Posted December 27, 2013 8:29 am by with 3 comments

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Delta FaresWe live in an interesting time where computers make things ‘easier’ but they can also complicate a business very quickly.

The latest ‘victim’ of a computer glitch is Delta Airlines who had a roughly two hour period on December 26th where savvy travelers were getting some serious bargains. The New York Times reported:

Some lucky fliers capitalized on a computer error Thursday to buy inexpensive flights on Delta Air Lines.

From about 10 a.m. to noon Eastern, certain Delta fares on the airline’s website and other booking sites were showing up incorrectly, offering some savvy bargain hunters incredible deals.

A round-trip flight between Cincinnati and Minneapolis for February was being sold for just $25.05 and a round trip between Cincinnati and Salt Lake City for $48.41. The correct price for both of those fares is more than $400.

My personal response to this was “Did they honor the fares?” and Delta did. Without any further reading I was happy to think that Delta had ‘done the right thing’. This next sentence might help restore you faith in human kind which proves that we are not always out to get over on each other.

Trebor Banstetter, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based airline, said that the problem had been fixed, but that “Delta will honor any fares purchased at the incorrect price.”

How very decent of Delta. But read the next sentence

New Department of Transportation regulations, aimed at truth in advertising, require airlines to honor any mistake in fares offered.

So the question begs, if there had not been a law would these fares have been honored? Since there has to be a law which is forcing people to comply for truth in advertising my money is on no.

So score one for a forced reputation which, if left to Delta spokespeople, would be spun as if the company were simply good citizens doing the right thing. Instead they are simply a company obeying a law that will cost them money because they made a mistake.

That said, we should all be considering just how we spin events in 2014. Are you willing to play wordsmith and make sure that your words sound true but the reality is that you just would rather not tell the whole story because it doesn’t do as much for you? Should the simple and direct truth be that hard to come by in today’s business world? Are we at the point in time where the best way to stand out from the crowd is to be completely honest? Now that is sad.

  • Daniel Hooks

    You can see the kudos they’re getting in tweets that mention this as well. Lots of “very cool” and “thanks” being given to them for honoring the prices. It will be interesting to see if this law is takes any of the wind out.

  • ethelfxm

    Great for the customers who got a ticket on the cheap. But saying that they wouldn’t honor the prices if there wasn’t a law in place is kind of harsh. Maybe they would have who knows. However all companies are first and foremost driven by profit, and delta is no exception. The only force that supersedes that is the law, which came into play here. I’m sure the number of companies who wouldn’t honor those prices in such a situation if the law didn’t dictate so would be staggering.
    Google Sniper

    • I don’t see in the slightest how it’s unethical to refuse to honor a clearly bogus price. I do see it as highly unethical to attempt to force someone to honor it.