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El Al Does the Right Thing

On August 9, El Al Announced that it would honor tickets sold at the low prices mistakenly posted online for a brief period on August 6. Tickets normally costing around $1,400 went for as little as $330 before the computer glitch was repaired.

El Al stewed about the question for a few days before deciding to accept the tickets, much to the delight of travelers who got in on the bargain. Because the tickets covered flights to Israel via Europe, the airline also offered to allow ticketholders to switch to nonstop flights for an additional $75.

Computer glitches have caused mistakenly low fares to be posted online several times in recent years, and airline responses have varied. Some have refused to honor the fares; others have decided to accept them. To avoid uncertainly, some airlines have amended their formal contracts of carriage to state that they have the right to refuse tickets issued at inaccurate or mistaken posted fares.

Absent such contractual language, airlines rely on “company policy” to decide. As far as I can tell, some carriers say their policy is to accept the mistaken tickets, some refuse to accept, and some decide on a case-by-case basis. And where their contracts contain no mention of mistaken fares, airlines refusing to honor such tickets have faced lawsuits.

I can’t find any language in El Al’s contract dealing with mistaken fares, so El Al’s response falls into the case-by-case arena. Most of you would probably conclude that El Al did the right thing to accept the tickets. And you’d probably also figure that El Al and other airlines will make sure to incorporate “no mistaken ticket” language in their contracts.

Do you think the airline did the right thing?

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