Almost all the airlines around the world are offering vouchers or full refunds of tickets for flights cancelled as a consequence of the Covid pandemic or in case passengers decided to change their programs because of the travel bans. In most cases the amount of money refunded is matter of a few hundred dollars or euros. A few thousand if the party travelling is numerous, or if the flight is ultra-long or if the passenger had booked in Business or First Class.
Though, Jessica Tam was paid around USD19.6mln as a compensation for her Jakarta (CGK)-London (LHR) cancelled flight with Qatar Airways (QR). Ok, Jessica, an Australian Frequent Flyer forum moderator, had booked the trip in Business Class, but… As she discovered her huge credit card availability, she called the airline and the mistake was attributed to a currency confusion when the refund was paid by the airline to her.
As Jessica Tam herself explained on Australian Frequent Flyer, “this may seem like a bizarre amount of money to refund when the ticket only cost around 2,800 US Dollars. But the amount wasn’t quite a coincidence. As the first flight on this ticket departed from Indonesia, the fare was originally paid in Indonesian Rupiah. The total airfare, converted into Indonesian Rupiah, was IDR 28,179,000“. But when the refund was issued, Rupiahs became Australian Dollars, the currency of the Country where Tam lives. Thus explained the multi-millionaire refund.
Currency conversion errors are a frequent cause of mistake or error fares, and refund problems like the one listed above. Error fares can result in ridiculously cheap travel. Human error is the primary cause. Mistakes in currency conversion, typos, airfares filed for the wrong class of travel, and fuel surcharges being erroneously removed can result in errors that lead to cheap flights or refund mistakes.
According to airfare tracking service Scotts Cheap Flights, there has been a significant increase in mistake fares since the coronavirus pandemic began. For March – April 2020, the flight-tracking service recorded seven error fares compared to just three in the same period in 2019. If you were lucky enough to spot one of these, you could be flying from Boston to Puerto Rico for as little as USD23 roundtrip during Christmas and New Year. most of the time, airlines honour mistake fares. Unluckily for JessicaTam, the error by Qatar Airways was too big to ignore. (Photo header Wikimedia Commons / N509FZ)
Has your flight ever been cancelled? What was your experience? And how did the airline behave? Tell the Guru!