No + for BA in $40 US-India fare cancellation row

No + for BA in $40 US-India fare cancellation row

A missing ‘+’ which got knocked off from a British Airways fare change filing on On Oct 2, 2009, has turned into a full-fledged fiasco.

A technical glitch knocked off the ’+’ sign from a $40+ change to a BA US-India flight route, and for about two hours, customers were able to book roundtrip flights between the United States and India for a $40 base rate.

Scores of people took up the unprecedented offer and booked flights, apparently under the impression that it was a special gift from BA to Indians on Gandhi’s birthday – Oct 2.

On Oct 7, BA backed off from the sold tickets and sent emails to travel agents saying that all affected bookings made during the 2-hour window had been cancelled and full refunds would be made to customers.

After irate customers stuck without a flight had to book expensive last-minute tickets on other airlines, the row started heating up. In response, BA backtracked a bit, and on Oct 9, offered a $300 discount to all those whose tickets were cancelled. The discount would be valid for bookings made before Nov 12, 2009, for travel by Sept 30, 2010.

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It’s a fair enough offer, but a bit too late. The damage has already been done – In addition to being a big subject for discussion on Airline forums like FlyerTalk, the story was also picked up by major Consumer Travel advocates and publications like the LA Times’ Daily Deal blog and Chris Elliott’’s (see TI100 profile) blog. Mainstream media publications in both India and the UK are having a field day piling all over BA.

There’s also a website – britishairwayshonormyticket.info, which seems intent on making BA sweat until they decide to honor the tickets.

Maybe this will go away and British Airways won’t need to honor the tickets, but the US media is just beginning to smell a story, and that doesn’t bode well for BA. Hopefully, they can find a way to kill the story before it goes any further.

Photo by bribriTO