Last week, Etihad came out and publicily stated that they would honor the Christmas day “Sale” – the fare deal that lasted almost the entire Christmas day and saw travelers booking tickets from the US to several Etihad destinations for as low as $187.
Etihad’s Good Press
The statement by Etihad spokeswoman Katie Connell said:
A system filing issue caused ticket prices for a promotion in the USA to be temporarily listed incorrectly. The issue has since been rectified. Etihad Airways will honor these fares.
While it nice that they came out and confirmed that so quickly after the fare mistake, it was inevitable that they were going to have to honor it or face stiff fines from the DOT. The DOT’s rulings regarding such fares make it much more difficult on carriers that sell tickets to passengers with flights taking place from/to the US if they have already issued a ticket number. Since Etihad was issuing ticket numbers to these passengers, passengers could take comfort in the fact that Etihad would not go against the DOT in that.
So, they said they would honor the fares (which were incorrectly entered into their system, probably as part of the New Year’s Sale they were preparing to run) as issued. That announcement earned them a lot of good press and goodwill amongst the passengers and public.
For all of you who booked those tickets, you are all set and good to go! Start booking the rest of your amazing trips!
Etihad’s Bad Press
Last week, Etihad also got some bad press for leaving passengers in a plane on a tarmac in Abu Dhabi for 12 hours because of foggy conditions. That turned the trip bound for San Francisco into a 28 hour period that passengers were on the airplane! While that may be a nice experience aboard their first class cabin (or maybe even business class), that had to be absolute agony for the passengers in economy.
Due to the same fog conditions in Abu Dhabi, another plane bound for Dusseldorf was also held on the runway and ended up arriving in Dusseldorf 30 hours after it was scheduled to arrive. That was due to the 13 hours on the tarmac and an emergency landing in Vienna due to an elderly man passing away during the flight.
Those two incidents brought a lot of outrage from passengers, and rightfully so. I understand the desire on the part of Etihad to want to be at the ready in case the fog lifted and they could take-off, but you would think that after several hours of waiting they would have considered some other options.
HT: Emirates 24/7
Combining the Two Stories
While I do not think that Etihad left those planes on the tarmac for that length of time to make people regret their cheap tickets, I certainly think some passengers may be now thinking about whether or not to cancel their cheap tickets. Sitting in coach for 14-16 hours on a long-haul flight to the Middle East is pretty difficult already but having to face a long delay that almost equals the length of the flight could make passengers have second thoughts about their trips.
As is the case with many mistake fares, I am fairly sure that Etihad would refund anyone who wanted to pass on their cheap tickets. So, Etihad may be able to claw back some of those cheap seats (which they never said how many of which were sold) as a result of the bad press they received. Or, if they won’t refund, there may be some passengers who may just skip the trip altogether as a result of this fog mess last week (especially if their flights are coming up soon).
Do I think that you should cancel your cheap Etihad tickets because of the delayed problems? No! Etihad is already saying that they are examining the way they handle flight situations like this and will undoubtedly not make the same mistake again of leaving passengers on the tarmac for that length of time. So, when your trip does come around, I think you can feel pretty confident that Etihad will be doing their best to ensure that all passengers are handled with the most care during delays that may come up from similar conditions.
Did you buy the cheap Etihad tickets and would you cancel because of this recent problem?