Saturday 16 February 2019

Passengers in threat to sue airline over €5 US fare fiasco

Kirsty Anderson (centre) with friends Georgina Keeling (left) and Julie Walsh who bought discount
flights to the US with Aer Lingus
Kirsty Anderson (centre) with friends Georgina Keeling (left) and Julie Walsh who bought discount flights to the US with Aer Lingus

Laura Noonan

A GROUP of property executives has threatened legal action if Aer Lingus does not honour business-class fares to the US it sold for €5 by mistake on its website.

The seat-sale fiasco lit up Ireland's airwaves yesterday after the Irish Independent revealed Aer Lingus had cancelled the 300 or so tickets bought following a glitch on the airline's website.

As the National Consumer Agency demanded Aer Lingus honour the contracts, it emerged last night that the first legal action on the debacle has already begun.

Fifteen executives from a prominent property development firm were among those stung by the fiasco and have already retained heavyweight legal firm Mason Hayes Curran.

"They're drafting a letter to Aer Lingus saying that if our contracts aren't honoured then we'll be pursuing the matter in the Circuit Court," said Jennie Browne, one of those involved.

"As far as we're concerned we had a contract with Aer Lingus."

The saga began at about 7.30am on Wednesday, when passengers booking flights to Boston and New York noticed fares were just €5.

When the bookings were completed, passengers got another happy surprise when they found they had been elevated to business class, where one-way fares are normally about €1,800. Word of the 'offer' spread like wildfire before Aer Lingus discovered the loop hole and closed it off at about 9.10am.

In mid-afternoon, however, passengers were outraged when they received an email telling them their bookings had been "priced incorrectly" and would be immediately cancelled.

Despite the mounting controversy, Aer Lingus last night insisted it had no intention of honouring the bookings.

"When they got a fare of €5 that was the first warning sign that something wasn't right," said the airline's corporate affairs director Enda Corneille.

Premium

"When it came up as premium, there's no way I feel anyone could have believed that was a genuine price. They should have known something was up."

Aer Lingus critics, however, pointed out the airline mistakenly sold hundreds of seats at lower fares in 2003 and went on to honour them.

"There was a fundamental difference of scale between 2003 and this," Mr Corneille said. "The gap in prices this time is much much bigger."

Ms Browne had booked four New York tickets for her parents and husband's parents, as both couples will soon celebrate their 30th wedding anniversaries.

Financial worker Kirsty Anderson, a frequent flier with Aer Lingus, said she "probably wouldn't" fly with the airline again.

"I'm waiting to see how it all pans out but it's certainly left a taste in my mouth," she added.

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