What Are The Odds Of Air France Honoring Cheap First Class Fares?

A few hours ago we saw Air France publish some incredible first class fares from Los Angeles and San Francisco to London. The fare was about $1,500 roundtrip, or you could book a one-way ticket for just under half the cost of a roundtrip. It goes without saying that this is an insane fare for what I consider to be the world’s best first class product.

At this point the fare seems to be dead, though it was around for a decent amount of time. The natural question now is what the odds are of Air France honoring these tickets. It goes without saying that this was a mistake fare. I suspect this was either intended to be a premium economy fare, or they simply left off a zero — one or the other.

I’ve already received several questions from readers asking whether the airline has to honor the fare, whether I think it will be honored, etc. Of course I hope these tickets are honored. I managed to book a few tickets, and this would easily get me to Delta Diamond status thanks to the number of Medallion Qualifying Dollars you earn for these fares.

Does Air France have to honor these tickets?

Back in the day the US Department of Transportation was 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.

In other words, if you book a mistake fare and it touches US soil, the airline does have to reimburse you for any verifiable out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of reliance on the fare. Now, while that’s what they’re supposed to do, they may not make it easy, and you may even have to take the airline to court… and that might not be worth it, especially when we’re just talking about non-refundable expenses.

I’ve actually never heard a firsthand report of someone going after airlines under these rules, so at some point that in and of itself may make an interesting story.

What are the odds that Air France honors?

Personally I think it’s highly unlikely that Air France honors these fares. Air France is known for trying to keep their first class elusive, to the point that it’s only available on miles if you’re an elite member in their own FlyingBlue program, and then you still have to pay the insanely high “flex” mileage cost.

On top of that, keep in mind that Air France has pretty small first class cabins — their 777s have just four first class seats, while their A380s have nine first class seats.

So I think the odds are slim. I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see them honoring the tickets.

Aren’t you just wasting everyone’s time?

I shared my philosophy on this in a post back in October. The reality is that airlines do honor mistake fares a surprising amount of the time, even if they are obvious mistakes. Earlier this year ANA honored $700 roundtrip business class tickets between Vancouver and Sydney, while Qatar Airways honored super cheap business class tickets from Vietnam to just about everywhere in the world.

Those were obvious mistake fares, yet they still honored. To take it a step further, Qatar Airways is generally one of the most arrogant airlines out there and unilaterally does whatever the heck they want, so I’m sort of shocked they honored those fares.

There’s always the risk of wasting your time when you get involved with these mistake fares, but personally I love the rush of booking them, and enjoy seeing what happens. If you’re not patient (or book same day travel, when you have the best odds of the tickets being honored), chances are good you may be disappointed.

Bottom line

All that’s left to do now is wait and see what happens. Hopefully Air France honors these incredible first class fares, which were obviously a mistake. If they choose not to honor, I hope they communicate with passengers quickly and transparently. To those who booked, at this point just be patient, as it’s all you can do.

Anyone more optimistic about Air France honoring these fares?

Comments

  1. Lucky, in my haste to book I accidentally entered my first and last name backwards on one of my AF tickets. Am i out of luck here?
    I know it would be ill advised to contact AF at this point. Curious how you would proceed…

  2. “To take it a step further, Qatar Airways is generally one of the most arrogant airlines out there and unilaterally does whatever the heck they want, so I’m sort of shocked they honored those fares.” …. Really

    I class United in that category, for so many reasons I really do not have the time nor space here to even start listing some of them

  3. I think they’ll honor it since a lot of key internal stakeholders making the decision will be on vacation for the holidays. Since they also have a joint venture and co-located pricing people in both ATL and CDG, it’ll require both AF and DL people to agree on a solution and US airlines tend to honor these tickets.

  4. Given that the F cabin on SFO/LAX-CDG flights is now mostly or fully occupied on every date I checked, I just don’t see how AF could possibly honor these tickets.

  5. I managed to book a return SFO-LHR; does anyone know if there is a specific time window in which they have to honor the fare? Or could they cancel any time between now and the flight date?

  6. I agree with AG, too many people booked the fare and their first class cabin is now full until the end of schedule! There’s no way they’re going to honor and lose so much money. I wish it hadn’t been advertised so much all over the place. I have a ticket booked but I’m not making any further plans. Too bad

  7. Question: These “mistake” fares – are they human error/typo like errors or are they dynamic pricing algorithms gone awry?

  8. @Lucky I’m confused — I thought your “best first class product” designation for Air France was specifically on the B777, not the A380. Aren’t the flights to/from LAX/SFO on the A380?

  9. Did we all just forget the Swiss Air fiasco? Your chances of them honoring the price is less than zero? That means somehow you will be loosing money with this transactions. I tried to book it myself, but was to late. Good luck though. I would love to fly first class on AirFrance.

  10. Virgin Australia paid out of pocket expenses with their mistake fare which was canceled 10 days afterwards.

  11. @SinoSoul thanks! seems at least another 5 people did this on FlyerTalk as well. clearly AF website isn’t the most user friendly.

  12. Hi Lucky,
    Not a legal expert but if US and EU regulations are in conflict, what does the airline have to follow? Eg, got a delayed flight from chicago to copenhagen some wks ago and got 600e back due to eu rules (after the counter agent in the us said he could not comment any potential compensation).
    Would make a difference if uou got the ticket via EU site/agency v/s US site?
    Does anyone knows?

  13. @Mario I think EU rules apply to a) EU Airlines’ flights to EU b) flights starting in EU

    So I would think EU261 should apply?

  14. you make a big song and dance about booking these super cheap fares THEN you go on to write about the fact that you think AF wont honor them!?

    Please sit for a minute and think about that…

  15. If it was business class they might but first, I doubt they will be honored. I booked AF business class tickets last year for about $1k return and they honored those but not first.

  16. @ Andrew — Did you miss this part of the previous post?
    “We’ll have to wait and see whether Air France honors these fares, so I wouldn’t make any non-refundable plans surrounding these tickets yet.”

  17. For these obvious mistake fares the best thing to do is to book the first segment for the next 2-3 days (assuming your weekend is free) – that way you’ve flown already by the time a decision is made on cancelling.

  18. The nonsense in these comments is very entertaining. Lucky did a good job getting the word out about the deal, as did so many other bloggers.

    Whether or not you approve of people getting out the word about deals such as this, that’s the way it works. Suck it up.

    The irony is that most people who took advantage of this deal learned about it from these bloggers. So any complaints about bloggers “spreading the word and ruining the deal” are the height of hypocrisy. Those hypocrites should join the Trump White House or GOP and join in the nonsense of B.S. hypocrisy on a daily basis.

    That Lucky shared the deal is appropriate, and that Lucky also shares he thinks that AF won’t honor the mistake fare is also appropriate. It’s also true. Some people are trying to complain about Lucky being the bearer of bad news, but only a fool wouldn’t expect that AF most likely will cancel these obvious mistake fares. Anyone thinking differently is a fool…or an idiot. If you luck out and AF honors these (I find that highly unlikely), then you can count yourself very lucky…and then Lucky’s opinion won’t have mattered anyway. If AF does as Lucky expects, then your whining about his opinion looks as retarded as you are.

    Mistake fares are mistakes. An airline honoring mistake fares is a lucky circumstances not to be expected. Bloggers spreading the word about them is simply bloggers doing their jobs. People whining about any of this is nonsensical hypocrisy. It’s as simple as that.

  19. If it is true that their F cabins are now full for months out, then they shouldn’t honor these fares.
    They need space for actual paying customers who fly/buy F. And when I say “actual paying customers” I do not mean “mistake-fare freeloaders” which are not the same thing.

  20. I booked a few, but odds these are honored approaches 0.00001%.

    Over the next four months, there are exactly four (count ’em) days with three or more available AF F seats SFO-CDG.

    AF will not be content with our slimy sub-culture booking up their entire F inventory at $1500 a pop (or cheaper if you booked through Amex).

    Was fun to think about tho.

  21. DL is responsible for JV pricing on AF fares originating from the US. DL has had a bad enough month already, so why not add this to the fire. Although unlikely, I could see these honored from a PR perspective, although most people would just blame AF, since they have no idea DL is responsible.

  22. For those asking is EU261 applies if AF cancels:

    For most people, the answer is no, because EU261 makes an exception for flights canceled more than a certain amount of time before the flight (I think it’s 2 weeks, don’t remember exactly). So unless you booked a flight that’s going to depart in the next few days, you won’t get EU261 compensation if AF cancels your ticket and notifies you.

  23. I’m sure they will not only authorize the fare but will insist on a chauffeured Rolls Royce limousine to pick up all passengers to and from departing and arrival airports 😉 🙂

  24. I disagree with the DOT’s revised policy. The passenger has 24 hours to identify any potential mistake he may have made when booking a ticket, and if a mistake was made, he can cancel the trip within that 24 hour window. It would seem fair that the carrier should also be required to identify any mistake it may have made within 24 hours of booking and notify the would-be passenger.

    It would be easier to be more sympathetic to airlines when they make mistakes if they were more forgiving of mistakes made by their customers.

  25. Curious as to why you say not to make non-refundable purchases when that is the only thing they are responsible for? Unless you won’t go to Paris if not in F, then why not make non-refundable hotel bookings so that at least your accommodations are covered and you can find another way to get there?

  26. @ Stannis — It’s a valid point and worth pursuing, but I think it’s important to note that while that’s technically what the airline is responsible for, that doesn’t mean they’ll actually do it without taking them to court, etc. The point is, it has the potential to be a huge hassle, and won’t necessarily be a straightforward process. But for someone willing to risk it and give it a try, I suppose it could indeed be lucrative to do so.

  27. air france sent me an email to say my booking of 3 tix in first was cancelled on SFO-LON return trip …can i ask some compensation?

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