manager did bring the rate down to the last minute rate, and I didn’t feel that ripped off.

      As for airfares, I did get a $52 round trip flight on Alaska Airlines from OAK-SNA once.  I played around with the departure and return flights, and a few particular combinations yielded that $52 fare.  Other than those combinations, they were all going for at least $150.  A relative who was once a travel agent said just take it.  Expedia and Orbitz were also giving the same fare, but I was getting this on the regular Alaska Airlines website too, where I booked it.  I was able to take the flight.  I figured it was legitimate, but never asked why.

  68. Chris: My vote is that you stay FAR away from this one.  You have done some wonderful work as a consumer advocate, and I would hate for your reputation to be damaged as a result of some greedy, unethical people.  I think your ability to act as an ombudsman is strengthened by the fact that you hold passengers accountable and always point out ways in which things could have been handled better.  Thanks for being one of the good guys.

  69. I see the strong opponents here are travel agents who do not think online travel agents such as Expedia and Travelocity should be trusted. However, it is true that hundreds of millions people buy tickets from these sites and we cannot go back in time and deny all these transactions. I think many TAs here are viewing the situations from a TA’s perspective, but not from a consumer’s perspective. Chris, I think you should be focused on what an ordinary consumer’s right is. 

    1. You are assuming incorrectly.  The OTA have the same responsibility as my agency has.  They sold something they shouldn’t have.  What service are they giving the purchaser?  I know I wouldn’t be leaving my clients hanging.  If you buy from a faceless, serviceless entity, then don’t expect a lot.  I am consumer myself and there are certain things I have a professional do.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should is a mantra in our business.

      1. Okay, so as a TA, what would you do if you find out a ticket you sold two months ago was based on a wrong fare basis? Please do not tell me humans cannot make mistakes while computers can. If you think it’s OTA’s faults, then would you insist Expedia should cover up whatever damage consumers have? 

        If that’s the case, why KE volunteered to take care of all situations, leaving Expedia and Travelocity all out of this whole mess? I do not think you have the complete pictuer of what is going on here.

        1. If we sell something incorrectly, we get fined.  It is called a debit memo and yes, the airline can come back and cancel the reservation.  They can also pull our plates, which mean we can no longer issue their tickets.  We are responsible for reading the rules and following them.  Therefore so does the OTA.  When errors have been made in published airfare, the carriers have sent us notification and what action we must take.  These tickets are not our products, they are the airlines, but we have our feet held to the fire for any wrong action.  Now ask me the million dollar question.  Why do we issue tickets?  We are stupid!

        2. GJ, don’t you get it? It seems that TAs in this (Elliott’s) site have actually interacted with your more and given you more information than the agency where you bought your ticket. If you bought your ticket from Expedia then why don’t you ask them to fix the problem. What have they told you so far? As I said earlier, you gave them your credit card. Go call your credit card company and dispute the charges.

  70. With all due respect, Christopher, when you are unable to
    choose between aggrieved consumers and the entity that is inflicting the harm,
    then you can no longer call yourself a consumer advocate. In that hypothetical
    rare instance where there is a true draw, a true consumer advocate would offer
    the benefit of the doubt to the consumer. You have failed that test miserably, Christopher,
    and for that you deserve the heavy criticism coming your way.

    Your asymmetrical argument that a consumer is unethical when
    buying a mispriced item, but a company is not when it intentionally withholds
    knowledge of the error until the eleventh hour (depriving the consumer of
    alternative arrangements), borders on the absurd.

    Let’s try a different scenario and see how difficult it is for
    you to determine who is in the wrong:

    Let’s say Macy’s inadvertently offers $120 shoes for $40
    (the price it intended to offer only to certain customers). It sells many of
    them, some to shoppers who were in the store and believed the pricing to be a
    good promotional value (Macy’s hadn’t carried them before), and some to others
    who received word of the mispricing from their colleagues.

    Over 2 months lapse, and Macy’s then forcibly confiscates
    the shoes sold to every buyer. Worse, it won’t refund any money until a time of
    its choosing.

    Tell us, Christopher, who would have the high moral ground

    Where is the condemnation of the company that deliberately
    suppresses information for several months, while benefitting from a 3-month
    interest free loan from cash-strapped consumers?

    Why are you not outraged that, given the false choice
    between honoring all tickets or none, the company chose the outcome most
    harmful to the innocent?

    Why is the motivation of the multitude of buyers so critical
    to your analysis that it trumps the unethical tactics of the seller?

    To whom can consumers look for protection against injurious
    corporate decisions ?

    Not you, Christopher.

    Not you.

    1. The flawed analogy, absurd logic, and effete personal attacks might have been enough, but the heavy-handed melodrama easily makes this post the most entertaining of the day.  I’m sure your intent was quite serious, but I haven’t laughed this hard in a while. 

      At least you got the name right the second time around.  🙂

    2. Your argument does not stand : you should compare to people who have taken the shoes from the shelf but not yet paid them at the register. Would Macy’s then honor the sale ??? And again, nothing in Chris article about the abnormal refund delay post cancellation !

    3. So you would have Chris actively aid and abet thievery? If there was conscious, willful wrongdoing on the part of some of the affected consumers, then I believe they have no right to ask for Chris to advocate on their behalf.

      If we want the airline and travel industry to treat us passengers fairly, we must do the same. Treating the airlines fairly does not mean taking advantage of a fat-fingered fare when you know full well that it wasn’t meant for public consumption. The airline certainly could’ve handled this better, however, if what Chris says is true, Korean Air was taking a very considered approach and trying to protect themselves from regulatory harm and civil liability (something I can’t fault them for – we’re a highly litigious society and I’m guessing someone, somewhere will file suit over this). That being said, they have tried to make this right, albeit very late.

      By suggesting that Chris aid these people who willfully exploited the system, you lose any moral high ground that you thought you staked out. It makes you just as morally bankrupt as they. I understand and empathize with those passengers who honestly thought they were getting a deal from Korean Air, but I have absolutely no sympathy for those who tried to cheat the system.

      1. @LadySiren:disqus , how can the average costumer know that the fare was a fat-finger mistake? Fire sales or very short term offers are common in air travel these days. The range of price of legitimate offers in a OTA website for a pair origin-destination, in any given day, is more likely to be over 150% than less (difference between the highest and lowest fares for same travel date between same airports).

        This is not like somebody shared a hidden link in a website meant only for recipients of a newsletter, or a hidden promotion code meant only for a group of people. It was a publicly advertised fare, and I think it is wrong to throw out legitimate costumers together with those that knew the fare was a mistake. 

  71. If for no reason other than future good customer relations, Korean Air should honor all the tickets.  And if it can’t afford to make this kind of mistake, then it should raise all fares across the board to compensate.  No business runs without a margin for error.  The airlines should ALL raise fares.  These kinds of stories are ridiculous.

    1. What you don’t understand is this wasn’t necessarily KE’s fault.  The OTA put this out there.  You are also missing the fact that KE reported this to our Gov as international tickets have different requirements than domestic tickets. They may not be able to do what you think they should do.  Again, just because you think something should go one way, doesn’t mean legally they can do it.  An airline can at anytime cancel a flight and all they have to do is give you your money back.  This is similar.  A vendor sold something they shouldn’t have and the carrier is giving the customers their money back and something extra. 

  72. Chris, please don’t take the ignorance shown in some of the comments below to heart; to me, it sounds as if you’ve tried your best to find the right path out of what is a quagmire.

    Personally, I think you should stay far, far away from this entire situation – it’s too highly charged, too full of pitfalls that would provide entree to those wishing to impugn your journalistic ethics. You do a remarkable job of standing up for the little guy (and gal), so just keep on keepin’ on.

        1. Thanks Rich.  I don’t care if people purchase their tickets online.  What I do care about is that they understand that tickets, especially international tickets are far more complicated than just the price they see on the screen.  I have heard the comment many times over, “How difficult is this?  Any monkey can do it” when needing to buy an airline ticket.  Well it is far more complicated than shown and I hope readers now realize it.  I think the internet hasn’t been upfront with the pitfalls of buying a ticket.  While many haven’t had a problem with basic ticket purchases, others have.  Tony A and I know how the airlines operate in regards to ticketing and we live in fear of making a mistake as they fine us.  Now the public is seeing what we have had to deal with when rules aren’t followed and the carrier comes back to us.  Why did it take 2 months?  Heck, that is nothing.  We get debit memos on tickets that are years old.  Welcome to our world.

  73. Personally, Chris, stay out of this. If there’s even the remotest hint of doubt in someone’s credibility or integrity here, that can make it difficult for you to effectively lobby for that person or group without doubt cast on you as well.

    1. Just a followup thought: if you eventually decide to continue advocating for them, just state your honest reasons why (especially those you feel are most important to you) and hope for the best.

  74. One more important information probably not yet elaborated. I hope this will put a nail on the coffin for this case.
    If one looks at KE fares from NYC to ROR today for travel 01JAN-30APR 2012, the base weekday fares (before tax & surcharge) are:FBC     BASE (USD)—–    ———-QLXEE    1622TLXEE    1822SLXEE    2322The fuel surcharge is an additional $360 and tax $78.10.So assuming you can find seats on  “Q” booking class, the minimum price of your KE ticket will be 1622 + 360 + 78.10 or $2060.10.KE only flies to ROR from ICN on Thursdays and Sundays (beginning 01DEC) and the Q and T class seats are almost all sold out. So that leaves only the more expensive “S” class seats open on most days. The cost of an S class ticket today is $2760.10 for weekday departures. Add another $100 for Friday or Saturday departures.ALL the people complaining were booked on “S” class since that is the class whose Fare Basis Code allowed for an AGENT DISCOUNT. (Q & T class fares do not have a Travel Agent Discount.)So it looks like all the cry-babies who are demanding KE flies them from the East Coast to Palau and back for $560 are trying to squeeze KE out of $2200 in additional fares.I really don’t think Chris Elliott is going to bat for these folks. Paying $560 for a $2760 ticket. Gimme a break.AND:  Those who booked a ticket last September 1-6 and who believe they were getting a SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY fare, well actually you could have if you booked correctly.Last 01SEP to 06SEP the Base Fares for the same season above were:FBC     BASE (USD)
    —–    ———-QLXEE    1522.00TLXEE    1722.00SLXEE    1922.00But here is the kicker, KE forgot to ADD the $360 fuel surcharge to the fare.So if people only booked correctly, they could have paid $1555 + 78 tax or $1633 (assuming there were Q class seats open at that time). But even that was ~$1100 more than the supposed $560 fare they newspaper article was talking about. The $560 fare was just too absurd, period.These folks would have had a leg to stand on if they demanded that KE reissue them a Q-class ticket at $1600. But nooooh, they wanted to go for the jackpot!Get real and find out what China Air is charging for a similar flight out of LAX (via TPE). It’s about ~$1550 -1600 lowest, too. You’ll pay at least $200 extra from the East Coast. In retrospect, $1600 from the East Coast to Palau was a damn good price. So, please stop bashing Korean Air and get on with your life.———————————————GDS Computation of “S” class ticket for weekday travel between NYC and ROR: PNR PRICED ON 28NOV FOR TKTG ON 28NOV 
     ADT01      2682.00        78.10             2760.10
    *TTL        2682.00         78.10             2760.10

        Q180.00 1161.00NUC2682.00END ROE1.00KE XT32.60US5.00XA
        2.50AY17.40BP3.60YQ4.50XF JFK4.5
     TX 5.50YC 7.00XY 32.60US 5.00XA 2.50AY 17.40BP 3.60YQ 4.50XF

     KE JFKROR  2PC 
     KE RORJFK  2PC 

      1. there is no editor – there is a computer. And it knows nothing about your editing or formatting.  See?  Its amazing how a computer can screw up because you do not format it with returns before you click post – seems like that happened to KAL as well.

    1. Let me give you another data point for dates from the west coast for the exact same dates as my original ticket:

      CO $1468 vs. KE $725

      IMHO 50% difference is not absurd for many airfares – promotional or not.

      1. Please post your Origin and Destination, Depart, Return Date, and date you intended to ticket. Your post lacks supporting data.

        1. Thttpd, Do a web search like the rest of us pilgrims and compare fares without playing TA. That said I will give you a hint SFO/LAX in March with a positioning flight from DEN/SLC/BOI.  

          1. So what does that have anything to do with Palau fares?
            What are you comparing to valid Palau fares?
            You and I are not in the same planet, sorry.

          2. Try something like DEN-SFO-ROR or SLC->LAX->ROR

            Where LAX/SFO are KE gateways. Some people need to get to a KE gateway first i.e. a positioning flight.

          3. KE has no defined fare for DEN-ROR. UA/CO, CI and DL have.

            Please note that I do not need to web searches for fares. I have a GDS and have full access to both PUBLISHED AND BULK (non published) fares loaded in ATPCO. I get the fares and their associated rules in a few keystrokes and in 1-2 seconds. Non Travel Agents can subscribe to ExpertFlyer and see the same things I am seeing except for non published fares. Understanding the jargon is another thing.

          4. Right, but not all (pilgrims) have such access thus I was attempting to have you do a search that us pilgrims would normally attempt via OTA or other mechanisms such as searching say CO, DL, or KE sites directly.

    2. Soooo – kayak, expedia and travelocity screwed up . . .

      they sold tickets they should not have sold.

      Why did they sell tickets they should not have sold?

      Because KAL unblocked the fare class – their search engine looks for fares that they can sell that are the lowest available -0 there is no human being to read the fine print.

      If KAL [or AA, UA, BA or B7 or whomever] puts a fare on the computer that can be booked then the search engines will find it – it is beholden upon KAL to not make the mistake and make the blocked or special conditions fares available. 

      In this case- what was the fare difference?  $500 RT?  I still don’t know . . . and in this case – it was KAL actual mistake – and NOT A FAT FINGER FARE . . . .

    1. You made a couple of errors in your blog.  KE has this fare, the OTA placed it for sale and it wasn’t for the general public.  The OTA was the one in error. 

      It didn’t taek 66 days for KE to ‘pull the plug’.  You need to get your facts straight.

      1. Well – based on my research, KE pulled the plug (cancellation of the ticket) on November 7. The fare may be gone for inventory reason, but there was a chance that KE might still honor it at the first place.

        Even OTA made the mistake – remember KE did generate this fare.

        1. Kin, sometimes what one does to solve one problem creates another new problem. The original problem is the OTA’s sold a travel agent fare to the general public. That is obviously a mistake done by the OTA, not KE.  [Note: there is no law requiring an airline to honor tickets issued with a MISTAKE fare.] So KE tried to solve that and it led to another problem.

          Here is the new problem. From what I read – The airline started cancelling the “cheap” tickets sometime early November; almost 2 months after they removed the fares from the system. They did NOT EXPLAIN WHY IT TOOK THAT LONG. This drove people nuts.

          The PR Strategy of Korean Air was sorely lacking. Maybe because they did not understand how social media works.

          As you can see, I and other travel agents can explain to folks how the airline system works. But most folks are not listening because they really don’t care how it works. They are mostly consumers who think the customer is always right. Sorry folks but if you want to fly to Palau from the 48 States, your options are limited and expensive. Your dream vacation will have to wait.

    2. Another lesson YOU should learn is to compare Apples to Apples.
      Fares from SFO to Hong Kong (HKG) have absolutely NO RELATION to fares from XXX (USA City) to Palau. How many airlines fly from USA to PALAU, do you know? Then compare that to USA to HKG. More Competition means usually lower fares. Good luck with your blog.

        1. You know you are correct – there is no way for [most] people to know if a fare is a mistake fare or not. This is why the AGENCY that sold the fare must check if the fare they are selling to people is valid [for those people]. For example, why don’t OTAs sell child (2-11 yrs old) fares to Adults? Don’t they ask the passenger’s age to verify this? Another example, why don’t agents sell Infant w/o Seat fares to children 2 years and above? Don’t they ask the infant’s date of birth to verify this? So if an agent as a travel agency 75% discount (AD75) that is for travel agents, why didn’t they ask the passenger first – are you a travel agent? Enter your IATAN ID number. blah blah blah.

          You see the 2 OTAs mentioned in flyertalk sold a travel agent discounted fare to ordinary passengers. That’s the mistake.
          The fare is not the mistake.

  75. Here’s a wacky idea. If the online travel agencies (Expedia, Travelocity, etc.) messed up by making the fare available to the general public when they shouldn’t have, how about if the OTAs bear the loss for the error? Let KE demand the difference (between the AD75 fare and the fare that should have been charged) from the OTAs — not from the consumers.

    1. Then the OTAs can simply say to KE, “Hey, you gave us this fare, you didn’t tell us it’s only for travel agents, we pretty much did what you told or shared with us.” The ball will keep being tossed between one and the other.

      1. The OTAs and KE presumably do a lot more business with each other than either of them do with any of the customers involved here. Better that they negotiate a resolution with each other than make the customers bear the burden of the error.

    2. That’s the way it could have worked. But of course the OTA will rather choose to have the Airline cancel everything and issue a refund.

  76. If the travelers is capable to make the reservation themselves, KE should honor the fare because once the ticket issued the contract of transportation is established.
    If there is error, KE must go after the vendors whatever, by Web or by TA in person.
    I had purchase Montreal-Honolulu RT fare available from 399$ to 1999$ for Christmas and all of them are legit. The same for SFO-LAX from 13$ (Pan Am) to 299$. Ordinary traveler cannot tell which fare is legit or not. Like shopping in Department store and buy a discount item… as long as the scanner show the right item and the right price, it’s legit.
    If the fare is AD75 as some specialist or TA specified, just warn the buyer to show the credentials.
    There is a possibility, with a low season or disaster (like tsunami, earthquake) or financial difficulty,  the providers (KE, ….) want to trick the travelers to raise CASH FLOW and after awhile to declare the fare not legit and don’t want honor the fare anymore because the situation is stabilized and sale pick up again.

    1. If you can’t tell, then you shouldn’t be purchasing them.  When something is too good, call.  It is a CYA and we do it all the time as errors are out there and the airlines don’t always accept them.  You just haven’t heard about them because agencies have handled them.  Which is why it is weird that the OTA companies are not being mentioned in how they are being involved in the cancellations.

        1. My point is just to say very low fare exist. It’s not a fat finger or some error. I did travel JFK-LHR RT for 199$ many times.  The 560$ transpacific fare from WestCoast is not totally absurd for common traveler. I did travel on KE/TWA RTW fare for 999$ in the 90’s. But when Airlines and OTA make errors, don’t penalize the customers. I know the Korean mentality, Korean managers always blame subaltern and others for their mistakes to save their face and their job.
          Myself, I like to browse the web but seldom buy ticket on the web. I have very good TA to take care of me because most of the times  we travel with numerous relatives, so it’s rare to have avaibility by OTA. Our TA can call airlines yield managers to accommodate large number of seats at certain fare even it’s not show on the stocks online.
          And I dont to deal with numerous providers when there are changes or problem, my TA take care all.

      1. @c4a583a8e644de030720c1fcf5282979:disqus , in this age of know-down fire sales, last minute discounts, 1h buy-now-or-never offers we have been witnessing in the industry, it is quite hard for an average costumer to know the inner workings of impenetrable fare codes.
        It is also unreasonable for a costumer to be expected to visit internet forums before buying a straight-forward service like air transportation.

        This is not like somebody saw a car that should go for 14,900.00 advertised as 149.00 for instance. It’s far from being a clear-cut case. 

        1. You aren’t buying a pair of pants, you are buying something that has governmental requirements to it, which you are neglecting to understand.  Suckers have been lured on line at fire sale bargins so it is always buyer beware.  You need to cross you t’s and dot your i’s with every purchase and airline tickets are not exempt.  If you see a too good to be true price, call the carrier.  Makes sense and as you can see, that too good to be price on KE was an error.  You are falling for a false security in trusting internet pricing espeically through a company that doesn’t own the product they are selling.

  77. In my opinion , KE and the OTA are co-responsible for the screw-up. Let them equally divide and swallow their error so, they will learn, pay attention and  there will be less fat finger fare in the future. Why penalize the consumers who feed them. Only 300 tickets, how many empty seats KE fly a day ? Why KE make a fuss for a bad reputation ?  Or just some yield managers at KE are afraid to lose their job and try to shovel their errors to the OTA and the consumers to save their face.

    1. The consumers bought something that wasn’t valid for them to purchase.  Pretty clear to us on this side of the industry.  I guess you haven’t been reading pass posts but international tickets have many governmental regulations to follow.  It just isn’t as simple as you assume it to be.

      1. If anything, Bodega, KE can choose (and it looks like they did) to handle the issue directly. They can then maybe take control of the tickets from the OTAs, or advise the OTAs how to process refunds and so forth.

        Beyond that, it’ll be a subjective debate as to who’s responsible for what else. Of course, one can always choose not to do business with whomever arising from this cluster****.

        1. DavidZ, I suspect there is something here we still don’t know. The simplistic solution is to cancel everyone’s ticket and give them a refund.  Maybe some people have not called KE and asked for the refund. Remember the KE sent them an email that they had options. The ball is on the court of the passengers. They have to make a choice to accept the offer according to the email. Have they? ( Email Posted Below)

          Dear Valued Customer,At the beginning of September, an erroneous fare was briefly published for travel on Korean Air from North America to Palau. We regret to inform you that Korean Air is unable to honor this erroneous fare for travel and has cancelled all tickets, including yours. As an accommodation for any inconvenience the cancellation of your ticket may cause you, Korean Air offers you:1) Full refund of the amount paid without penalty, or the opportunity to purchase a ticket on the same itinerary on Korean Air at a price equal to the lowest fare offered by Korean Air for the same itinerary or the closest similar market during the past year; and2) Reimbursement for any additional expenses incurred by you as a result of having purchased this ticket such as cancellation fees for previously booked flights, hotels, and ground transportation; and3) A USD $200 travel voucher for a future flight to any Korean Air destination from a Korean Air U.S. gateway on Korean Air operated flights. The travel voucher will be valid for one year from the date of issuance (Nov. 7, 2011) and cannot be bartered, transferred, or sold.Please remember, your ticket for travel on Korean Air has been cancelled and you will not be able to travel without a valid ticket. Therefore, it is imperative that you contact us as soon as possible by telephone or e-mail as set forth below if you would like to accept this offer.</b?To make your travel arrangements, please call us for further assistance. To claim additional expenses for reimbursement, please send supporting documents for verification via e-mail, fax, or mail.Phone: (213) 484-5785 (Mon. – Fri. 8:30am – 5:30pm PST)Fax: (213) 484-5788E-mail: custo [email protected] oreanair.com Mailing address: Korean AirCustomer Care1813 Wilshire Blvd. #300Los Angeles, CA 90057Again, we sincerely apologize for this inconvenience and look forward to serving you soon. If we may be of further assistance, please contact us.Sincerely,John E. Jackson IIIVice President, Passenger Marketing & SalesKorean AirRegional Headquarters, The Americas

  78. Chris,
    Why don’t you come out with a solution that you believe is fair? That way you don’t have ethical dilemmas and you have the opportunity to help the consumer. We have had a lot of controversy but no solutions. 

    1. “Why don’t you come out with a solution that you believe is fair?”


      “So what should I do? Should I push Korean Air to honor the tickets, even though some, and perhaps many, were booked by criminals? Or should I leave well enough alone and urge the passengers to accept the airline’s latest offer?”

      If even Chris has difficulty coming up with even a remotely win-win solution, what more the rest of us?

  79. I like to think in terms of fairness and equivalence when it comes to these borderline fat-finger cases.

    For a starter, what do airlines (or hotels, or car rentals) do when a costumer do a fat-finger on a non-refundable fee? I don’t think most, if any, airlines would agree to refunds a wrongfully purchased ticket. It happened to me once due to a confusion between American and European date format (7/12 being July 12th or December 7th), and I certainly had to swallow a ticket issued for use 5 months after the date I actually needed it.

    I think at this day and age of non-refundable fares everywhere, locked-in purchases, hefty cancellation fees, the airlines should be entitled to correct any mistake they make while leaving costumers with no option to correct theirs.

    While I do not condone those exploring knowledgeable mistakes and IT system faults for their profit, there are many cases of people who just happened to have been searching for such fares on that date. And I think is is grossly unfair for airlines to cancel tickets that were properly paid and confirmed.

    What would happen if a costumer not that familiar with online purchasing but rounded up enough to know her/his way bought a fare to Portland, Maine instead of Portland, Oregon, and took 2 months to take action? What would happen if a costumer bought an US-Israel flight connecting in Europe with a too tight connection shown on the airline website, only to realize on the fine print that the airlines do not take responsibility for connections to Israel-bound flight booked with transfers shorter than 150 minutes?

  80. What would be ethically wrong is not helping those that booked in good faith and then went about planning for a trip for the next two months.  Consumers have long known that making mistakes can cost them money.  For some reason, businesses don’t seem to have the same expectation.  I think you should swallow the distaste you have for helping those unethical consumers and make the innocent travelers your priority for this one.

  81. The customer is not always right, though they are usually willing to pay less than what is fair.

    I have my own business as a web developer and consultant for micro- and small-business.  So I do big-agency work at more affordable prices.  Yet you would not believe how some clients still don’t think it’s cheap enough.

    One client – after signing the contract – presented me with three projects, not the one we discussed.  Since I only work on a T&M basis – which I am very up-front about – I called to tell her that I’d send over two new Statements of Work for the new projects for her to sign, and noted that there would be three different bills, all probably about the same amount.  The previously excited client immediately turned shrewish, and insisted that I do all the work for the one price…even though that wasn’t even a binding estimate and the projects had never been brought up before the e-mail landed in my Inbox.

    As we talked, I realized that she probably hadn’t even been planning on paying me for the single project we had contracted for.  So I told her that as she was violating the terms of my contract, I wouldn’t do her site after all (a clause in my contract allowed that, thank god for my lawyer and his deep foresight).

    She actually replied “You ‘webby’ people – how are regular people supposed to get nice sites if they don’t want to pay for them?”  I think silence from my end of the phone answered her question.

    Seriously – some people just don’t get it.  Whether it’s deliberately booking a fare that they know isn’t legitimate or trying to get out of paying a vendor for their time.  I’m not saying KAL is in the right here, but I don’t believe the customer is always right either.

  82. I’m a neutral party, but this definitely does not fall anywhere near the set of obvious mistake fares where a digit is left off or a flight to LHR costs $10.  In fact, it’s on the low end of entirely plausible.  I just flew to Costa Rica from SFO for $275, for example, and I flew to Dublin from SFO on a ~$400 fare when Aer Lingus had just started the direct flight.  $560 is a very, very good deal, but certainly not obviously a mistake. 

    I’m a reasonably expert flyer and even someone who reads Flyertalk often, but I would have never caught the travel agent restriction.  Expedia and other booking sites make finding the booking codes often next to impossible, and the fare rules can be even harder to find.  I check the booking codes, as I want to make sure I can accrue miles.  In fact, one often has to even enter traveler information and come just shy of purchase or back up in the midst of the transaction to even see the booking codes. 

    All that notwithstanding, if they had canceled these tickets in a day or a week or maybe even two weeks I might have understood.  After two months, it’s not a mistake anymore, people have asked for time off work, they’ve made reservations, bought travel gear, etc.  I’m a pretty reasonable person, but Korean should just transport these people to their destination.  The offer of a $200 voucher on Korean airlines for those living in the US is next to worthless. 

    Let’s not conflate this with those that take advantage of obvious mistake fares. Chris, you should stand up for these folks.  

    1. Post #4 in the flyertalk thread already identified the fare as AD75. Most bought after discussing this and other posts, so they knew the risks. I suggest you re-read the FT thread. Why should Chris advocate for these guys?

      Also why do you think that after 2 months of buying a mistaken fare, that it is not a mistake anymore. What is your logic? To correct a mistake it’s better to annul the sale and return the money. The contract of carriage allows the airline to cancel at anytime.

      KE made a decent offer to reimburse the expenses caused by the cancellation (i.e. hotel fees, etc.). That’s better than nothing.

      1. Just FYI (don’t think it will change your perception), just because a post on FT talks about the AD75 doesn’t mean that everyone who bought the ticket knew about it. Myself, for example. I heard about it from FT but didn’t even click in the thread; I’m not concerned about miles just looking for deals.

        Anyway, I can’t believe you are saying it’s okay for an airline to do this. Korean Air knew of this “mistake” since Sept 6th and waited until Nov 7th to officially cancel and likely only did that because the first people were leaving in two weeks. How would you feel if an airline pulled this bait-and-switch a couple weeks before your big trip and pointed to an obscure code basis as justification?

        “Decent offer”? KE is NOT reimbursing all my expenses (I booked for Feb) so I either pay them ~$400 extra for the trip or lose ~$200 on expenses. I bought the equipment specifically for the trip (for example, a map of Palau) and I have asked KE about this and they specifically told me it is not covered.

        Korean Air is in the wrong. They released these tickets to the public and allowed people to purchase them. Then they waited over two months between pulling the fare and cancelling tickets. I suspect, like many people, that they did this so travelers would make plants and become financially and emotionally attached to the trip so that we would have a higher chance of taking their ‘deal’ and filling otherwise empty seats. I should also note that in the ‘fare rules’ it stated that there were NO ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS.

  83. You make it sound so simple but actually, most courts and attorneys know that the common layman does not read these rules, terms, and conditions.  For example, when was the last time you read Microsoft’s terms and conditions for using Windows when you bought a computer or a laptop?  You have the luxury of knowing what these T&Cs mean because you get paid to know them but the average consumer doesn’t really understand it.  That’s why we also have consumer protections in the law.

  84. You act like the onus is only on the consumer but Andrew NYC explains it pretty well.  It’s pretty clear that you’re just a travel agent but when it comes to legal arguments, just as you’re telling people to know what AD75 means, I suggest you pick up some law books before you post on a legal issue because it’s clear you have no idea how the US legal system functions.

  85. OK, I’d say the majority of people see this and they have no idea what IATAN, TEE, SEE, SO2, Y, Yo2, TEECA, SEECA, S, SO2, YO2, ETR, FBC, and all these other acronyms.  Post definitions of those things too.

    Also, where is Area 1 and where is Area 3?

    What is an “S” class fare?

    what are P/F/C Class: R/P/F/J/C/C2RT fares?  Why is this not explained?

    You show this to a judge and he’ll laugh at you and tell you to go back and define all terms that a layman would not know.

  86. The term “agent” is ambiguous to a layman as most attorneys would state.  You can’t assume it means travel agent here.  This is the fare rule that if someone were to actually sue, I’d say most of the case will rest on whether the rules clearly defined “agent” to mean “travel agent.”  If there isn’t then I’d wager that there is a legal case here.

  87. Arrived here via a link from another of his articles today. Wow … what a load of misguided nonsense about “ethics”.

    There is nothing unethical about booking a fare at the rate posted on an airlines website. There is something unethical about an airline later claiming “oops” .. it is incumbent upon the airline to honor the fares they post – if they’ve made a mistake, well … gee. Most of us aren’t going to be able to determine that.

    For comparison, if I enter a sell order in the markets and I “fat finger” the amount to sell at a lower than market price, I don’t get to say “oops”. My error, my responsibility … and my loss to endure.

    To their detriment, airlines have been far from cooperative whenever they have passengers at a disadvantage – and we have laws on the books specifically because airlines have been overly “opportunistic”. So is it unethical for consumers to benefit from airlines’ mistakes? Absolutely not.

    This isn’t about 2 wrongs don’t make a right, it’s about the nature of electronic markets, and the responsibility of a seller to honor the price they post in a marketplace.

  88. “This entire episode has made me wonder about what it means to be a consumer advocate. Do you always side with consumers, even when they behave unethically? Is the customer really always right?”

    Chris, the answer to both questions is no. Either side can be right, but more often the truth lies somewhere in-between, which is why the Better Business Bureau offers dispute resolution services. We listen to both sides and try to help the parties work it out, but if they cannot we have trained arbitrators who can make a decision (non-binding). As you know, we do not advocate for consumers as you do, but aim to be the neutral third-party. Please feel free to refer consumers to us (www.bbbb.org) for cases in which you are not prepared to intervene. Thanks!

    Katherine Hutt
    BBB national spokesperson

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