Blame Delta for the Air France Mistake Fare

Last week, Thrifty Traveler Premium featured an incredible First Class flight deal on Air France from Los Angeles and San Francisco to London for $1500. While not exactly cheap, this fare typically sells for over $10,000.

The deal appeared to be too good to be true after my initial analysis, but I still purchased four tickets just to see if Air France would honor the fare. As with all fares that depart or return to the U.S, if you book directly with the airline, you can cancel most fares within 24 hours.

Within the first few days, my two fares that I purchased directly through Air France were cancelled. A day later my other two Delta partner fares were cancelled as well. I received a phone call from a KLM number in Amsterdam stating it was cancelled due a “technical system error”. Of course it was an error but who screwed up the pricing?


Mistake Air France fare booked directly through Delta.com


Most people would assume that Air France is responsible for its own pricing, but it’s a little more complicated than that. Back in 2009, Delta and Air France-KLM signed a joint venture which allowed Delta and Air France-KLM to control around 25% of the transatlantic traffic between the United States and Europe.

As apart of this joint venture, responsibilities were delegated between the three airlines. As it turns out, Delta is responsible for pricing Air France fares that depart from the United States to Europe. Alternatively, Air France is responsible for pricing their own fares that depart from Europe. This explains why the mistake fare only worked for departures from the United States, but it did not work if you originated from Europe. Delta was responsible for the pricing error.


Bottom Line 

While many mistake fares are honored, this one was such an egregious error that it’s no surprise it was cancelled. While ultimate responsibility falls on Delta with this fare, I imagine there was a heated exchange between Air France and Delta over how to resolve this mess. Joint ventures are complicated and with so many moving parts, so it’s no wonder why there are still mistake fares popping up from time to time.

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