Hong Kong Airlines offered $560+ roundtrip business class fare to Asia from Los Angeles this week. You could fly to Shanghai or Bangkok, Bali or Vietnam, at unheard of prices.
And Hong Kong Airlines came out right away to say they would be honoring the tickets.
So about that 600 USD business class transpacific fare 😳….we did it, we will honour it, and perhaps a few people will get to travel on our news business class product being introduced in September to LA. What’s not to like?✈️
— Hong Kong Airlines (@hkairlines) August 18, 2018
And here’s their Chief Marketing Officer,
No, it wasn't intentional…definitely not a marketing gimmick. We really screwed up.
It hit when I was BBQing at a friend's house on my vacation. We have decided to honor the tickets at our own cost.
We are willing to pay a price to keep our promises as a brand. https://t.co/YKhNtXqxvV
— George Liu/CMO Hong Kong Airlines (@GeorgeJLiu) August 17, 2018
For some readers booking a $28 ticket to Paris presents a moral challenge: should you take advantage of something you know is a mistake? My own view is that I’m happy to book it, airlines will choose to honor it or they won’t, but if they’re going to fly people to Paris for $28 I’d like to be one of those people.
I’ve never been a fan of suing to try to enforce these fares. Nor have I been a fan of the Department of Transportation requiring that they’re honored. But I also think airlines and consumers should be treated the same — airlines shouldn’t be able to cancel mistakes on better terms than consumers (who are generally permitted under DOT rules to cancel for 24 hours after purchase if it’s more than a week out from travel).
- Mistake fares are less common than they used to be. Better tools are in place to prevent ‘fat finger’ errors, dropping zeros for instance and selling tickets for orders of magnitude less than usual.
- The US government went through a period where they required airlines to honor mistake fares. Then they stopped doing that. And now airlines seem less likely to honor these fares than before the DOT got involved in the first place.
- Now most such fares that exist, and that are honored, are offered by non-U.S. airlines.
Still when United sold $1100 business class tickets Los Angeles – Auckland via Sydney in 2007, their spokesperson called honoring the tickets “the right thing to do.”
Virgin Atlantic has promised to honor mistake fares. I’m not sure I actually believe them, but at least they’re on record.
There is something to standing behind the fares that you offer. There’s something to treating consumers at least on equal footing with large corporations. That’s not how airlines usually behave and when they do they deserve admiration and respect. Today that’s Hong Kong Airlines.