April 26, 2023
SINGAPORE – All Nippon Airways (ANA) has cancelled its business class tickets to North America that were sold cheaply by mistake, disappointing Singaporeans who were among those who had snapped them up last week for just a few hundred dollars – a fraction of their usual US$10,000 (S$13,300) price.
ANA on Tuesday said it will “cancel and fully refund all itineraries” for the flights that were erroneously processed, in a notice to affected customers on its Vietnam website, where the currency conversion error was made.
It blamed a technical error in the fare quote system supplied by Amadeus, a travel technology provider, and said this has now been fixed.
ANA also said it would notify each customer affected by the error via e-mail, adding that customers need not take any action.
“We truly regret that this issue occurred, and deeply apologise to our customers for any inconveniences,” said the airline.
Mr Edwin Ang, 22, a full-time national serviceman, and his two friends had managed to secure return flights in January 2024 from Singapore to New York for $415.
He told The Straits Times that he was “very disappointed” by ANA’s decision, and that this incident was not the first time he had been let down by the Japanese airline. A flight he booked from Tokyo to Osaka was cancelled in January 2023 due to a snowstorm.
“I think twice is enough, third time isn’t a charm, and I’ll cut my losses with ANA and just take Singapore Airlines next time,” he said.
Most of the business class tickets that were erroneously sold for travel originated in Jakarta, flying to Japan and then on to New York, and back again to various South-east Asian destinations, including Singapore and Bali.
Bloomberg reported that one opportunist booked US$250,000 worth of ANA business class tickets for just US$17,000.
An ANA spokesman initially said last Wednesday that the airline would honour the tickets for those who had bought them. But the carrier said later that day that a final decision had not been made, and that it would do so by the end of April. It said then, too, that the sharply discounted tickets were still valid for customers who flew before the decision was announced.
Mr Tan, a Singaporean engineer who declined to give his full name, had booked return flights in September from Jakarta to Toronto for $460.
He told ST: “To be honest, I had half-expected as much – the more I read about how much it would cost (the airline), the less I felt (the tickets) would be honoured, but the loss of the opportunity is still quite disappointing. I still hope to continue with my holiday plans, and will see if there are any other travel deals available.”
Travel experts had said that those who thought they had snagged a once-in-a-lifetime-deal were likely to get their hopes dashed as airlines like ANA are not obligated to honour erroneous fares and reserve the right to cancel tickets. Conditions of carriage laid by most airlines allow them to unilaterally cancel tickets when an incorrect price has been charged.
This is more likely to happen when a lot of money is at stake. ANA did not disclose how many error fare tickets were sold, but they were up on its Vietnam website for more than 12 hours, with the news going viral on several travel-related social message groups and websites.
But there have been exceptions where airlines have honoured ridiculously cheap tickets sold by mistake, usually when the financial hit is not too great. Cathay Pacific, which made a similar blunder in 2019, honoured the first and business class tickets it sold by mistake at economy ticket prices.