AUSTRALIA - On the weekend of November 28, around 900 business class "flight segments" were made available for sale at economy prices. Many of the tickets, valid for travel between Singapore and Europe, were sold by travel agents in Australia.
It has since come to light that it was Singapore Airlines itself that loaded the flights onto the system with erroneous prices.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the business class tickets should have been sold for up to AU$6,000 (US$4,970) a piece, instead of the roughly AU$3,500 (US$2,899) passengers purchased them for.
When informed of this mistake, Singapore Airlines initially refused to honour the underpriced tickets. Bloomberg reported that the airline was insisting the erroneous fare stipulated that it was applicable only to economy class. At the time (December 5), the airline had presented travel agents and customers with the option of either paying the difference to fly business class, flying in economy class or getting a full refund.
According to travel agency Flight Centre, SIA was expecting the travel agents to make up the difference in fare. Whether the cost would be passed on to the customer would be up to the agency. The Flight Centre's official statement on the issue was:
We have discussed the issue at length with Singapore Airlines' Australian management since we alerted it to its mistake on Saturday, November 29.
We have not been advised of any change in SIA's stance.
Fortunately, we took immediate action to notify the airline and to minimise the potential damage when we noticed the mistake that Saturday. Had we waited until the Monday, when the fares were removed from the Global Distribution System, the impact would have been much greater.
Our priority now is obviously to ensure a good outcome for customers who may be affected.
"Generally, and inevitably, the travellers who have contacted us don't feel that they should be forced to foot the bill for a mistake in the way an airline loaded its fares," said Flight Centre’s head of corporate affairs Haydn Long. He further added that the travel agency would foot the difference if push came to shove as it "didn’t seem fair" to charge clients for the error.
Fortunately, Singapore Airlines has now chosen to sidestep the brewing PR crisis and has just announced that consumers who have purchased the tickets will fly business class without penalty.
Here’s the statement in full:
Singapore Airlines was alerted on Saturday, 29 November to an issue which saw Business Class bookings able to be made at an outdated Economy Class fare level. This was due to a booking subclass recently being reassigned from Economy Class to Business Class. Corrective action was immediately taken to address the issue.
To ensure no disruption to our customers' travel plans, Singapore Airlines wishes to advise that it will honour all affected bookings.
Singapore Airlines will be contacting affected customers and travel agents to advise that their Business Class bookings will be honoured at the original fare purchased.
lnvestigations continue to be carried out to determine the root cause of this issue.
Singapore Airlines would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.