Alitalia cancelling the “free” tickets

Lots of folks got all sorts of excited over a discount code for JPY 25000 off Alitalia flights available on the carrier’s Japanese site. There was a similar (though less lucrative) offer on the Russian site. They were supposed to be for tickets originating in those countries but someone managed to program the codes incorrectly and they actually worked for all flights. Many, many were booked. And now, not too surprising, the flights are being canceled. The surprising part, in many ways, is that the company managed to actually kill the mistake on a Sunday morning.

The outrage is being heard on FlyerTalk and there are plenty of people suggesting avenues of recourse. Back when the exposure on a mistake like this was relatively small it was easy for the airline to handle the costs of the error. With some claims suggesting the impact in the millions of dollars it shouldn’t be all that surprising that the airline is at least going to try to bail on this one.

It is somewhat interesting that they are suggesting the tickets are being canceled due to fraud systems:

Our anti-fraud systems have suspended transactions with credit cards or I.P addresses from countries other than the site where the reservation was created. For all uncommitted transactions, the system has sent an email to the address used for the reservation. Please try again taking advantage of the discount of 25% off by using the code shown in the e-coupon facebook page.

If the tickets were not actually issued then it will be much harder for anyone to force Alitalia’s hand on this. And it will not surprise me if the various regulatory authorities side with the carrier, assuming they can show transactions were never completed. Showing that may be a challenge, but it could happen.

I’ve got my popcorn ready.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I think the days of mistake fare are done. Before social media, these mistake fares were a problem, but could be overcome and it was a way for non-standard fliers of your product to try it. Now, the cost of honoring these fares are skyrocketing because of the quick widespread news of mistakes.

    I foresee that airlines or IATA will lobby the EU and US governments to put a caveat for obvious mistake fares. No entity should lose their shirt over a minor error in coding which creates a MAJOR dent in finances. Or the airlines are going to put an automatic hold for 24 hours before all tickets are issued to make sure no mistakes are ticketed or put in the T&C a cooling down period where any ticket issued, the carrier has a right to rescind ticket if a mistake is found, etc.

    I just find it interesting that there are some crybabies in these groups that look for these mistake fares when an airline says, “it was an OBVIOUS mistake; we are cancelling” and then claim they are going to sue. WTF. You would NEVER go to this place unless you pretty much go there for free, so basically you are willing to step over someone’s dead carcass to get what you want. I find it a tad ridiculous.

    It’s just like the coin/credit card thing from the US Mint. It was fun while it lasted, now it’s over. Get over it and move on.

  2. I received the cancellation email, and checked my e-ticket this morning, it’s voided 🙁

    1 BCN AZ 0077 S 22NOV 1145 OK SABES O 24NOV 1PC
    2 XFCO AZ 0076 S 24NOV 1605 OK SABES O 1PC
    FARE F EUR 109.00
    EQUIV JPY 11200
    TAX JPY 4210YR
    TAX JPY 7680XT
    TOTAL JPY 23090
    /FC BCN AZ ROM68.95SABES AZ BCN68.95SABES NUC137.90END ROE0.7903
    FE CF 02500880121 PI 02500880121AZ/AP ONLY

  3. To clarify, they’re not just cancelling “free” tickets of course– which I think shades the equities a bit. I had a reservation that still cost $285, but it was canceled.

  4. A good number of veteran FlyerTalkers would indeed step over a dead carcass. They would prefer that the gate lice all have heart attacks.

  5. At least they’re canceling them quickly, which to me should be the first rule of Mistake Fare Club, IMHO. It does seem the publicity of these things will make them less and less likely to stick, for better or worse. I know nothing about IT, so I may be talking out of my hat. But is it really that difficult for companies to make their website promo codes work only when the right criteria are selected for purchase? Seems they’d save themselves some hassle weeding out and canceling tickets later on.

  6. Right, if the promo code was only meant for flights originating in Japan, why didn’t it just automatically reject any starting airport not in Japan? That said, I agree with those who say, “Get over it.” This is following a now predictable course – someone finds a mistake at some website, Flyer Talk and bloggers spread it to lots of people instantly, people get excited and book or act on the offer, company realizes mistake and rescinds offer, people get mad and want to sue. I guess I think bloggers should focus more on legitimate offers that companies want us to take advantage and less on gaming the system with low probability of success.

  7. Good for Alitalia. People need to stop getting upset, when they get caught trying to get a deal that does not exist… Geez.

    It was an error people, the airlines can’t give away their tickets. Then that same airline will go out of business and you won’t be able to fly them anyways.

  8. What you have to understand is, that the T&C of the Promo did NOT state that flights have to originate in Japan. The only restriction was the dates it would be usable on.

    Only when AZ realised their error, they quickly CHANGED the T&C and called everyone who booked before that a fraudster.

    Tickets were confirmed, payed for and issued already, as GDS showed. Alitalia voided legally obtained tickets on a non-existant basis. Well – if you consider ‘forgetting to add proper T&C’ a proper basis 😉

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