A few days ago, I reported that American Airlines had seemingly opted to honor mistake fares purchased, after a currency conversion error resulted in pricing at a fraction of the actual cost. Unfortunately for some passengers, the airline has reversed their position and voided certain bookings it determined to be improper.
American previously issued a statement that it would, “honor mispriced fares that were booked last week in select international markets.” The airline also added, “We hope customers enjoy their experience with American and book with us again in the future.”
However, many customers logged into their accounts to find that their reservations were still canceled, even after their credit cards were charged and ticket numbers were issued. How did this happen? Did American backtrack?
Users on Flyertalk, in the same thread that publicized the mistake, reported pulling up their itineraries only to see them show as “Canceled” without any email confirmation of the cancellation. The airline seems to be targeting tickets that were purchased with non-Brazilian credit cards, cards with billing addresses outside of Brazil, or those that do not otherwise indicate any Brazilian residency.
I reached back out to American and Matt Miller with Corporate Communications explained to me that, “American is honoring the overwhelming majority of fares that were the result of a technical error in currency exchange rates. After reviewing the bookings, a small number have been canceled based on how the traveler portrayed their country of residence.” Miller continued, “we price and sell our tickets on the assumption that customers give us honest, accurate information. Some bookings may be invalid because of inaccurate information provided to us.”
To trigger the pricing error, purchasers had to select “Brazil” as their country of residence, regardless of where they actually were. Miller further elaborated that if a customer, with a canceled ticket, could provide documentation proving Brazilian residence, the airline would consider reinstating the itinerary. This may not do much to placate many of those who feel that American reneged on its previous assurances that the tickets would be honored, especially those who have made travel arrangements in conjunction with their airfare.
They may not be completely off-base; several tweets from American’s official Twitter account indicate that it was intending to honor all the mistake fares purchased.
@c_saezm American Airlines will honor all mispriced fares, Cristian. Thanks for your message.
— American Airlines (@AmericanAir) August 21, 2015
Flyertalk user singal3 noted, “Still love AA but it wasn’t cool to manually approve the tickets, publicly state they would honor and then cancel it after people had made plans based on these tickets.” Another user, footastic, lamented, “I for one have positioning flights and a hotel that I will eat.”
Some passengers have already departed on their trips. AirlineReporter has reached out to one such passenger, flipside from Flyertalk, who said that all of his itineraries are still intact, owed to the fact that he is a resident of Brazil and paid with a Brazil-based credit card.
It may take several more days for the dust to completely settle to see how American ultimately handles the situation, and how much of a beating its reputation and goodwill takes. In the meantime, it seems very likely that many would-be travelers will be in for a rude awakening.