Air China has its own mistake fare

Reader Anders H. spotted this item in China Daily, Air China glitch offers free tickets:

Air China’s website booking system suffered a series of technical problems on the evening of July 10 resulting in business class seats being sold for just the price of the tax.

A passenger surnamed Sun was one who took advantage:

Round trip tickets from Beijing to Sydney sold for 2,000 yuan ($313.48) plus tax. And the round trip tickets from Beijing to Bangkok were 1,132 yuan plus tax. Sun booked two tickets from Beijing to Bangkok at 11:50 pm on July 10.

The article cites a lawyer who said Air China can legally cancel or change the tickets, but the airline has decided to honor them:

On July 12, Air China announced on its micro blog it will cover the losses caused by the booking system error and passengers could travel for the price listed.

The message read: “We repaired the bugs as soon as we find out the problem. The company decided to bear the relevant losses as we think our integrity is the most important thing.”

So there you have it, mileage junkies, move to China! Of course they would still complain that it took more than 24 hours for Air China to honor the tickets…

(note: this case differs primarily from the recent United mistake fare in that United’s was on award tickets in which the correct price was displayed throughout the booking process, even on the final confirmation screen in which the error showed only for the final total. Whether that difference is substantive is a subject of fierce debate.)

(bonus note: I lived in China from 2002-2010 and highly recommend it, though not for seeking mistake fares. As noted in my previous article on United’s award ticket mistake, the propensity of Chinese customer to game everything en masse generally means for much less friendly consumer policies, despite the occasional outlier case like this.  A mistake fare might be honored, but try returning a product to nearly any retail establishment.)

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  • I am surprised that Air China decided to honor the mistake fares. I completely agree that a lot of the promotions run here in the US would not work in China. Imagine how big of a hole CVS would dig itself into if it were to offer the ExtraBucks program in China. Not to mention all the other “extreme couponing” or even all of our “Miles & Points” tricks.

  • Susan

    I actually heard about those mistake fares too…while they were still bootable. But, as I wasn’t in China I didn’t try for one. I’m not quite so much into the game that I would buy a visa for a positioning flight to take advantage of it. Lovely for those who did though.
    I do t see a whole lot of difference between the two scenarios actually. A mistake is a mistake. And by the way, the United screens did not show the difference through out booking. I have a screen shot showing otherwise.

  • Good morning Mr. Chai 🙂

  • Laurent

    Hi Chai,

    “A mistake fare might be honored, but try returning a product to nearly any retail establishment.)”

    It depends on the population basis. In a retail store, you’re facing 1.3 billion population who wants to sneak in and get free rides. But for the aviation industry in China, there is only the top 0.01% that can take advantage to travel to Aussie. So you will receive preferred treatments.

    Middle class is not very strong in China and preferential treatments are thus more prevalent.

  • @Laurent – though I have been at airports in China for many delayed flights where there were physical altercations between passengers and staff, and near riots…Air China honoring these tickets is actually quite surprising to me.