SIA will honour erroneous sale of business-class tickets at economy-class fares in Australia

Singapore Airlines (SIA) says it will honour hundreds of business-class tickets sold at economy-class fares in Australia due to a computer glitch. -- PHOTO: SIA
Singapore Airlines (SIA) says it will honour hundreds of business-class tickets sold at economy-class fares in Australia due to a computer glitch. -- PHOTO: SIA
The Business Class cabin aboard the A380 Singapore Airlines (SIA). -- PHOTO: SIA

SINGAPORE Airlines (SIA) said on Monday it will allow about 400 passengers to fly business class after they purchased fares at economy-class prices in Australia following an embarrassing ticketing bungle.

The airline says 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 Dec 8.

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.

In a decision welcomed as "fantastic" by travel agents, the airline yesterday reversed its position from last week, when it insisted that customers must pay the fare difference or receive a refund.

"To ensure no disruption to our customers' travel plans, Singapore Airlines wishes to advise that it will honour all affected bookings," the airline said in a statement.

"Singapore Airlines will be contacting affected customers and travel agents to advise that their business-class bookings will be honoured at the original fare purchased. Investigations continue to be carried out to determine the root cause of this issue."

An airline spokeswoman told The Straits Times on Monday 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 and then alerted the airline, yesterday welcomed the decision to honour the tickets and described it as "fantastic news". The travel agency, one of the world's largest, sold about 90 of the tickets but insisted the fault was the airline's.

Another of the nation's largest travel agencies, 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 Singapore Airlines - they have done the right thing," Webjet's managing director, Mr John Guscic, told The Straits Times. "I think last week they were trying to work out what happened. They were transparent to us that they were evaluating what happened and would make a decision early this week. There was no drama."

An Australian customer on an online travel forum expressed disbelief on Nov 29 after discovering a Singapore Airlines business class airfare on Webjet's site for A$4,000, half the price listed on the airline's website.

"I thought it was too good to be true, so didn't proceed to book," the customer said.

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