NCA calls on Aer Lingus to honour '€5' US tickets


Aer Lingus has been accused of breaching its contracts with over 100 would-be passengers who booked €5 seats to the US. The airline cancelled the bookings from people who had booked business class return tickets to the US yesterday for nominal prices, saying that the low fares had been made available in error.

The tickets for flights to New York were made available for €5 on the Aer Lingus website at 7.30am yesterday. These tickets normally sell for €1,775 one-way.

The offer was withdrawn shortly after 9.10am and several hours later passengers who thought they had made reservations received emails from Aer Lingus saying that “due to a technical error in our reservation system a small number of bookings were priced incorrectly” and that the booking was cancelled.

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) has been in contact with Aer Lingus this morning and is seeking a meeting with senior management in the company with a view to reaching a fair deal for those customers affected. 

“Blaming a technical error in their booking system in not good enough,” said NCA chief executive Ann FitzGerald. “Aer Lingus formed a contract with the consumer at the stated fare and cannot simply walk away from their obligations”. 

A number of readers contacted ireland.comthis morning to voice their dismay. "I purchased tickets to Boston with Aer Lingus yesterday as a birthday present for my boyfriend. This morning I received an email to say our reservation was cancelled as they were priced incorrectly. I called Aer Lingus and was told there was an error in the price online and I could rebook for the same dates but have to pay an additional €1100," wrote one reader.

“I was under the impression that, once a booking reference was received that it was a done deal,” said another affected customer. “We were shopping around for the best prices that we could to go to the USA and now it seems that we are not being allowed to, because of an error made on Aer Lingus' behalf. I think that they are being grossly unfair." 

A spokeswoman for Aer Lingus told ireland.comit would be issuing refunds of the taxes and charges to just over 100 affected passengers. She also said the company would contact the passengers individually with a view to working out the best solution to problems which may have arisen as a result of the withdrawn offers. However, she ruled out honouring the flights.

She said Aer Lingus would do its best to accommodate people on alternate flights but stressed that they would be expected to pay the full fare, whether that be in business or economy class. 

The CEO of the Consumers' Association Dermott Jewell said customers had "a binding contract with Aer Lingus. They booked and paid to bind the contract. Realistically Aer Lingus is going to have to do something to abide by the bookings and to help the customers."

Speaking this morning on RTÉ radio, Enda Corneille, Aer Lingus's corporate affairs director, said that after considering the matter the airline had decided to cancel the bookings. He said the price of the flights was a “mistake” due to a technical error and that the airline would not honour these bookings.

“This is very obviously a mistake that we made. We have put our hands up straight away. . . .We have cancelled the bookings.”

He said the flights in question normally cost €1,775 and said that if on offer for free or €5, the maxim that if “it looks too good to be true it probably is too good to be true” applies. Mr Corneille said the airline had been in touch with the customers involved to explain their situation.

Aer Lingus made a similar error in 2003. However, on that occasion the bookings were honoured.