Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Safety and the National Secretariat for Consumer Defense fined Iberia 1.3 million reais (around US$260,000) after the Spanish airline canceled around 4,000 round-trip tickets between Rio de Janeiro and Paris. The tickets were sold late last year at a mistake fare of US$118. Let’s investigate further.
A hefty mistake
On December 28, 2021, Iberia launched a promotion to fly between Brazil and Europe but advertised the wrong price. Instead of selling the tickets at the authorized fare of US$1,180, the Spanish carrier sold them at US$118.
The erroneous fare quickly went viral, and thousands of travelers bought tickets for around three hours before the mistake was finally corrected. According to the Brazilian government, 4,000 tickets were sold for this price.
The next day, the travelers received a message from Iberia saying that their tickets had been canceled. The airline said it was a human mistake and not a promotional error. Moreover, it added that the error went viral because “specific sites upload fares below the market price.”
A similar mistake happened this month in Argentina. A glitch on Spanish travel agency eDreams’ website allowed passengers to buy round-tickets from Argentina to Doha for just US$1.50. Air France would be the airline carrying these passengers. Nonetheless, after a few hours, the tickets were canceled. The impacted customers are currently suing eDreams to respect its contractual obligation.
Iberia facing a fine in Brazil
Following the mistake in December, the National Secretariat for Consumer Defense launched an investigation in Brazil.
According to the Secretariat, Iberia failed to comply with its contractual obligation and infringed articles 4 and 2 of the Consumer Defense Code.
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According to this code, companies must have “efficient means of quality and safety control for products and services, as well as alternative mechanisms for resolving consumer conflicts” and assume responsibility for any risk when offering a product. Therefore, Iberia should have found a different solution for their customers following the mistake.
Iberia was fined 1.3 million reais (around US$260,000), and there is no appeal against the decision; the Spanish carrier has 30 days to pay the fine, according to the Secretariat.
From time to time, an airline will erroneously post a mistake fare and travelers take advantage. Photo: Getty Images
Other mistake fares
In the past several other airlines have erroneously published mistake fares and faced similar legal trouble to Iberia in Brazil.
In 2015, United Airlines sold thousands of first-class tickets for under US$100 but was able to void these tickets and defend itself because a third-party exchange rate software caused the error.
A few years ago, British Airways published cheap tickets from London to Tel Aviv and Dubai for US$220, when the round trip is usually US$600. The carrier caught its mistake, rescinded the deal, and offered a full refund plus a US$130 travel voucher.
Finally, in 2019, an error on Cathay Pacific’s website sold first class seats from New York to Da Nong in Vietnam, appearing as US$675, just slightly lower than the US$16,000 they usually go for. The airline honored its mistake.
Have you ever been benefited from a “mistake fare”? Which airline made the mistake, and where did you end up traveling? Let us know in the comments below.
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