Four Times You Should Just Say 'No' to a Airfare Travel Deal
If you found a bargain airfare, you'd book it, right?
But what if you knew the price was a mistake? Would you still do it?
In an era of too-good-to-be-true prices, gimmicky discounts and even an occasional zero fare, travelers have to make that call every day.
Sometimes they get it right. Sometimes not.
Last fall, for example,
But a smaller subset of travelers spotted the
I've been thinking about what separates a frugal traveler from a thief, and although the experts I spoke to seem to agree on the big issues (you know, stealing is wrong) there's no unanimity when it comes to finer points of pricing snafus. By way of full disclosure, I thought the travelers who bought tickets knowing the fare was foul were morally challenged. In a blog comment, I referred to them as "bottom feeders," which may have been a little harsh. I probably just should have called them criminals.
When do you say "no" to a deal?
When it's too good to be true
Everyone knows when something just doesn't feel right. And if you've been around long enough, you also know when it probably isn't -- either there's a catch or it's a bait-and-switch or it's a legitimate error.
"If it appears to be too good to be true," says
If you know it's a mistake
Virtually all of the experts I spoke with for this story told me that knowingly booking an erroneous fare is wrong. The argument that airlines wouldn't be as understanding if the roles were reversed made no difference to them.
But what if you don't know?
If the company is wishy-washy
Obviously, having to wade through pages of fine print on a "bargain" can be such a turn-off that you would want to walk away. But if you see a terrific offer and make inquiries, and the answers are less than satisfactory, perhaps you shouldn't be making reservations.
"Check with the airline or with a travel agent," advises
If it's a dramatically lower price than anyone else is offering
Ever heard of the saying, "You get what you pay for"? When it comes to pricing errors, that may be particularly true. A price that's far lower than those of competitors can be assumed to be either wrong or defective (or both).
"To manage your risk, you might buy another reasonable fare," says
I put the question to the ethicists: How should a
"Good common sense should prevail" after that, says
"Mistakes like this do get made, and bearing the consequences of one's mistakes is part of the process which one takes to pay better attention in the future," he told me. "Where a firm's ongoing viability is threatened by a mistake however, then it's best for the company to fess up and find a way to make amends." Zupan says the
On the question of whether a travel company should honor an incorrect price, there was some agreement among the professionals.
But there's a significant disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality. I asked
"They felt like the airlines always take advantage of them," Martin says.
At the same time, an equal percentage said they believed
In other words, we can talk about ethics until the cows come home. But once we're on a plane, many of us jettison our values right out the cabin door.
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(c) 2010 Christopher Elliott
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