Delta Glitch Results In Dirt-Cheap Tickets

For two hours, travelers who logged on to Delta Airlines’ website Wednesday found an unbelievable, unadvertised post-Christmas sale. Flights across the country that normally go for hundreds of dollars were on sale for as little as $27. Great news — except for Delta. It seems that the “sale” was in fact the result a glitch in Delta’s system, not a burst of Christmas cheer. The error was quickly fixed, and Delta’s airfare is back to normal, but thanks to new Department of Transportation regulations, the airline has to honor the the dirt-cheap prices regardless of whether they were offered intentionally. How’s that for effective government intrusion in the private marketplace?

Between 10am and noon, a roundtrip ticket from Cincinnati to Minneapolis, which normally goes for around $400, cost a mere $25.05. Flights from Boston to Honolulu cost $68, and multiple cross-country tickets went for $40. One customer says she bought a Delta flight from Tennessee to Los Angeles for $27, while another claims they booked a round-trip to Hawaii for $6.90, roughly the price of a sandwich. The rock-bottom prices appeared both on Delta’s website and airfare aggregators like Priceline.

Shortly after commuters started tweeting about the deals they’d scored, Delta realized that something had gone horribly wrong, and corrected the mistake. But a spokesman announced shortly thereafter that the airline will honor the sales regardless, causing even more celebratory tweets.

In January of this year, the Department of Transportation enacted new regulations governing how ticket prices and related fees can be advertised. One such rule prohibits airlines from increasing the price of a ticket after it’s already been purchased, so Delta really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Still, they could have done a whole lot worse: For a couple of hours in September, United Airlines accidentally offered flights for free.