American Airlines Will Honor Super Low “Mistake Fares” That Discounted Flights Up To 90% (UPDATE)

UPDATE: After hearing from some Consumerist readers that American Airlines was canceling those tickets bought on the cheap due to a website error, the airline confirmed that while it it’s still going to honor some “mistake fares,” other folks won’t be so lucky.

The company told Consumerist in a statement that it will be honoring “the overwhelming majority of fares that were the result of a technical error in currency exchange rates.”

But after reviewing the bookings, American said “a small number have been canceled based on how the traveler portrayed their country of residence.”

Customers who’d set their country of residence to Brazil had been able to score cheap tickets when the site swapped the current exchange rate: R$1.00 is about $0.29 U.S., so if you switch those around, you get very cheap plane tickets, which is what appears to have happened.

But unless you can prove you really do live in Brazil, it sounds like you’re out of luck.

“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,” American says. “If the traveler is able to provide us with documentation showing their country of residence is Brazil, we’ll consider reinstating their ticket.”


Unlike its fellow major carrier United Airlines, American Airlines says it will honor super cheap fares some lucky customers nabbed last week due to a glitch in its booking system.

Airline Reporter points to a post from Aug. 20 on Flyertalk that shared the workaround with fellow customers.

The fares were achieved in part by changing the country of origin to Brazil: One Flyertalk user posted a screenshot of a round-trip business class ticket on American from Sao Paulo to Hong Kong for R$1,255 Brazilian Reals (BRL), or approximately $350 U.S. dollars. Usually that fare would cost R$12,000 or about $3,350 in U.S. currency.

It’s thought that perhaps the error was caused by transposed currency values when the data was entered, causing the U.S. dollar to be highly overvalued against BRLs. Currently, R$1.00 is about $0.29 U.S. Switch those two around and bang, you’ve got a discount.

American apparently had a few mistake airfares squeak through on a variety of international routes with ridiculous discounts on tickets, though it’s unclear exactly how many customers got away with it. The airline caught the slip quickly, but those that managed to pull a fast one will be able to fly for a tenth of the price.

American confirmed in a statement to Airline Reporter that it “will honor mispriced fares that were booked last week,” adding that it hopes “customers enjoy their experience with American and book with us again in the future.”

This stands in stark contrast to United, which blamed a software glitch for allowing travelers to get cheap fares by setting the reservation site to Denmark and then refused to honor those fares. Its decision was backed by the Department of Transportation, which said United was off the hook because those fares weren’t meant for U.S. citizens in the first place.

The DOT said then that its policy is to not enforce the prohibition against post-purchase price increases “when the fare offer is not marketed to consumers in the United States.”

Even more reason to enjoy that flight, you lucky folks.

American Airlines Mistakenly Discounts Airfare by 90% – Then What? [Airline Reporter]

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