Recently I was booking my flight to see the family over Christmas. Although I normally buy my airline tickets far in advance, due to unknown work scheduling I didn’t have the luxury of doing that this time around.
After spending a good chunk of time scouring Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, and a few airline websites directly, it turns out the best deal I could find for the times desired was on Delta Airlines. Being this is a Christmas flight, booked less than 2 months in advance, and multi-city with a small airport (translation: we gotcha!) the price was pretty painful…
So $705 and that’s without the baggage fees (which is why I would definitely have a SkyMiles credit card if I flew them more than once a year). Although I could have gotten something $100 to $150 cheaper, it would have involved multiple layovers and brutally early departures (and on a side note, there were no direct flights on any airline from DAY to LAX and hence, the only reason I’m stuck with a stop).
While I’m normally far too cheap to buy first class, the little yellow tick box was peddling a first-class upgrade for $213.25. Even that was a bit beyond my comfort level (+30%) but I clicked it out of curiosity and the price jumped dramatically more…
I checked and unchecked it several times and got the same result each try… was this an airline ticket pricing error? I immediately took screenshots and then called up Delta customer support.
For starters, it was refreshing to be greeted by American-based customer support, despite the fact I was calling at almost midnight PST. I explained that I was getting the wrong ticket price and was transferred to the support dept. specifically for their website.
So I re-explain it to the guy I was connected to and he went and checked it himself and sure enough, he was seeing the same thing. He said he saw that same pricing error a year ago with multi-flights but thought it had been fixed (surprise: apparently it’s still happening!).
I was asked what I wanted to do?
Well, being that I didn’t have Delta SkyMiles credit card to score me free checked luggage, if I were to upgrade to first-class that would save me $50 right off the bat (because first-class tickets get free checked bags).
When you look at it that way, it actually means the upgrade is only $163.50 ($213.25 minus the $50 I would have paid for my checked bag on both flights). I decided that was worth it and told the rep I would like that price honored.
Being that he saw the discrepancy himself, he was very nice and accommodating but now the issue was that honoring the price was exactly straightforward, because a new price would have to be created and apparently that’s not easy to do.
The final outcome
He warned me and apologized in advance it would take a while to do and I said that was okay so he put me on hold and got to work on it. Every few 5 mins or so he would check back with me to update me on the progress.
Fast forward about 30 mins later, the price is now ready and he starts reading it back to me to confirm…
Rep: The price is $874.35 and you will be departing LAX on December 19th at-
Me: I think I misheard, can you please repeat?
For one, I was expecting $918.50 ($705 + $213.50) and secondly, did he just say the wrong date?! He repeated and sure enough the the new fare was created for the wrong date- the 19th instead of the 21st.
He puts me back on hold and few minutes later comes back with the corrected date, but the price remains the same as it was for the 19th… $874.35 (which no surprise is a few bucks cheaper, since it’s earlier than most Christmas travel).
The outcome? A net premium of only $119.35 roundtrip for first-class ($169.35 minus the $50 savings from checked bags).
But when you think about it, the savings are even more considering the fact that I will be given meals and snacks in first. When you factor those in, the total savings will at least be $30 compared to what I normally would spend during my travel.
The final savings: Subtract the $30 from the $119.35 and I just scored first-class for a premium of $90 during some of the most expensive, most in-demand days for travel out of the entire year.
The lesson? If you’re on a travel website and stumble upon the incorrect price on an airline ticket, be persistent and have it honored. Furthermore, it sounds as if this problem with multi-city flights and first-class upgrades on Delta is ongoing, so keep that in mind if you’re in the market for a multi-stop trip
The other lesson? Without first-class, the credit cards for Delta Skymiles are a must if you fly their airline 2x or more per year.
Edit: Sky Club access is only for int’l first class, not domestic :( Thanks for the reminder Jason!
Written or last updated November 2011