A couple of days ago I wrote about some crazy low business class fares that Air New Zealand had between Australia and Los Angeles. Roundtrip tickets were available for under $1,000, which is a heck of a deal. I know a lot of people managed to ticket reservations, received e-ticket receipts, etc.
However, unfortunately it looks like Air New Zealand won’t be honoring these great fares. Many readers have reached out to let me know that they received cancelation notices, and/or that their tickets aren’t showing up online anymore. These fares were mostly booked through online travel agencies, so sometimes it takes a while for them to reach out to passengers. If you haven’t received any communication regarding your ticket yet, I’d recommend checking the status of it on Air New Zealand’s website.
When I first wrote about this sale I recommended not making any non-refundable plans around these flights yet, since I figured this outcome was a real possibility.
Back in the day the US Department of Transportation was really strict in requiring airlines to honor mistake fares that touch US soil, though they changed their policy in 2015. This was part of a policy against post-purchase price increases.
Originally the relevant part of the policy was as follows:
The Enforcement Office explained that if a consumer purchases a fare and receives confirmation of the purchase and the purchase appears on the consumer’s credit card statement and/or online account summary, then there has been a purchase whether or not it was a mistaken fare and the post purchase price prohibition in section 399.88 applies.
In 2015 that policy was updated as follows:
As a matter of prosecutorial discretion, the Enforcement Office will not enforce the requirement of section 399.88 with regard to mistaken fares occurring on or after the date of this notice so long as the airline or seller of air transportation: (1) demonstrates that the fare was a mistake fare; and (2) reimburses all consumers who purchased a mistaken fare ticket for any reasonable, actual, and verifiable out-of-pocket expenses that were made in reliance upon the ticket purchase, in addition to refunding the purchase price of the ticket. 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. In essence, the airline or seller of air transportation is required to make the consumer “whole” by restoring the consumer to the position he or she was in prior to the purchase of the mistaken fare.
So if you did buy one of these fares, there’s nothing you can do to force Air New Zealand to honor it. However, if you did incur any verifiable out of pocket expenses as a result of this, Air New Zealand does have to reimburse you for them.
If you’re in that situation, I’d recommend reaching out to Air New Zealand and citing the relevant DOT regulations. I wouldn’t get the DOT involved unless you have issues with Air New Zealand. Ultimately every airline will handle something like this differently, so it’s tough to know how Air New Zealand will respond.
However, hopefully most of you didn’t make any non-refundable plans, so won’t have to go through the process.
In this game we win some and we lose some, and I tend to think it makes sense to move on in cases like this. Plenty of mistake fares are honored, but it looks like this won’t be one of them.
If you booked one of these tickets, have you received a cancelation notice?