Bargain hunters' dreams dashed as ANA cancels $300 first-class tickets to Tokyo

Originally published at: Bargain hunters' dreams dashed as ANA cancels $300 first-class tickets to Tokyo | Boing Boing


The question is not “should ANA honor…” but “should ANA be forced to honor the price they agreed to” and the answer is “yes”


Legally, ANA is in the right. There is a legal concept called ‘unilateral mistake of fact’ which essentially means a contract can be voided if one of the parties could reasonably assume it was a mistake. A business class fare for a few hundred dollars that isn’t part of a promotion would appear to be an obvious mistake.

Sucks for those who were already looking forward to stretching out on the plane though.


i’m gonna take the unpopular opinion here and say ANA was correct in cancelling the tickets. anyone that books a flight they didn’t need just because of an obvious pricing error deserves to get what they get. greedy, opportunistic assholes.

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I’m fine with ANA cancelling the tickets due to erroneous pricing. Cheap airline tickets aren’t unheard of, but this should have seemed likely to be an error.

That said, I think airlines should be obligated to pay for the foreseeable consequences of their own errors: cancellation fees and non-refundable payments for hotels, rental cars, and similar travel expenses incurred in expectation of having already bought said ANA tickets.


That’s really unduly harsh. Nothing in this article suggests that the people who bought these tickets were assholes, and you’re really jumping to conclusions. The fact that they were looking for tickets at all suggests that they already had plans to travel, and I don’t see any ethical issues against seleting the cheapest fares that the airline presents among the different options.

Last time I flew somewhere with my family the airline over-booked the flight and forced me onto another plane with hours of resulting delays, despite the fact that I had bought and paid for my seats months earlier and arrived to the airport hours before my scheduled flight. The airlines are not necessarily the innocent good guys being taken advantage of by mean, greedy customers.




There are entire sites dedicated to finding and exploiting airline mistake fares. It’s really not that uncommon and some times airlines will honor these reservations if the mistake is not too egregious. However, legally, they are entirely in their rights to cancel tickets if the fare rules were erroneously calculated such as in this case with ANA.

In the US at least, back in 2015 the DOT updated their policy allowing airlines to cancel mistake fares at their sole discretion provided they did reimburse any actual expenses incurred by the traveler as a result of the mistake. International rules vary but most airlines are cracking down and voiding mistake fares rather than honoring them.

The Assistant General Counsel has decided not to enforce section 399.88 with
respect to mistaken fares while the Department completes the aforementioned rulemaking
process. 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 mistaken fare4; 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


If it were 5-20 seats? Sure, let them fly at the low price. Over 100 seats? Refund the actual purchase price,

Bad PR has a cost…

anyone jumping on a ticket at 3% of its value deserves harsh when plans fall apart. that wasn’t a sale and certainly not a normal price tag. that was a pricing error. and besides, if it was a sale, you’d be darn tootin’ the company would be making a lot of noise about it. so no, they deserve what they get.

You explicitly called the customers “greedy assholes” without knowing a damn thing about them other than the fact that they bought tickets that were being offered ar a lower-than-normal price. For all we know these customers were already planning on flying to those same destinations at those times whether or not the airline fucked up when setting prices. You don’t know that the customers were trying to exploit anyone or didn’t honestly believe that the airline was legitimatly offering a great deal for weird, unknowable reasons. The lowest-priced tickets from this glitch were $300 but others may have been much closer to a normal price.

Calling these people assholes because of the airline’s mistake is just not cool, especially if you don’t have more information than what’s been presented.


There’s several websites I frequent that catch these pricing errors and such and more often than not they are unwound. I mean, they are obvious mistakes. But the folks on the site, myself included, really live for the times when you actually make it work, or the company decides to honor it. Very very few people get upset, really. The ones who do are the ones who had some imagined fantasy trip all laid out in their head.

“Reasonably” is open to interpretation. There’s a bus company that sells tickets starting at something ridiculously low like $5, and going all the way up to “regular” prices (something like $50). Would they be justified in refunding those first few customers who snagged the $5 prices, by saying “well, $5 is just too low”? Clearly they expect to lose money on some tickets, and make it up on others. What makes a $300 first-class ticket to Tokyo any different, if they expect to make it up on other tickets?

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If someone took it to court, they would have to demonstrate that other carriers had honoured similar tickets at comparable rates.

The budget bus ticket isn’t really comparable as the bus company would honour those ticket - it almost certainly makes money somewhere on the transaction, if not on the seat itself, then on booking and luggage fees. The likes of SouthWest and RyanAir didn’t get where they are now by losing money on tickets.

I don’t see how a bus company makes money on a $5 ticket when I purchased the ticket directly from their website and didn’t pay them a penny more for luggage or anything else.

Airlines most definitely do “lose” money on coach tickets when you consider that they are being subsidized by first class tickets. In other words, if they sold every seat at coach rates, they’d be in the red immediately.

Absurdly low priced products and services are otherwise known as loss leaders, a well known strategy for boosting sales and eyeballs, in pretty much every mainstream consumer area.

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so long as both parties have equally threatening teams of lawyers.

because if i had a mistake of fact - misunderstanding an advertised price, or terms of purchase - neither the corporation or any judge would side with me. ( and therein is the problem i think )


Can that be a legitimately made assumption when airlines use opaque pricing algorithms to regularly adjust prices on the fly based on a huge number of factors? Airline prices regularly swing around in price by hundreds of dollars based on factors invisible to the customer. I’m also pretty sure that airlines will regularly hold people to higher priced mistakes that someone still paid because they had to get there.

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