Airlines don’t have to honor ‘mistake’ fares, U.S. agency rules

U.S. airlines

Airlines honoring those super-hot airfare price mistakes may be a thing of the past. The U.S. Department of Transportation says airlines don’t have to honor consumer purchases of mistakenly priced tickets.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Those airfares posted in error that promise an insanely cheap price? U.S. carriers no longer have to honor them, the U.S. Department of Transportation has ruled.

Airfare price mistakes aren’t uncommon, and consumers snap them up after the word spreads quickly on low-fare websites such as FareCompare, FlightFishing and Airfarewatchdog or by social media.

Case in point: In 2013, Delta Air Lines wound up honoring $6.90 round-trip flights to Hawaii that appeared on its website for about two hours. Price glitches in airfares have become common enough that some travelers wait for them to happen and pounce on the glitch. 

But that’s all changing.


The DOT’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings  says it “will not enforce the requirement for airlines to honor mistaken fares provided the airline demonstrates that the fare was a mistake and reimburses the out-of-pocket expenses of consumers who purchased the mistaken fare,” it said in a statement Friday.

It’s a temporary ruling that will remain in effect until the agency issues a final ruling about mistaken fares, the statement said.

It was bound to happen too. United Airlines in February refused to honor $51 first-class tickets on transatlantic flights that were posted on its Danish booking site.

The airline told USA Today at the time: “United is voiding the bookings of several thousand individuals who were attempting to take advantage of an error a third-party software provider made when it applied an incorrect currency exchange rate, despite United having properly filed its fares.”


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