British Airways computer glitch posts super low cost flights to India

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.

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Think Before You Click

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.)