So sorry! Japanese carrier ANA will not honor the deeply-discounted business and first class tickets it issued last week, blaming a currency conversion error for the abnormally inexpensive “mistake fare” tickets. This reversal comes days after the carrier said it would honor the so-called mistake fares.
ANA Decides It Will No Longer Premium Cabin “Mistake Fare”
Last week a currency conversion error on ANA’s Vietnamese website resulted in steep flight discounts, with tickets retailing for thousands of dollars suddenly only costing hundreds. Many jumped on this deal, though some took it to an extreme. Herman Yip, for example, purchased $250,000 worth of tickets (at normal retail) for $17,000. That included a first class round trip from Jakarta (CGK) to Aruba (AUA) via Tokyo (HND) and New York (JFK) for $895. That ticket normally costs $16,300. Some business class tickets were as cheap as $300 each.
The error was was not ANA’s directly, but attributed to Amadeus IT Group SA, one of the major airline global distribution systems (GDS), that publishes fares.
The carrier told Bloomberg:
“For the flights which were erroneously processed, ANA will cancel and fully refund all itineraries. ANA will notify each customer affected by the error. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, and appreciate your cooperation in communicating with us.”
Understandable, But Sad Move From ANA
My position on so-called “mistake fares” has not changed in over a decade. I do understand that in this case, a currency conversion error led to the mistake. I do understand that there is a bit of unreasonableness in the idea that an airline should bear the cost of what some knew was a clear error but booked anyway.
But the flip-flopping is troublesome. ANA indicated it would honor the fares (at least some of them) from the outset. What changed its mind? Seller’s remorse almost a week later undermines trust and frustrates the idea of a contract.
Fundamentally, you could argue there was no contract in the first place because there was no mutual ascent to a bargained for exchange, but I dismiss that reasoning. ANA sold the ticket. ANA issued the ticket. ANA charged your credit card. That formed a contract and I think the danger of letting airlines unilaterally change their mind after issuing a ticket is more troublesome (and theoretically knows no limits) than asking a carrier to own up to its mistake (even, as in this case, if made through a contractor).
I am willing to give airlines a 24-hour cooling off period if travel is more than seven days away, but even that compromise is problematic for customers who buy tickets in good-faith.
Bottom line: airlines should honor the fares they sell and be more cautious about issuing tickets they later regret selling.
For those who took advantage of those cheap ANA premium cabin fares last week, your tickets will be cancelled. ANA has said those tickets were “erroneously processed” and you can expect a refund on your card shortly. I do not like that ANA waited so long to do this, but I cannot say that I am surprised.
Did you book any of these cheap ANA fares? How will you handle the cancellation?