Aer Lingus to honour €5 seats in climbdown
Aer Lingus has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown and is to offer economy class seats to all the customers who booked €5 business class flights to the US “in error”.
The airline said the cut-price fares were made available on Wednesday morning due to a “technical error” and throughout yesterday it had insisted it would not be honouring the tickets.
Yesterday afternoon the National Consumer Agency (NCA) warned Aer Lingus it was in breach of contract and had threatened to issue advice on legal options available to passengers today "if sense doesn't prevail in the interim".
“Following a full investigation of the booking error undertaken yesterday evening by the company, it appears that some customers may have genuinely believed that they were making a booking in economy class,” the company said in a statement.
It said it was in the process of contacting all affected passengers so they could rebook their travel arrangements. The statement described the error as “regrettable” and apologised “unreservedly” to customers who had been upset and inconvenienced.
The announcement came after senior management at the airline held a meeting with the NCA this morning. The consumer body's chief executive Ann Fitzgerald welcomed Aer Lingus’s "decision to treat consumers fairly”.
"We think Aer Lingus has made a very reasonable offer which will be acceptable to most consumers,” she said.
However, said said affected passengers were not obliged to accept the offer of compensation and said people who believed they had booked business class seats were entitled to take legal action against the company if they so wished.
The company had come under intense pressured from consumer groups, passengers and even Ryanair, after it cancelled the bookings of over 300 people who had taken advantage of the nominal fares.
For just under two hours on Wednesday morning tickets which normally sell for €1,775 were sold for just €5. The offer was withdrawn shortly after 9.10am.
Several hours later, passengers who thought they had made reservations received emails from Aer Lingus saying their booking had been cancelled.
Speaking after today's announcement was made Aer Lingus commercial director Enda Corneille accepted that the problem had "been handled badly" but ruled out offering the affected passengers the business class seats that had originally been booked.