$245 Roundtrip Business Class Tickets To Europe Are Being Cancelled

On Wednesday evening I wrote that United partner and Star Alliance member TAP Air Portugal was selling roundtrip business class tickets between several major U.S. cities and much of Europe from $245. That was an amazing fare, even if it required travel by end of September and the duration of European travel restrictions remain uncertain at this point.

Considering American Airlines intentionally sold $479 roundtrip business class tickets to Brazil recently, and the TAP Air Portugal fare was filed as a ‘special fare’ that had to be booked by today, it seemed reasonable to think this was just a cheap fare and not a mistake.

In other words once TAP had decided to operate their flights, and with current restrictions they knew those flights would be mostly empty, they’d take whatever revenue they could get rather than taking off with no passengers. That’s because the revenue they’d earn exceeded marginal cost.

And TAP Air Portugal intentionally sold $590 business class roundtrips to Europe recently and was known for cheap business class fares even before the pandemic.

Still, when I wrote about the fare on Wednesday, I offered that “I would not make non-refundable travel plans around this for a few days, just in case the airline gets a case of seller’s remorse.”

That’s exactly what has happened. TAP Air Portugal is cancelling tickets and refunding purchases.

While unfortunate, they acted in a timely manner, so I view this one as no harm, no foul on their part.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Well, that’s crappy. We really need the return of the consumer-friendly DOT rule saying airlines have to honor their mistake fares.

  2. It’s small claims court time!

    DOT Rule 399.88 (law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/399.88), enacted on April 25, 2011, provides that it is an unfair and deceptive practice to increase the cost of an air ticket after purchase.

    On May 8, 2015, the DOT issued an Enforcement Policy (https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/Mistaken_Fare_Policy_Statement_05082015.pdf). This policy acknowledged that DOT had generally enforced the rule against post-purchase price increases and applied it to “mistaken fares.”

    The Enforcement Policy went on to state that henceforth the DOT “as a matter of prosecutorial discretion” would not pursue enforcement in cases of mistaken fares.

    However, rule 399.88 was not changed and is in full force and effect.

    Even though the DOT is exercising its discretion and not enforcing rule 399.88 – there is nothing to stop consumers from enforcing it. A consumer could go to small claims court and sue for the Δ between the price paid for the mistaken fare ticket, and the price to buy a replacement ticket. So, e.g., if the cancelled ticket was a business class ticket to Lisbon for $245, and it would cost $5,245 to replace it – one could sue for $5,000.

    The consumer could even show the Enforcement Policy to the small claims judge to show that the DOT believes that 399.88 applies to mistaken fares – notwithstanding the DOT’s decision to not expend resources in those cases.

  3. Not surprised. Was bummed because I missed the fare by a few minutes (I was booking as it went away), but then I saw the same exact terms were for a promotion of RT for 1499 euro fares and figured this was a mistake.

  4. Booked directly on their own website. If they didn’t want the fare listed they shouldn’t have ran a fare special on their website and kept these fares loaded for over 6 hours. But that’s cool, cause it’s not like TAP is an experience flying with them anyway.

  5. We got 2x roundtrip tickets for $496 each in J at the end of September from MIA-FCO and they have not been cancelled as of 4pm EST. Two of our friends who booked the same flight but for a few more days on the front end got theirs cancelled today around 2:30. Pray for us

  6. The root cause of this is the YQ (normally ~$1200 RT) not applying correctly. While some of the fares sold were sales (“special fares”) with a last ticket date, these fares were already filed before the YQ mistake occurred. I agree that the consumer doesn’t have much visibility into the YQ vs the base fare, and so won’t understand the difference, but arguing that these fares were intentionally filed “special fares” isn’t material to how they ended up pricing.

  7. Wouldn’t recommend TAP. They don’t adhere to the 24 hour free cancelation rule as outlined by DOT. If you try and cancel within 24 hours, regardless of class of ticket, they charge a $30 refund fee and also refund you as a TAP voucher instead of crediting your original form of payment.

  8. TAP is well-known for all kinds of shenanigans and overall customer-unfriendly business practices. I’m not surprised this ridiculous low fare is being cancelled. Not even economy class tickets would retail at this price

  9. Given that the majority of these bookings would have been highly opportunistic, the reflex action to consider suing (how uniquely American) is ridiculous.
    You win some, you lose some; it’s all a game. Pack away the outrage and sour grapes and move on.

  10. Expedia now says I have a credit with TAP, even though I received the same email from TAP themselves. Hopefully a quick chat with them after work will resolve the situation.

  11. Totally unfair. What if I had purchased these tickets and made other plans and purchases (eg non-refundable hotel reservations, had friends arrange travel to meet me there, prepaid for tours, etc.) based on these reduced fares? I never book airfare in isolation from other expenses…

  12. Hey, @VegasCraig~ what is there to discuss, other than the fact you got a credit rather than a cash refund? It’s entirely unremarkable you got an email from the booking portal (Expedia) as well as the airline itself.
    I’d be insisting on a cash refund though, as a credit will become a depreciating, stranded asset in time, unless you actually do definately plan flying TAP in the nearish future.

  13. I’m sorry but a published price should always be honored regardless of whether it was a mistake or not. The US DOT should hold these carriers to the rule of law. Would TAP rather sell 20 business class seats at $245 or just one or two at regular price? That being said, I would not be inclined to sue the airline either

  14. I can’t believe they have tenacity to try to issue credit rather than full refund. This is complete bait and switch. They want to hold on to cash and hope that you want use or they go bankrupt before you try. This must be highly illegal. Expedia does not seem to be very responsive to getting your money back as well.

  15. The gate lice were drooling on themselves at the thought of flying lie flats, now they are left screaming lawsuit.
    Let us know how that works out for ya.

  16. US government is too busy cancelling Dr Seuss and locking schools down that they can’t be bothered with rules about airfare.

  17. If your mistake fare ticket is canceled and you get your refund in reasonable period be grateful.

    My TAP experience is worse.

    I was to Fly TAP for SFO-LIS-LHR one way and an incredible pandemic fare of $89.
    $212 with seat selection and 2nd bag as I read that they only give Star Alliance on checked bag.

    Tap dropped the SFP- LIS direct flight but is still selling tickets with a United flight SFO -EWR- LIS-LHR.

    Refused to rebook me on that routing (assume did not want to have to pay United).
    Original cancelation email tells me to click to accept my refund in TAP points which they can devalue at will. Now there is not record of my reservation at all on the website and phone agents cannot find it. Well past time I could have filed a credit card dispute.

    As bad as TAPS’s service is still better than Avianca who are nearly impossible to reach by phone and then what agent says they have done never happens. Swiss canceled short segment of a SFO-ZUR-CDG flight they can book with a Star Alliance Partner. No business flights with Business award available all of June on any routing. 12 + hours on hold on phone and waiting on inept agents to “work on it”. Last one claims I will get points back in 7-10 days, but refund of fees takes 5-8 months! Never transfer your Citi or other points to Avianca for a bargain redemption.

    Simple test to prove how horrible Avianca service is. Dial any Avianca phone number, click through phone menu until get untrue recording that you can change you flight yourself on website.

    Start streaming a movie. Check again after final credits and you will still be on hold waiting for an agent. No imagine you arrive at the airport for a flight and there is an issue with your ticket and the Star Alliance partner airline will not let you board.

    If my Avianca points are ever are returned and I dispute the fee charge with credit card will Avianca seize my points and close my account.

    While I have no respect for the company, I do want to try to burn them off the Avianca account balance on domestic flights booked close to flight time when changes are unlikely to occur. Has anyone done that and if so your experience?

    Again, if anyone has filed a credit card dispute with Avianca I would really appreciate learning if they took any action against you such as seizing your points

  18. Greed knows no limits.

    I love me a mistake fare, but this was predictable from the start.

    An airline known for shenenigans, an airline on the verge of bankrupcy, an airline that hasnt issued any refunds despite an EU mandate, and cheap flights during a pandemic.

    Wow who would have thought you’d get screwed??

    Good luck getting refunds. Hope your credit card is good with chargebacks

  19. Hmm, seems to be a trend of European carriers never following through with their promises – here and Lufthansa biz class – compared to their Asian ones – Cathay Pacific biz mistake and ANA First/Biz class release. Similar to history of how European colonization promising of great assistance while cheating out locals.

  20. We had booked flights with the special black Friday fares from JFK to ORY for a total of a bit over $3200 round trip for two with a four night stopover in Lisbon on the outbound flight. They have since cancelled all flights out of JFK but never informed us. I only learned of the cancellation when I went to try to change the outbound date without a stopover. When I went to the website to request a refund, I was only offered a voucher, despite having booked fully refundable tickets, for flights that were cancelled by the airline. When I called TAP customer service I was told that they would refund the money but it would take several months. I had booked the flights using my Chase Ink card and while I could not initiate a claim online as the time for doing so had passed, I called Chase and explained the situation. They immediately issued a provisional refund and within a week it was finalized. While TAP’s agents are polite, they are useless. Portugal is such a wonderful destination with such a poorly run airline.

  21. On the other hand, Singapore told my brother his refund for our business class full care tickets on a flight that got covid canceled early in the pandemic would take 12 to 16 weeks to process, and in 12 weeks or so he did in fact get the money, so it’s not just TAP

  22. I bought the “mistake fare” They later canceled it on the 5th. Do you think I have any luck getting TAP to reschedule me?

  23. Strange that they havent canceled my $280 (inclusive of tax) biz class RT to Rome in August. They have however changed the schedule 3 times leaving me with some long 8-12 hour layovers. I also booked a $500 biz class RT to Vienna in Dec which I assume is their regular ‘bargain’ fare?

  24. Has anyone been successful in actually getting the cancelled mistake fare refunded yet? I booked directly with TAP, and I have not gotten any refunds, despite the forced cancellation and email indicating that a refund was forthcoming.

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