Q: I recently received several airfare alerts by e-mail that American Airlines had dropped fares to Europe to under $300 roundtrip including taxes for winter travel. By the time I could make a decision, the fares were gone. Was this what they call a "fat finger fare" and did American honor the fares if so? Also, any chance that these deals will be repeated? I also read online that there was a "mistake" promo code deal on Expedia that allowed travelers to get air and hotel packages in Las Vegas for nothing. Were those honored?
A: It does appear that there was some kind of computer glitch on the afternoon of Nov. 30 that lowered fares to Europe on American. Fares from New York to Madrid, for example, were $260 round-trip including taxes, which is unheard of. Possibly, American lowered fares but also forgot to include fuel surcharges, which typically add $300 or more to European airfares. Judging from e-mails we received soon after, American did indeed honor these fares, but as you saw they disappeared in just a few hours. It used to take airlines longer to correct "mistake" airfares but now they appear to be able to correct them more quickly, and most airlines now have language in their contracts of carriage that they will not honor such fares, although in order to avoid ill feelings they usually will not cancel tickets that have already been bought. Expedia also had a blooper deal recently, with a promo code that was only supposed to apply to travel on more expensive packages from Canada but ended up being applicable to cheaper packages within the U.S. Many consumers ended up traveling for zilch (airfare and hotel), and it does appear that Expedia honored these deals. Humans being humans, it wouldn't surprise us to see fat finger fares happen again. Whether airlines and online travel agencies will continue to honor them is anyone's guess.