SYDNEY - Singapore Airlines (SIA) said yesterday that it will honour hundreds of business class tickets sold at economy class prices in Australia after an embarrassing ticketing bungle.
The airline says that it is investigating the cause of the mix-up, which resulted in tickets being sold online at the wrong fares for flights between Australia and Asia and Europe from yesterday.
About 400 passengers will fly up the front of the plane using tickets that were as much as A$5,000 (S$5,500) cheaper than they should have been.
Yesterday, in a decision welcomed by travel agents, the airline reversed its position from last week when it insisted customers must pay the fare difference, or receive a refund.
"To ensure no disruption to our customers' travel plans, SIA wishes to advise that it will honour all affected bookings," the airline said in a statement.
"SIA will be contacting affected customers and travel agents to advise that their business class bookings will be honoured at the original fare purchased. Investigations will continue to be carried out to determine the root cause of this issue."
Yesterday, an airline spokesman told The Straits Times that approximately 400 passengers were booked on the cheap fares. The tickets had been wrongly loaded onto the global booking system used by travel agents.
About 900 flight segments were ticketed at the wrong fares. A segment refers to portions of an itinerary. For example, a flight from Sydney to London via Singapore would count as two segments.
Flight Centre, which spotted the error on Nov 29 before alerting the airline, yesterday welcomed the decision to honour the tickets and described it as "fantastic news". The travel agency sold about 90 of the tickets, but insisted that the fault was the airline's.
Another travel agency, Webjet, which sold about 60 of the cheap tickets, also praised the airline for its response. About 40 of the tickets were for travel to Asia and 20 for Europe, with savings per passenger of A$2,000 to A$5,000.
"Hats off to SIA - they have done the right thing," Webjet's managing director, John Guscic, told The Straits Times.
An Australian customer on an online travel forum expressed disbelief after discovering an SIA business class airfare on Webjet's site selling for A$4,000, half the price listed on the airline's website on Nov 29.
"I thought it was too good to be true, so I didn't proceed to book it," the customer said.
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.