Fat finger deals – should your airline or hotel honor them?

A fat finger deal is the name given to airline deals where someone “with fat fingers” missed a zero, or put a comma in the wrong place when entering air or hotel prices.

The deals pop up more often than you’d think in this day and age, but airlines are starting to fight back. In recent years, some of the better fat finger deals would get you from the US to most European destinations for $20, or from LA to Fiji for just $50.

The mistakes are human, and despite all the computerized air fare systems, at the end of the day there is still someone locked away in an office who is responsible for loading the thousands of various air fare combinations into a computer terminal, and I’m sure we all know that when people get involved, something will eventually go wrong.

In the past, airlines would do one of several things;

  • Ignore the problem and let people benefit from the screw-up
  • Let people know the deal would be honored, but only on a smaller scale, hotels would let people stay a few nights instead of the months they’d often book
  • Let people take the trip AND try to benefit from all the good PR they create by honoring it

Nowadays airline are in a world of hurt, and any kind of screw-up that could cost them money has to come to an end. When passengers grab one of these fat finger deals, the airline will simply cancel it, and in most cases won’t even bother to inform them.

A natural reaction to this behavior is that the airline is perfectly within its rights to do so – it was an honest mistake, and they have page after page of fine print protecting their business practices. But there is one very simply reason why I don’t think the airlines deserve to get off easy – mistakes are not a one way street.

If you book a non refundable hotel room and made a mistake entering the date, you are screwed. If you book a ticket on the airline, but make a spelling error in your name, some airlines will charge you $90 to fix it. Airlines have perfected the art of making money off your mistakes, but when they mess up, they simply make the problem go away.


10 travel related things you just don’t see any more

Feeling nostalgic? I’ve compiled ten travel related things that are no longer around, including a couple of things that really brought back some memories of trips from the past.

Read through the 10 things I could think of, and leave a comment with anything you no longer see when you travel.

Smoking or Non Smoking?

With the possible exception of a few smaller airlines, you won’t find an airline in the world that still asks whether you want a smoking or non smoking seat on your flight.

I’m not that old, but I can still remember sitting in the back of the plane with all the smokers so my dad could light up.

Smoking is banned on any flight in, or destined to the United States, and an overview of the rules on worldwide airlines can be found here. In 2006, a German entrepreneur announced he was starting an airline where anyone would be free to smoke, but the concept never took off.


Travel agents

In ancient times, booking a flight involved making a trip to your local travel agent. You’d often pop in for a stack of brochures, then you’d head back in a couple of days to make the actual reservation.

The booking involved filling in forms, and an agent calling the airline to check for availability, or if they sold enough trips, they’d use their green screen computer to check for availability. You’d then pay, and 2 weeks later your travel documents would be ready to pick up. Usually neatly stacked in a nice vinyl pouch.

There are still some travel agents around, but most of them have disappeared. The local travel agent is just another victim of Internet booking sites and airline cost cutting measures. Those still around tend to cater towards specialty trips, package deals or cruise vacations, where they can still make a few bucks in commission.


Color TV! Phones!

Sure, some less luxurious places may still have the old sign out front, but “color TV” is not the big selling point it used to be. Nowadays guests want 100 channels of HD, as well as a nice variety of pay per view flicks.

Access to your own in-room phone is also no longer a perk worth advertising, even though the phone has now become a major money maker for many hotels.

I haven’t been around long enough to know when “color TV” actually became something worth advertising, nor have I ever been to a hotel where the TV was not in color.



Let me admit right away that this one hasn’t completely vanished – but the payphone is most certainly not as common as it used to be, nor do that many people want to use them.

In a way, I kind of miss the hassle they offered, because they meant people had to stop and drop some coins into the slot in order to make a phone call. Nowadays it seems like everyone is on their phone, and the worst offenders seem to have their Bluetooth headset glued to their skulls 24/7.

The last time I made a call from a payphone was in 1998, when I arrived at Dulles with a dead phone battery. Nowadays I can use my cellular phone in almost any corner of the globe.


Real room keys

We can put a computer inside your phone, and develop a car that runs off battery power – but for some reason we seem unable to make a magnetic room key that always works when you need it.

I remember when the room key hung on a big board behind the front desk, and you’d hand it in when you left the hotel for the day. The large weight on the key would usually remind you not to go out without leaving it behind.

The best part about the real key is that it always worked. You never arrived at your room at 2am to discover it was encoded incorrectly by a clueless night desk clerk, nor would you be able to receive a key for a room already occupied.


Carbon copy ticket stock

This one is closely related to the travel agent – remember when airline tickets did not roll out of your home printer? You’d get them on airline ticket stock, in a cool red carbon print.

The carbon copy ticket still exists for a couple of airlines, or for trips too complicated for online ticketing (usually round the world tickets with over 10 segments).


Affordable duty free shopping

To many, a trip to the airport never took place without first passing through the duty free shops. The stores themselves are still around, but they are not the deal heavens they used to be. In the past, the duty free shop was where you’d pick up a bottle of the “good stuff” for about 30% less than the liquor store in your town. You could always tell who traveled a lot, by the size and quality of the booze in their cabinet.

Nowadays duty free is just another overpriced way the airport tries to squeeze some more cash out of you before you fly. In Europe, duty free shopping between EU members was abolished in 1999, and most duty free stores in European airports sell only regular priced (luxury) items. Airports like Amsterdam Schiphol and London Heathrow have 100’s of stores, but only a handful of true “duty free” options.


Film roll kiosks

It didn’t matter where you were – if it was something tourists enjoyed looking at, there would be some poor guy selling rolls of film in his little kiosk. If you were part of the new revolution, you’d buy your Kodak Disc cartridges from him. If you were really hardcore, you’d carry your Polaroid 600 with you, and get instant gratification!

Once you got back home, you’d have to drop all the film rolls off at the local photo store, and wait a week to get them back. That then changed to same day processing, then one hour processing, and nowadays we just stick a memory card in our computer and make our own prints.


The VHS video camera

I still remember hauling a large bag with us on our trips. It contained a JVC video camera and VHS recorder.

By the time we had loaded the padded bag with batteries, a charger and a stack of tapes, the thing weighed about 60lbs, but at the time it was a marvel of technology.

It went everywhere we did – to the zoo, to the bar and even to the beach. After years of vacations, we ended up with 100’s of hours of video we never once watched again.

Nowadays the video camera inside many mobile phones is able to make better quality video than this thing did, which is probably why you don’t see anyone dragging one around any longer.


Cheap plastic luggage

Nowadays, the big unknown by the baggage carousel is to see whether your baggage actually made it to your destination, but I still remember the days when the big surprise was whether your cheap luggage made it in one piece, and how many of the handles were still attached.

These crappy bags were often made of vinyl glued onto cardboard, and you were lucky if they survived the trip to the airport, let along a long haul flight abroad.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I suspect luggage quality has improved in recent years, and very few people actually still travel with the old fashioned suitcase.

Galley Gossip: What is RIGHT with the airlines? (There’s got to be something!)

When I was growing up, my parents taught me that traveling by airplane was a luxury, not a right, and it was a luxury I would not experience until I was 16 years old when I flew to Los Angeles, California with a high school friend (and her mother) on American Airlines for an exciting weekend getaway. I’ll never forget that flight. Then, at 17, I flew to Santa Clara, California, to visit a boyfriend in college on Southwest Airlines. I’ll never forget that flight, either. I couldn’t even believe I was on it. Back then just being on the flight itself was an exciting experience, never mind the drinks and the food and the service, which I don’t even remember. But I’m sure a can of coke and a bag of peanuts were involved.

What I remember most about those two flights was the awe of flying, of looking out the window at the tiny houses below as we climbed up, up, up, until the incredible view became obstructed by something even more magnificent, billowing clouds.

A few years ago I actually met a flight attendant whose very first trip by airplane was to airline headquarters for an interview for the airline he works for now. That flight took place at age of 21. Today, things have changed drastically in the aviation business, and not for the better, if you ask a passenger. Yet the flights are all full, and with more and more children traveling these days. That, alone, makes me wonder, has travel really gotten so bad? Or are our expectations skewed?

“I never got to travel,” said my mother, a flight attendant, who started working for a major US carrier in 1997, three afters I had my wings pinned to my blue lapel. “My first flight was with your father to Hawaii, when I was 21, because your father got stationed there in the navy. I got to go home to Texas once – in three years. And because your father spent most of his time at sea, I spent many holidays alone. That’s just the way it was. We couldn’t afford to travel.”

Now that I’m a flight attendant and have the opportunity to fly for free (in coach), I usually take along my two-year son, who has traveled once a month, at least, since he was born. I always get a kick out of watching him leaning against the window, tapping on the glass, as we fly in and out of the clouds, causing him to exclaim at the top of his lungs, “WOW!” I wonder if he’ll grow up to appreciate the privilege of travel? I do hope that one day he realizes just how lucky he is. How lucky we all are to be able to get from point A to point B for just a few hundred dollars.

As someone who works for a major US carrier, someone who has to deal with the me me me first attitude of the flying public, passengers who expect something for nothing when fuel prices keep rising and ticket prices remain fairly low, I have to say, there’s something wrong with THAT. There’s something wrong when you can purchase a one way ticket from New York to Las Vegas for lower than a cab ride from New York’s JFK international airport to Manhattan. NOT WHEN everyone and their mother (as well as the kids) are traveling on my flight.

Not that I mind that everyone and their mother (along with the kids) are aboard my flight, just the opposite, in fact. Especially when airlines are struggling to stay afloat, when airlines like Alitalia are on the verge of going out of business. However, it’s not easy for me to listen to all the complaining about air travel, particularly about customer service. Seriously, I have hard time believing that flying is all that bad, no matter how much the airline charges per bag, how long the security lines, how small the seats, or how much it costs to purchase a sandwich, or how old the flight attendant. And why does the age of a flight attendant even matter? (This is the 2000’s, is it not?)

After reading letters from readers who responded to the question, What’s wrong with American Airlines? on the Dallas Morning News website, I am forced to pose the question, what is RIGHT with the airlines? I mean whatever happened to the glass is half full mentality? It seems like these days all people want to do is complain, complain about everything, particularly when it comes to bashing airlines and flight attendants. Come on now, there has to be SOMETHING good about air travel, right?