There’s New Tech To Remove Airline Error Fares Faster, Much To Our Dismay

by Chris Dong

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2019 has been a banner year for airline pricing mishaps, especially early this year. Of course, there was the fare of the century with Cathay Pacific’s roundtrip first class flights between Asia and the U.S. for less than $900 (regularly priced around $10,000-$20,000).

A couple weeks later, Cathay Pacific had another pricing mishap with fares around the $1500 mark for first class. In both instances, the airline honored the fares in an apparent gesture of goodwill. (I was lucky enough to partake in the madness.)

CX F seat

Cathay first class seat

However, airline error fares seem to be less common now than in years past and early 2019 may have been an anomaly. Systems are getting smarter in catching pricing mistakes, but there’s still there’s plenty of manual data entry involved.

The Company That Houses Airline Fares Has A New Error Fare Feature

ATPCO, a company that stores and distributes over 210 million active fares in its database (that’s 87% of the world’s airfares), has launched a new feature for its FareManager system. The feature is called Suppression of Sales, and as APEX reports, it will enable an airline that has an erroneous fare to cancel it within 15 minutes in the U.S. and Canada and within an hour internationally.

Previously, when airlines mispriced a fare, they had to scramble to manually contact major distributors and Global Distribution Systems, like Sabre and Amadeus. It was either do that or wait for the next FareManager scheduled subscription which shockingly only happens four times per day for domestic US and Canada flights, and once per day for international flights.

 [Airlines] would panic and they would start calling every single system they could get ahold of, and ask the system to manually try to take [the incorrect fare] out, and you can imagine that that’s not a very efficient process!” – Tom Gregorson, chief strategy officer at ATPCO

While ATPCO notes they catch 99% of incorrect fares in the front end, that 1% can cost an airline millions of dollars.

American Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class

American had a mistake fare to China several years ago that was honored.

Blogs (like this one), forums, and social media can spread a ridiculously priced fare like wildfire. Having a pricing feature like ATPCO’s prevents the airlines from even having to get into the potential public relations vs. revenue projection conundrum of whether or not to honor a fare that was clearly incorrect.

I’m sure error fares will undoubtedly still happen, but they’ll likely become even more of a rare, short-lived breed now.

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1 comment

RIC Flyer May 10, 2019 - 2:26 pm

The Delta fare system mistakes on 12/26/13 was fantastic. Scored two R/T First Class tickets NYC-LAX-HNL for $119 PP. So $238 for what would have normally cost nearly $7,000. The NYC-LAX was on a 767 with lie flat beds, it was amazing. I don’t ever think I will get another deal like that.


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