Hundreds of Australians who snapped up bargain AUD $336 round-trip tickets between Sydney and Berlin, Germany say they’ve been left “gutted” after Etihad Airways announced on Sunday night that it was taking steps to cancel the ‘mistake fare’ tickets.
Reports of heavily discounted fares being offered by Etihad went viral on Thursday when passengers noticed that tickets being sold on a third-party flight search engine were around a tenth of the usual price.
Bargain-hunting Australians rushed to book tickets on the Chinese-owned Skyscanner website, and hundreds managed to snap up a flight before Etihad’s revenue management team had time to remove its inventory from the website.
On Sunday night, the Abu Dhabi-based airline finally wrote to passengers to say it would not honour the fares offered by Skyscanner and would cancel the tickets.
Etihad said the fares resulted from a “glitch in a data system supplied by a third party”.
In its email to affected customers, the airline wrote: “Whilst the correct price was shown in the initial booking process, at the time of payment, you were only asked to pay the taxes which was charged to your credit card”.
Passengers have slammed the airline over the decision, saying they’ve been left “gutted” by Etihad for not honouring the fares. Some passengers have complained that airfares between Australia and Europe have been so high that they haven’t been able to afford to visit friends and family who they haven’t seen since before the pandemic.
Some of those affected by the glitch say they are so disappointed that they have lodged complaints with Australia’s consumer rights commission in the hope that it will force Etihad to honour the fares.
Etihad has been clear that its conditions of carriage allow for it to unilaterally cancel tickets when an incorrect ticket price has been charged. In the past, airlines did sometimes honour mistake fares, but this very rarely happens nowadays.
In a statement, an Etihad spokesperson said it was “not sustainable” for the airline to “operate those flights on that basis”.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.