Air New Zealand Won’t Honor Cheap Business Class Fares

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?

Comments

  1. you need to stop giving coverage to nz , given their lack of long haul J award space and their failure to honor a reasonable priced fare

  2. Agreed. Time to shun a company that treats it’s customers this way. Yes, this was a cheap fare, but it was still a legit cost at $1k per ticket. To cancel without any communication or options to help customers is amateurish and unacceptable.

  3. It’s times like this I think of Matthew’s really good point on Live and Let Fly. If you make a mistake and book a flight on the wrong day, you don’t get to decide to cancel in a week. Why do airlines?

  4. Fare wasn’t “reasonable.” It bordered on absurd. It was obviously an error. Nobody was “harmed” by the error, and we shouldn’t expect airlines to honor these. Not sure why ANYONE feels they are entitled to a benefit caused by a mistake. Geez.

  5. This was a reasonable fare…I flew BKK to MUC last year in C just over a $1000 usd on Oman…there was nothing outrageous about this fare…awesome deal? Yes, but it was not some $250 bizarre fare.

    Anyways, my non refundable hotels, positioning flight and Oz ETA will be on ANZ now. When I called them I was polite but firm and had an incredibly rude agent that told me the problem was Expedia and that I should take it up with them because they never issued me a ticket (never mind that they assigned me seats, record locator and a tickets number)

    Word for word the agent laughed and said $1100 aud was not a normal ticket price and that the cost is usually 15,000 Aud (yeah fucking right it is). Nobody is paying them 15k to fly in C from SYD to LAX.

    Anyways, I have flown AirNZ in the past and had good experiences, the way I was treated on the phone and how this was handled will make sure I NEVER fly on their metal again.

  6. Call up Air NZ and while you are on hold for 45 minutes you will hear the advertisement about 30 times for the incredible flash fares they do for a limited time every day….pfft.

  7. Unlike ex-US or ex-Europe, ex-AUS business class fares to Asia are normally in the $2k to $3.5k range, to Europe in the $6k to $10k range, and TPAC in the $5k to $8k range. Anything lower than these are not the norm, and would be assumed here to be mistake fares (without a corresponding advertisement). Just because you can fly Trans Atlantic for $1k in business class doesn’t mean you can fly $1k TPAC from Australia. We get mauled on business class fares.

  8. Off-topic: thought you might want to blog about this weird story out of Changi, where a baggage handler swopped luggage tags on hundreds of bags for no apparent reason than to enjoy seeing them separated from their owners. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/baggage-handler-accused-of-swapping-tags-on-hundreds-of-bags-at-changi. Google cached version to bypass paywall: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:gOwR-frVJIgJ:www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/baggage-handler-accused-of-swapping-tags-on-hundreds-of-bags-at-changi+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=sg

  9. Clearly AirNZ has the legal ability to do this and I don’t think anyone who is reasonable or has a modicum of sense about what US-NZ J tickets cost would disagree that a sub-$1000 J fare was a mistake BUT its just a terribly un-customer focused approach to such a situation. Companies that are customer centric would have eaten the cost, which really was probably quite minimal as I’d imagine the lowest buckets could not have sold out the cabin, and even promoted and congratulated the “lucky” folks that scored such a great deal on socials turning a fare mistake into a net marketing postive.

  10. Did you know when GA (one of 5 stars airlines out there) giving 90% off miles redemption? It’s real, they honored their customer, sure I’ll never fly NZ anymore, better flying QF if I have to.

  11. NZ is in lust with the us hustlers and will do anything it can to drum up business and make profit. Say no to them. They did not honour their contract. What’s “reasonable” 2500$, 3500$, 9500$ for their crap J class w/ chairs facing in the wrong position (outward). Tie me kiwi down mate! No kia ora any mora.

  12. Bought 4 tickets MEL-LAX for my family, and they’ve cancelled my ticket without a notice to customer. At lease they’ve reimbursed ticket back to my credit card.
    DO NOT FLY AIR NEW ZEALAND!!!!!

  13. Yep… I was ticketed/charged for my BNE-AKL with a stop AKL-LAX and LAX-AKL-MEL a month later. The booking reference doesn’t work anymore on Air NZ, and expedia.au shows my itinerary as “canceled”. Received no notification (yet) or refund.

    That was a bit too good to be true, oh well, next error fare maybe…

  14. I didn’t buy so I have no skin in the game here but I’d be wary of any airline that will not stand behind their prices and tickets. Don’t care if it is an error or not. I make an error in booking about once every 12-18 months and I have never once been granted the benefit of the doubt or had change fees or price changes waived, even when my mistake was obvious or absurd. I have to live with my ticketing mistakes, I’d think it’s reasonable to expect a company that is literally in the ticket selling business to live with theirs.

  15. Disgusted. Honouring a misquote is etiquette 101. To cancel these without any preamble is a PR catastrophe. I can think of 40 ways they could have handled this from a full honouring to upgrade offers to a buy one get one free to massive apology…. How many seats that will go empty or to staff pax would they have been short? Disgusted. Poor form. Pathetic handling and frankly cowardly not to communicate directly.

  16. That 2015 DOT policy change is a travesty. There is no such thing as a “mistake fare”.

    The airlines hold all the cards here. They are entirely in charge of setting fares and publishing them. No passenger has ever tricked them into selling tickets too cheaply. Yes, the airfare system is complex beyond measure, but that itself is a problem of the airlines’ own making. So I have zero sympathy for NZ over this, and I think consumers have every right to expect that a published fare, however cheap, should be honored.

    I would love to see the concept of an overly cheap “mistake fare” challenged in a court of law. Exhibit A: Ryanair.

  17. No skin in the game on this one. But Id love to know all of those knocking NZ for CXing the tkts and saying not to fly them, how often before this have you flown NZ? How often do you purchase Biz class thats not a mistake fare? My guess is few if any

  18. @ John Slater

    There are many times where passengers tricked airlines into selling tickets too cheaply, you just won’t see it covered on any big blogs.

  19. @Isaac – It doesn’t matter. So far I’ve flown the following airlines for the first time on purchased business class tickets: Qatar, Cathay Pacific, Air France, KLM, Air Canada. For three out of those five, I chose the carrier in part due to a low business class fare. Why would you suggest that the tickets of first time customers or people that chose a low fare in the market be subject to unilateral repricing or renegotiation after the fact?

  20. Meant to say “So far in 2017, I’ve flown the following airlines for the first time on purchased business class tickets…”

  21. @isaac – roughly once a month trans tasman full fare biz. Am VA Plat. Assumed this was viral marketing on behalf of AirNZ as it coincided with a VA sale to LA and they recently wound back their FF agreement with VA on Trans-Pac flights. Airline is walking a fine line as a lot of the flights were actually ticketed and confirmed.

  22. What a crock – would be great if somebody files a DOT complaint and cites all of the low business class fares that we see all the time. Would also be great to see a class action lawsuit and let NZ prove that they made a unilateral mistake. Unfortunately the damages would be difficult to prove. Personally I love NZ business class but does not say much for a company that does not honor its own prices.

  23. I’m confused why this is even considered a mistake. I’ve seen $1,000 business class fares of this distance more than a handful of times

  24. The airlines are getting smart. They get these bloggers to flog the fares and the lounges etc and then freeloaders take over. Airlines are and should be in the business of service paying passengers and not to those who want to spent 14 hrs of a long haul flight eating drinking and taking showers. Amenities are there to entice business not make a buffet out of them. Anyway, this particular issue is unfortunate but unless there are laws with teeth, there is no recourse. And for those saying $1000 fares in business are fair from Aus to US – good – then wait a few more days and you will see a one salw ( NOT).

    Net net, the fall in service levels in premium should be blended on bloggers who just want to promote something for nothing and the industry is catching on. And rightly so.

  25. As a Kiwi, I should find a way of defending Air NZ, but their Business Class looks very sub-par to me, and their premium fares are always extortionate.

  26. I booked 8 flights knowing it was an error. Totally opportunistic as are air nz when they charge me $12k for the same flight. I have engaged a lawyer (yeah stupid I know but this is a serious case of misrepresentation) based on Australian consumer law. As a retailer I know when we make a mistake we have to honour it no ifs or buts! I spent an hour on the phone with various Expedia people in the USA and they didn’t handle it well either. I have been offered a flight for an extra $3335 which with the $1100 is a good deal but I think air nz have a significant moral obligation to honour something where they have my money!

  27. As a business owner I have come to terms with basic mistakes happening, though being forced to lose money because of them is not the idea of commerce. I would think many people that read this blog work in some form of fee per hour service industry, imagine quoting $30 per hour instead of $300, would you just allow your customer to accept those terms?

  28. Received a very courteous call from AMEX travel. He even said that he has seen many fares like this one honoured previously. Interestingly, he also said Air New Zealand sent them full instructions of exactly what to communicate to customers. He is forwarding it over FWIW.

  29. Remember Virgin Australia offered a stupid business class fare around the world? $3800 including taxes? I know it’s nearly 4 times more than the $1000 return to the USA, but that was the bargain of the century! It was withdrawn after 72 hours, but still have ticket and PNR.

    I think if they publish a fare that’s a mistake, they should honour it.

  30. The knicker twisting, foot stomping and righteous indignation expressed in these replies is making my morning a whole lot more enjoyable.
    Lucky himself intimated they may be error fares with his closing comment “Given how low these fares are, I also wouldn’t make any non-refundable plans around these flights yet. You never know if they’ll honor these fares or not,” yet when it turns out to be true, people respond as if Air New Zealand have stolen their first born.
    Grow up; it doesn’t always work out for you. It’s not a one way street of cheap champagne and reverse herringbone luxury.
    Suck it up sweet buttercups and move on; another opportunity is sure to be just around the corner.

  31. I’m shocked by people’s outrage here. I didn’t book this deal so obviously I can’t exactly share in the disappointment at thinking you’d booked an amazing deal and to start planning a trip just to have it ripped it away, however had I booked I would have been SHOCKED if they had actually honoured the fare, and would have expected it to get cancelled within a few days. Still, I know it’s easy for me to say that when I didn’t actually book this and get a ticket confirmation…
    In saying that however, I find people’s comments here to be pretty naive/unreasonable. If you want to “boycott” air NZ for not honouring a ridiculous and obviously mistaken fare go ahead, but I think that is silly for a couple of reasons: 1) to my knowledge, and from what I’ve read from people posting here, this was a fare that was available exclusively through Expedia, meaning it was Expedia’s mistake, not air NZ. I worked at a travel agency where this exact thing happened with Virgin Australia (MEL – PER fares for $30 in December, etc were sold on our website). These all got cancelled, and customers were calling us furious (rightly so, though again, “if it looks to good to be true…”), but Virgin had nothing to do with it, it was a glitch with our website. I don’t know what the specifics are in this case, but it sounds like this was Expedia’s mistake, not air NZ
    2) for everyone saying $1000 is a “reasonable” business class fare because they once booked such a flight from the US to Europe or something, obviously do not live in the Asia/pacific region and frequently fly with carriers like air NZ or Qantas. $1000 return to LA is RIDICULOUS and has never and would never happen. There is simply too much demand and air NZ is a premium carrier. Average business to LA with NZ could be anywhere from $5k -$15k depending on the season and demand.
    To the people arguing that they should have just honoured the fares okay, maybe they should have. Obviously that is not unheard of as carriers have done that before. But while perhaps they SHOULD have, I also don’t think it’s necessarily unreasonable that they didn’t, in my opinion. It was a pretty massive, obviously erroneous fare, and who knows how many people actually booked it around the world.
    Anyway, it definitely sucks and it would have been amazing it these were honoured! But I don’t think the airline is being unreasonable, in my opinion.

  32. This has made my day laughing at the self entitlement.

    Anybody who seriously thinks Australian A$1100 return from Australia to the US in Business Premier is legit probably believes in the man in the moon and Santa.

    Your don’t get NZ to the US return for under NZ$6000 and that’s with a super cheap deal. Ex AU you can get cheaper fares due to competition and can often pay $3500 – $4k

    When I looked at this mistake fare online it showed $1k and side by side showed $11k booking on NZ directly. Surely nobody could seriously think this wasn’t a mistake?!

  33. Get over it. This happens with mistake fares, you’ll all get used to it.

    It’s funny seeing all the people who “will never fly Air NZ again”. Let’s be honest,

    A) you likely never would have anyway
    B) if you actually stuck to not flying airlines that had cancelled mistake fares, you’d basically have every major airline in the world on your no flight list
    C) when it comes down to the crunch, and you do need to fly a route they service, 99.99% of the people who frequent deal sites such as will decide on price alone.

  34. Received a mail stating flights were cancelled.

    Well then, let’s cancel that PH SYD reservation…

    No big deal, next EF is around the corner, sometimes you win….

  35. If you vote republican, you have nothing to complain about.

    They are doing their job (as they said they would) and protecting the interest of the people they care about – rich individuals and corporations.

    If you don’t like the DOT changes and other laws changing to protect corporations, instead of complaining, don’t vote for the people championing them.

  36. While I think NZ should have honored the fare (since I cannot imagine the damage would have been THAT big), I also think that people that say “I will never flown NZ again” have never paid 4-5k for a regularly priced ticket to begin with… So NZ is not losing much business, I would assume, with you folks…

  37. @Airways and TRavels. Truth! If you fly NZ often enough you knew it was a mistake. If you don’t fly them at all they don’t lose you as a customer as you never were.

    It’s always odd to me when Lucky posts about great (and most likely a mistake) fares, people book them, the airlines don’t honor them and then people come back to the site outraged as if they didn’t know the precedent of the DOT rules or if the fare was reasonable. If you read this blog you are fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into. Stop with these bad faith arguments.

  38. If you do research, there was a recent gas line rupture in one of the main supply lines for Auckland. They have cancelled a number of domestic and international flights due to a fuel shortage.

  39. To those stating the merely “accept” philosophy, whilst I can only speak for myself, the greater issue is simply that no one communicated directly from the carrier. This could have been done in a fabulously NZ way that at least acknowledged the situation. It is cancelling without even that courtesy that I am disgusted about.

  40. Mate. The English language is a rich and enormous fund of words. There is no need to use ”reach out” to describe all forms of human communication.

  41. If I was air NZ management, I probably don’t want to have the business from those who cry about missing out on a mistake fare and “never fly with nz again” customer anyway.

  42. They should make the rule that applies to this very simple. Consumers generally have 24 hours to cancel a ticket without penalty. The same period should apply to the airline. Everyone makes mistakes and there should be no penalty if the mistake is rectified quickly by either party.

  43. FULL points for the way you’ve described this fare and, more importantly, the way that you haven’t. You distinguish yourself as an informed blogger with his readers’ interests at heart.

  44. Boo hoo. Somebody dropped their wallet, you tried to keep it, but they asked for it back. Give me a break.

    Ultimately I will say it benefits me. I will get your seat with my points. I think their J is fine, enjoyed it from LHR to LAX last year.

  45. Lucky, what load of crap you have written. Do the DOT govern Australian airline activity? NO, This fare are brought ticketed in Australia, using Australian merchant card processing , under Australian consumer laws. Australia is not the USA, under Australian law ANZ is under NO legal obligation to refund only to remedy, that is travel in Y cabin. you need stop giving legal advise and obligation of countries outside the US on legal sense you are not qualify to comment on.

  46. @ Mark O’Reilly — Any ticket that touches US soil is subjected to DOT regulations. It’s something airlines agree to by flying here. Maybe do some research yourself before calling it a load of crap.

  47. Lucky, wrong, not a DOT issue, it’s Aust commerce law.. that takes precedent. Do Australian immigration policies enforced on the US boarders, No.. its the same precedent.

    Why don’t you call ANZ legal consul in Auckland plead your case, do the same called QF , then come back to me. I be happy to eat crow , but know I made a safe bet. The issue is with the online booking company not the airline, study up on IATA agency cross carrier pricing agreement, same with UFTA.

    You need to do your home work son, sad.

  48. Jeez, Mark. You’re way off the, ahem, mark. As Lucky pointed out, the DOT has purview because the flight terminates in the USA. (Whether or not it takes any action is another story but if they don’t it won’t be because it’s outside its jurisdiction.) Get a grip, buddy. You’re the one spreading misinformation (which, to be fair, we all had a heads up on when you suggested NZ is an Australian airline).

  49. @ Lucky what makes you say that? I didn’t see the terms and conditions at the time these fares were booked on Expedia, but everything I can see on DOT’s website indicates that their jurisdiction is limited to US airlines or flights originating in the US. Neither of these apply here, so it looks like Mark O’Reilly is right. Happy to be proven wrong, but everything I can see indicates Mark has it correct. Am I just looking in the wrong place?

  50. A nice, polite post. Some people should take notice.

    To start, the online DOT air conplaint form has a “Airline/company” dropdown box. It has a very long list of arlines, many not US carriers, includng NZ. If the DOT doesn’t investigate complaints against non-US carriers, there’s no reason to include them in the list.

  51. https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/399.88

    “scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States”

    To or From

    From past cases they defined to/from as a stop of at least 24 hours in the US. That was before they decided not to apply 399.88 in cases of mistakes in any circumstance.

    While not related to mistake fares here are some DOT fines against Qantas for acts involving the US:

    https://cms.dot.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-fines-qantas-not-informing-passengers-opportunity-leave

    https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/dot-fines-qantas-violating-price-advertising-rules

  52. It seems pretty clear why people are upset. Everyone recognises that there’s a natural injustice when a person or institution benefits from a genuine mistake, and I don’t think any fair-minded person would disagree with this. The issue that irks is the asymmetry between the company’s ability to cancel a mistake fare beyond the same window that is accorded to passengers who book a ticket that was booked mistakenly, or turns out not to be required. If a 24-hour window applies to permissible cancellations for passengers for mistaken bookings, then the same window ought to apply to airlines. If a longer window applies for airlines, then a longer window ought to be introduced to allow passengers to unilaterally cancel tickets without penalty.

  53. Lucky is correct: the flight touches US soil and therefore is subject to US DOT rules in ADDITION to NZ/AUS rules. Same as a US carrier subject to EU261 on flights originating the EU to the US.

    As well, while obvious error fares are just that, a fare of $1,000 is not $1 or $100 and *could* reasonably be considered a Flash Sale.

    Given that it was not, NZ should have moved much more quickly to cancel.

    Agree with the poster that said airlines should have a limit of 24 hours to cancel a ticket – same protection as the consumer… nothing more or less. A consumer that books the wrong date/fare trying to cancel it days later simply cannot and the equation is far too one-sided.

  54. I booked two tickets and both were canceled. I spent hours on the phone and on twitter with both Expedia and Air NZ. In the end I was told that the fare will not be reinstated and that I *should* receive a full refund within TWO BILLING CYCLES. Nope – I am not giving an interest free loan to a less-than-ethical and customer-discentric company. This is absolutely unacceptable and needless to say I have filed formal complaints with the FTC and econsumer.gov.

    I suggest we all do the same.

  55. Oh FFS. It was an Expedia error, not Air NZ.

    I find it laughable anyone thought they were getting these flights for $1000. On any given Sunday you can fly NZ to AUS return for a grand, do you REALLY think you can fly AUS to USA for that price? Give me a break. You’re a bunch of harpies.

    Frankly if you all boycott Air NZ all the better. More seats for the rest of us with common sense and no self entitlement mummy didn’t breastfeed me issues.

    GROW UP.

  56. I’ll stick to flying Hawaiian from JFK to Auckland. The layover in Honolulu perfectly divides the flight time in two.

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