Air France Cancelled Most First Class Tickets and That’s (Almost) Ok

Yesterday Air France was selling first class from Los Angeles and San Francisco to London via Paris from $1428 roundtrip and one ways to Europe from $636.

As I wrote at the time this wasn’t a fare where you were guaranteed to travel, suggesting that Air France could suffer some ‘sellers remorse’. And indeed that appears to be the case.

  • First we started to see reservations booked directly on the Air France website cancelled
  • Then we started to see reservations booked via other channels cancelled
  • Although some readers report their reservations are still intact

Copyright: radututa / 123RF Stock Photo

The US Department of Transportation has said they will no longer enforce their rules (which are still on the books) requiring airlines to honor all fares that they sell. However customers need to be made whole for expenses they incur in reliance on those fares.

I’ve written that airlines shouldn’t have to honor mistake fares under a certain set of conditions. Generally consumers can cancel reservations within 24 hours, and airlines ought to be able to do the same if they can demonstrate and certify an actual obvious and egregious mistake and they communicate the cancellation promptly.

Here Air France appears to have acted quickly in the majority of cases but has yet to actually notify customers. That’s understandable if tickets were booked through an online travel agency, the OTA would need to notify customers who do not have a Flying Blue number in their reservation, Air France may not have contact information for the customer. But for those who booked direct, the lack of an email sent contemporaneously with cancellation ought to be considered unacceptable.

If you made a booking, where did you make your booking and is your reservation still intact or was it cancelled? Have you heard anything about the cancellation, or are you just unable to pull up reservation details online?

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, 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. […] Search for flights at When searching, check the box that says “I’m looking for flights around this date” to see a calendar with 30 days of pricing. If you book something for under 20K one-way, I’d recommend holding off on making other nonrefundable plans for a week or two in case Air France gets a case of what Gary Leff calls “seller’s remorse“. […]


  1. Booked directly with AF on one return attached to an FB account, and two o/w unattached to FB. Both cancelled, zero notice from them. Obviously expected but I greatly resent there being no notification of this cancellation today still.

  2. Made a booking directly on Air France website with flying blue number in the reservation. It disappeared from my reservations and I when trying to pull it back up using the locator it just stayed blank. No email or anything from Air France.

  3. I do have some issues with airlines arbitrarily cancelling some tickets when these issues arise.

    In many jurisdictions, a price offered is an invitation for the consumer to enter into a contract for the supply of goods. One cannot blame the consumer for accepting the offer.

    It is incumbent on the retailer, in this case the airline, to make sure that they make the offer in a correct manner. Remember the customer has no input whatsoever into the pricing structure, this is totally and wholly within the control of the airline

    If airlines were forced to honour the offer made to customers, then they would make sure in future that they post prices correctly and not adopt the slip shod attitude that appears to prevail today

    On another note. I wonder how many folk who are not aware of the ins & outs of mistake / error fares etc , went a booked one of these fares, then found their flights cancelled. We must remember, not every single passenger is up to date with these issues and may only travel once every few years

  4. If the industry was not protected from legal challenges by the ADA, I would agree with you. However, the ADA makes most consumer protection laws inapplicable. Once ticketed, the fare should be honored. It should not be hard to double check fares for outliers before they are filed. Somehow they have figured out how not to make mistakes for weights and balances. Fares are not that different.

  5. Since airlines have to reimburse you for any non-refundable travel plans you have made, next time someone books one of these they should also book a non-refundable business/first class ticket on either side of the reservation. Then if they don’t honor the booking you still get a free first class ticket.

    In this instance, if you were departing from San Francisco and lived in New York, book a non-refundable round trip first class ticket on AA to get you to the outbound flight and take you home from the return. Then when AF cancels you submit the claim. If they choose to honor the ticket instead then you can cancel the first class flight and keep the credit with AA (less then $200 change fee).

  6. I booked as a Delta ticket, and my ticket still shows as confirmed in both Delta and the Air France systems for next summer. I can and usually do save quite a bit on hotel rates by selecting non-refundable rates. Since it has been roughly 24 hours and my booking has not been canceled nor have I been contacted, I would l like to make hotel arrangements (for both London and Scotland on this trip). Can I safely do so knowing I am protected for reimbursement if my ticket is not honored at this stage? Not trying to game the system or be greedy, mainly trying to save some money if I do go on this trip while also being protected if the ticket is cancelled against my will. Some people say it should be reimbursed under DOT regulations, others say not necessarily. Would love an expert answer.

  7. They will only reimburse $200 per DOT rules: “These expenses include, but are not limited to, non-refundable hotel reservations, destination tour packages or activities, cancellation fees for non-refundable connecting air travel and visa or other international travel fees. The airline may ask the consumer requesting out-of-pocket expenses to provide evidence (i.e. receipts or proof of cancellations) of actual costs incurred by the consumer.”

  8. @John, the $200 isn’t a cancellation fee, it’s a rebooking fee. On most foreign airlines there is a fee you can pay ($100 or $200 depending on the type of ticket) to actually get your money back. That’s a cancellation fee. On American there is no fee you can pay to get your money back, only a fee to have a credit you can use on future flights.

  9. My booking is gone, flights on both Air France and Delta.

    A side issue is that the “pending” charge is on my credit card and my available credit is lowered by the amount of the pending charge. Two people traveling with a combo of air lines added up to thousands of dollars. I’m not going to go over my credit card limit but it would be nice to see the pending disappear – and my experience in the past is it will not be cleared until my monthly closing date.

  10. @Andrew, and what do you do with that non-refundable first class ticket when the airline honors the mistake fare?

  11. @Andrew if you actually use the value of the cancelled ticket, it won’t fit into the “actual costs” definition. Of course, however, I do want you to try and report back!

  12. If your ticket has not been cancelled or notified yet so far, book a 5 star hotel with non-refundable reservation and have Air France reimburse? is that possible under the DOT rule? It is a bit tricky because AF might reinstate your ticket if the hotel booking is too expensive. Or book non-refundable one way ticket from Lon to SFO on Swiss First and have AF cover that under DOT. If AF reinstate your ticket then you can fly both AF and LX first but one is very expensive and the other is really cheap, so it is still a good deal…

  13. Virgin Australia cancelled 10 days after the fare. They did pay for out of pocket expenses and refunded the ticket. I did file a DOT complaint and they did reference the case number on their correspondence with me and cc’d the DOT case worker.

  14. @Als,

    I recently had pending charges on a cc with Delta that lingered long past the promised 3-5 business days they’d be refunded/credited back for an ancillary fee they graciously waived to obtain for an aisle seat on an otherwise sold out flight for a beloved 80+ yrs old familynmember who was making a 24 hours, double connection (and interline, too) to/from Asia, plus a raft of duplicate charges for that seat that must’ve gone through when the transactions attempted on the mobile device used before finally resorting to regular computer later that day.

    The total was nearly $300, and while like you, I was not a risk of maxing out my card, once we got past the 7th or 8th business day, and repeated failed attempts to get the matter resolved, I got lucky and finally connected with am agent who offered a very useful tip to expedite things and get that pesky pending charge removed:

    Call (or stop by your bank if that’s the card issuer) the cc company, request a FAX NUMBER THEY USE to get official documentation from the vendor (or in this case AF/Delta) and then request/insist if they continue to drag and stall, that the airline fax whatever document it is the credit card companies need to verify release/credit of inactive, but lingering, pending charges.

    It worked for me with Delta, albeit a day or two longer than promised…

    …and with a rental car company that also recently did that for a hold that remained pending long after the vehicle was returned, and the charges were paid in full…

    …and for that company, Enterprise, which is the only company used for rentals, local or on the road, the pending charge for the deposit, which was also several hundred dollars, was dropped the next day…

    …and long before the end of the billing cycle!

  15. Booked via AF Germany, no FB added, booking still showing confirmed, low hopes! Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose!

  16. Wow…I guess that as much as I sometimes criticize United, two years ago they honored a biz class roundtrip NYC-MEX for $337…coach/economy for same flights was $237, so even that was well below typical fares for either cabin on any of the several trips taken before or since…

    …of course, my “mistake fare” which, since I was already working the voodoo that is now required for any fare/flights search for that already planned trip, was something clearly worth attempting to book to see what happened, came back with one of the strangest, and never seen before or since, confirmation emails “from United” that as a former travel agent/avgeek who actually checks the fare codes and pricing detail, instantly believed was….I guess one could say…”unusual” or “irregular” versus the many others otherwise seen at any time…was suspect from the word go…

    …but amazingly, trip went off without a hitch both ways in biz class!!!

    …but here’s the thing that made this likely “mistake fare” so interesting, and may even explain the “different” confirmation email I received “from United” after booking that awesome. never seen before or since in any cabin $337 RT NYC-MEX fare…

    …however many months later that it was revealed that United’s computers were hacked (allegedly) from China, it just so happened to correspond perfectly with the time the (alleged) hack happened…

    …so while I’ll never know for sure, and the cc #’s or other bank cards used for other flights on United once the (alleged) hack was reported have long since been changed, it’s always been a “happy coincidence” that likely “mistake fare” resulted from whatever strange things were going on at United that night, and even though the taxes and security/customs, etc., fees left little leftover for United, the airline did indeed honor that fare without hesitation!!!

    So, props to United for that!!!

  17. Oh, and PS on that “strange” night for the amazeballs biz class airfare, fwiw, at least then (it was late Oct/early Nov, or for Day of the Dead holiday) in 2015, the inflight service was very good, both crew and the meals, dinner there, breakfast back…also good, and actually excellent, were the entire staff at MEX itself, be it at check in or at the gate areas for the several morning flights departing that day…what was NOT good was the exceptionally rude and obnoxious gate agent who was NOT handling the fairly lengthy delay that day due to an heavy rainstorm, and an HVAC system that had either been already switched to heat settings for winter, or simply was malfunctioning…

    …whatever the reason, the flight was delayed, the gate changed at least once, and EWR was more steam room than properly ventilated that late afternoon/evening, and the gate agent was just flat out awful to everyone…

    …but hey, that’s ancient history…but since it’s far more often when mistakes and miscues at United get called out, other than the awful gate agent, even at the regular “discounted” biz class fares, the service on those two flights, was actually much better than expected then…so if it’s gotten better, then hey, may be not so bad after all if one can find a way to sit in the pointy end of those otherwise horrid 737s are for those 5+ hours flights I’ve also taken between NYC-MEX when stuck in coach…where unless one is on the aisle in an E+ row, those 5+ hours seem like a whole lot longer than that…

  18. I booked on AF website, my tickets disappeared around 10pm ET last night. I am a member of Flying Blue, so I would have expected some kind of correspondence at least. Has anyone tried contacting AF?

  19. I made a reservation directly through the AF site. Now when I go to the AF site, trying both the record locator and the ticket number, I get this message:

    “Your reservation file is empty. Please contact our customer service for information about this file.”

    Looks like all such reservations will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

    Oh well.

  20. Booking fares like this is becoming a waste of time. With each successful cancellation by an airline, other airlines are more and more likely to just cancel rather than take the hit.

    Invest in systems that prevent such filings in the first place? Why spend the money when its so much cheaper to just cancel them all since there are no repercussions?

  21. Booked ow lax/Lhr on AF siteand was cancelled last night. No notice, just unable to get info using pnr. I really think some sort of notice is appropriate via email. Again why can Airlines unilaterally cancel tickets without notice while the consumers can’t ?!?

  22. There are two actions here and you left out the other equally important one: the speed at which the airline provides a full refund of the fare paid. My understanding is that AF (and its resellers, OTAs, etc) have yet to provide full credit to anyone’s account.
    It would be great if customers would file DOT complaints on this topic as the airlines are fully capable of making instant credits and yet they often wait weeks to do so. They should not get free use of the customers’ money when they have cancelled the ticket. If anything they should be paying a cancellation fee if the transaction is not fully cancelled within 24 hours as they require of their customers.

  23. I wrote on Ben’s thread on this topic that I was rather surprised there is not a similar level of outrage regarding the cancellation of these AF tickets that there recently was at Aeroplan regarding their mis-issuance of Swiss award tickets in same class of travel. I still genuinely wonder why. Can other readers offer their insights?

  24. Expecting the airline to send out cancellation notices is as unrealistic as expecting it would honor the fares. AF has little (make that zero) incentive to lift a finger for customers who are unlikely to ever pay non-mistake prices to fly AF.

  25. @Steven M — Aeroplan and other frequent flyer programs booked those Swiss awards at regular price, not a mistake price. And Swiss has made the space available at least two other times in the last 18 months and had no problem with customers flying on the space. I genuinely did not see any problem with those award tickets when they were booked.

  26. Just wondering…

    Does the EU, which has much better consumer protection regulations than we do in the USA, say anything about the issue of “Mistake Fares” and if they must be honored or not, etc.?

    I’ve successfully pursued claims for other consumer Faux Pas by Air France and other EU airlines, for family/friends who’ve been left in the lurch by the occassional “work stoppages” that AF and other EU airlines experience throughout any given year, month, week(!), so perhaps that’s worth a look see to find out if there is, or is NOT, any regulation covering things like this, or if any remedies exist for other plans that were made in expectation of taking the flights booked that get jammed up if the mistake fare is reneged by the airline subsequent to payment and receipt of a PNR #.

  27. Simply put, don’t waste time with our DOT, especially now that President Small Hands and his gang of incompetents is in charge of the federal agencies that for all intents and purposes are useless until at least mid-2021 at the earliest for any kind of meaningful consumer protections and/or regulatory enforcement…

    So point those search engines towards the EU and search there instead…

    If they have any regs covering that, then one would be wise to pursue claims there…

    …but if not, then guess it’s “SOL” so to speak…

  28. Booked via Expedia, just checked with AF and everything is still looking good. Got 2 RT LAX to LHR July 8-21

  29. Just checked my credit card account and the Air France change has moved from pending to a confirmed change. And checked the reservation locater and the tickets have not “re-appeared”.

    So do I call Air France? Do I dispute the charge with my credit card company? Do I wait for Air France to credit the charges? Now that they have my money it feels like fraud.

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