Etihad (Sort Of) Honoring First Class Mistake Fare

Just under two weeks ago Etihad published a pretty awesome fare of ~$1,450 roundtrip in first class between Colombo and Dallas. Historically these types of fares often weren’t honored, though the Department of Transportation did issue a ruling a while back protecting consumers from post-purchase price increases. Ultimately it’s up to the airlines as to whether or not they want to follow those rules, though they’re subject to huge fines if they choose not to.

As a result we’ve seen airlines almost always honoring mistake fares as of late. We hadn’t really heard anything from Etihad on these fares for a while, though it appears as if some people have written correspondence from Etihad now regarding these tickets.

James84 on FlyerTalk posted the following correspondence he received from Etihad:

Dear Mr _____,

We are writing to address your booking for travel from Colombo to Dallas in Diamond First Class and Pearl Business Class under booking reference XXXXXX.

We note that the fare you have paid was not the applicable fare for the class of travel indicated and is even lower than the applicable economy fare for that routing; however, will honor the ticket as booked. Please note, though, that we will not permit any changes to this booking of any kind unless the fare difference between the fare we received and the correct applicable fare is paid. These flights are not eligible for bonus miles, and are not accompanied by chauffeur service or for lounge access.

You will be permitted to cancel the ticket will a full refund.

If you require any further information about the booking, your travel or cancellation of the trip, please contact our call centres on the below numbers:

Colombo – 00 971 2 599 0000
USA – 1888 838 4423 or 00 971 2 599 0000
Canada – 1 866 948 1081 or 00 971 2 599 0000

Should you require any further details you can also contact us at feedback@etihad.ae.

Sincerely,

___________
On behalf Etihad Airways

So I actually find this really interesting. I mean, technically I think Etihad is honoring the fare. At least they’re honoring the contract of carriage to the extent that they agree to transport you between point A and point B.

But are they really honoring the fare? I mean, if an airline publishes certain benefits for flying in a certain class of service and Etihad refuses to honor them, are they really honoring the ticket? For that matter, how are they going to control lounge access? Both award and revenue fares qualify for lounge access, so how will they single out those people on mistake fares?

Or maybe they’re just blowing steam and trying to threaten people so that they’ll voluntarily choose to refund their tickets? And what’s next, not serving those that booked the mistake fare food or drink on the flight?

Willy-Wonka-Etihad

But I do think this is really bad business. When you have a mistake fare and choose to honor it, you might as well make the best of it and generate as much goodwill as possible. Honoring the ticket while taking away the benefits of flying in first class kind of seems like it would generate a lot of ill will.

What do you guys think? Should people just be grateful that Etihad is honoring the fare? Do you feel like not offering miles or honoring chauffeur service and lounge access will generate ill will towards them?

(Tip of the hat to Gary)

Comments

  1. I was going to say how would they know? Once you board, most flight crew don’t recheck tickets and usually they only cursory check the ticket at entry just to confirm your seat and class. I would be surprised if they actually had a clipboard of people they need to ‘screw’ to undo their mistake. Like the soup nazi from Seinfeld “No champagne for you!”

  2. It seems to me that when you buy a ticket, you buy a specific package of fare rules. Did those fare rules say that this fare was non-changeable?

  3. Etihad would have come out looking better and smelling better, had they send you a simple letter saying they recognize the fare error, they will honor the fare and look forward to welcoming you on board.

  4. While i find some in this community to be a bit childish at times expecting something for nothing, Etihad is being a big baby. They are the ones who screwed up, just fix the problem and deal with it.

    Based on some of the reviews, they never really seemed all that impressive anyway, i would not go out of my way to travel with them.

  5. @ Jeff R — Well in general if you change a ticket before departure it would reprice either way, so there wouldn’t have been an easy way to change it anyway. But agree, changing fare rules is ridiculous as well…

  6. so they are not going to serve food or drinks on their flights, because from the text i only see that you won’t have lounge and chauffer that’s it.

  7. Stupidly bad PR and pettily are things that cost them next to nothing. Plus, violates DOT rules. They sold me full fare F which is advertised as including those things. Anything other than as-advertised is post-purchase price increase. DOT will bring them around. Stupid PR because FTers are trip reporters and could give tons of free advertising. You don’t WANT FTers to experience neutered product. Also petty because we paid MORE than they get paid for award tickets.

  8. It’s a MidEast airline. They may well detain you and throw you in jail for ‘hacking’ their website to purchase the fare. What would stop them?

    I’m joking. Sort of. Maybe.

  9. @HansGolden – What EY gets paid for award seats is irrelevant. Those are seats the airline doesn’t expect to fill with revenue passengers. The seats you booked are ones the airline did expect to fill.

    Also, your comment about FTers being trip reporters and giving tons of free advertising is so hilariously insane that it’s beyond comprehension that you actually believe it.

  10. One only needs to perform the universal, world-wide, reflexive method of product comparison to see truth of my comment about trip reports: type “{airline} first class” into Google.

  11. You people should try working for a living sometime, rather than always looking for loopholes and mistakes to exploit and whining like a 2 year old when you don’t get your way.

  12. I dunno. Some of the more popular FT Trip Report blogs have over 20,000 viewing hits on them. That’s pretty good free favourable, or not favourable advertising on the part of the carrier.

    I only say this as a result of knowing that the traditional click through rate on internet banner advertisement is very very low. Less than 1 out of 100 shown in some instances.

  13. Please stop posting memes. I’m trying to help here because they are just quite embarrassing and really not good. Highly doubt they attract any readers but they definitely repel readers.

  14. Wow! Etihad would’ve been so much better off just honoring the fare completely. If, as others have said, DOT rules call for honoring entirety of fare rules, FTers are just the type of a crowd that would complain to DOT en masse and make things even worse for Etihad.

    P.S. I can kind of understand the no-changing dates thing (although, it depends on exact fare rules). But withholding other things is not smart.

  15. as usual with this airline, they change the rules and break their own rules and wont commit to a word. as was with their status match, as with this, and numerous other times.
    i sure as hell wont be spending my dime there.

  16. I agree with your last paragraph regarding ill will.

    Etihad should man up and accept the mistake they made. They published the fare, not the consumer.

    From an accounting perspective. How many tickets would they have sold at this price? I think if they sold 50 or even 100 tickets at this mistaken fare, it would be a lot. The first class cabin is never full… so what marginal expense do they have for each extra 1st class passenger?

    The lounge? No extra cost as they won’t notice the extra food consumed.
    The limo service? Yes this will be an extra expense but relatively small compared to the good will it creates.
    The food onboard? I can’t imagine the food would break the bank. Only really the Champagne consumption could increase their costs.
    Fuel expense? Marginal for the extra weight of an extra passenger and its luggage.
    FF Mileage? Yes this would be an extra.

    So in my opinion, by honouring the mistaken fare (in full), they’d create a lot of goodwill and might even introduce people to 1st class who might purchase it at a later stage (like a loss leader concept). And they would have very low extra expenses. Only the limo service, Champagne and mileage accrued.

    The ill will created by not honouring a valid contract… is much much more costly.

    And the extra charges for all of the mistaken tickets would maybe not even cost them USD 100k. If your post of the issue lost them 8 first class tickets, that’s already lost revenue of USD 100k.

    Any business should honour deals especially when its their own fault.

  17. I think Lucky is technically correct. The fare rules govern the terms and conditions of carriage, and if EY isn’t following the fare rules, they’re not technically honoring the fare. That said, I doubt DOT would be too fired up about this, since EY is providing the transportation purchased by the customer. Whether this generates bad publicity for Etihad remains to be seen, in my opinion. No one buying full fare first class tickets is going to care whether EY honors this mistake fare, and in fact that target customer is more likely to wish EY would not honor the fare and have fewer people in the first cabin. That said, tagging a customer’s record with “no lounge access” seems like code for “we don’t value this customer’s business”, and that will be seen at minimum by everyone handling the customer on the ground and perhaps by the FA’s. Who knows how that might translate into the overall service the “second class, First Class” customer receives. That could turn into a bunch of “Etihad Diamond First Class – Never Again” stories on the web. People buying full fare first class tickets will read those, and will only care that a first class passenger is treated badly on EY not whether there was a mistake fare involved. It doesn’t seem worth it for the few bucks Etihad saves on the lounge visit.

  18. @John – I think you’re spot on when you say that EY’s target market would want them to NOT honor the mistake fare. The money EY gets from their target market will, in the long run, dwarf any money they will get from the FF community, and similarly, will likely dwarf any potential fines from DOT.

  19. Do you really think that Etihad cares about free promotional advertising to or good will from the group of people that frequent FT, MP or these boardingarea blogs?

    Let’s face it. We are the ones from whom they make very little profit, if any, and are probably a nuisance for maximizing price mistakes and fare rules/loopholes (e.g. fuel dumps).

    Anyone stating that Etihad needs to fully honor all aspects of the F experience because of “ill will” or “unfavorable advertising” is being delusional. If you were an airline, would you want to court the FT community for F class revenue seats?

  20. I find it comical that many of you think that this will actually hurt Etihad in the long run. The valuable customers couldn’t care less what Etihad does with the tickets, they care about the product. If you are jumping on these $1,500 fares that require positioning flights, you are not Etihad’s target market and are unlikely to ever fly them as a full revenue first class customer. They could serve no food and drink to mistake fares and they would lose about 0 full revenue F customers.

  21. Two more things:
    #3. Integrity and delivering what you promise and sold is universal across customers. Screw someone else, you’ll screw me too if you can.
    #4. Some of the wealthiest people are people that love deals the most; how else do you think they got wealthy? I’m a gamer, but I am quite profitable to the travel companies as well. Gary is in the same situation.

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