Late Friday night, an alert went out on Twitter. Fares to Mumbai, India, from locations all over the US were being offered at rock bottom prices on British Airways. Flights from Chicago to Mumbai were just $550 per person.
I quickly logged on to Orbitz, selected my dates, and clicked purchase. I received an email from Orbitz confirming my purchase and then got to work planning the trip. My husband was out with friends and had left his cell phone at home, so I was hoping he’d come home just tipsy enough to not mind that I’d just bought $1100 worth of plane tickets without discussing it with him first. Besides, he is accustomed to me buying plane tickets on a whim, just because they are on sale.
Luckily, he was just as excited as I was….until Saturday morning, when I received an email from Orbitz saying that due to “limited quantities”, our order could not be fulfilled. As it turns out, it’s because the fare never should have existed. Someone at BA obviously messed up (how’d you like to be that person come Monday morning?) and entered the wrong number. The fare should have been more like $1550 per person. The fat finger fare was corrected, but not before several people, myself included, had bought tickets at the faulty price.
Word on the web is that tickets bought before the error was discovered will be honored, if they were purchased on British Airways. So far it seems that those of us who used Orbitz will be out of luck. Christopher Elliott posted the story on his blog, along with a response from the company. They say British Airways didn’t honor the purchases made with Orbitz ,so people who tried to book that way will not receive tickets.
This isn’t the first time a technical error has crushed some budget traveler’s dreams. In February, Northwest refused to honor $0 fares that were “purchased” online in error. So next time you see a fare that seems to good to be true, watch out. It might not be.
Whack me but I found this funny more than anything else: A Spanish couple traveling in Norway wanted to go to Olden to catch a cruise they had left to sort out some health issues. Traveling by taxi, due to a mispronunciation of their destination, the taxi driver took them to Halden instead, which is 560km away. Their fare came to 15,000 Kroners ($2765).
Still oblivious to the mistake, they tipped the driver 1000 Kroners ($184!) and spent the night in a hotel, only to find that there was no cruise ship waiting for them — that’s when they realized that they were in the wrong city. They jumped back into a taxi and and head towards Olden which was 610km away and the taxi ride cost them another 15,300 Kroners ($2,820).
So their pronunciation error cost them over 30,000 Kroners (over $5,300), the approximate cost of 2 round the world tickets.
Funny thing is, Spaniards don’t pronounce “h”; so they would pronounce Halden as “Alden” — which sounds more like Olden than Halden. When they try to pronounce the “h” it’s very strong and sounds like a “khhhhh”, so I’m not quite sure how they ended-up going to Halden. Perhaps the driver saw they were rich and decided to dupe them.
I recently came across this story about three Norwegian tourists who planned a trip to Rhodes in Greece, only to end up in the French town of Rodez instead. They booked their trip through the Internet, you see, and made a mistake when typing the destination. Despite efforts of Rodez locals to make their stay pleasant, the confused tourists promptly returned to Norway.
But while Rodez probably doesn’t have beaches, at least it’s still in Europe — I think the mistake could have been much more profound. They could’ve ended up in Rhode Island, or maybe even Greece, New York. Imagine the shock if they had booked a trip to Paris, France and ended up in Paris, Ontario? I’m sure the Canadian town is lovely but it’s not exactly a bustling metropolis. Or say you wanted to visit family in Memphis, TN, and ended up in Memphis, Egypt?
The point it, there are wayyyy to many similarly-named places in the world. Consider this fair warning an be careful the next time you book a trip online.
We all make trivial typing mistakes, but for one German tourist, a wrong letter resulted in an 8,000 mile trek in the wrong direction. Tobi Gutt wanted to book a flight online to Sydney, Australia, but he actually ordered a ticket to Sidney, Montana. He didn’t realize his mistake until he found himself meeting a connecting flight to the 5,000 person town in Billings, Montana. Gutt waited three days in Billings before he received 600 Euros (about $790) from friends and family to purchase a fare for the right continent.
I’ve made airline booking mistakes, but I’ve always caught them before I ended up with the wrong flight dates. Though, it’s usually been a pain — and costly — to get someone on the phone and fix my errors. So, everyone, please remember what your elementary school teacher kept telling you: “Always check your work.” (Well, maybe she was just always telling me that.)