Delta Flight Glitch Lets Some Fly for $5, Airline Honors Fluke Fares

Consider it a belated Christmas gift: On Thursday, some lucky fliers scored rock-bottom fares on Delta's website when the mother of all good glitches had cross-country, round-trip flights for $25 and domestic fares for under $5. The glitch lasted but for a moment — the fares appeared around 9 a.m. EST, and were quickly followed by a brief shutdown of the site in order to fix the error (and presumably fire someone). The site was back up at midday — but how sweet it was for the lucky customers who were looking and booking. The best part? Delta's going to let their freak fare flag fly and honor all of the discounted tickets.

"It looks like Delta's programmers had a little too much eggnog yesterday," founder Gary Hobica said.

Delta doesn't find it so funny, apparently. "For a portion of the morning today, some prices on and other booking channels were incorrectly displayed, resulting in lower-than-usual fares for customers," a Delta spokesperson said. "The situation has been resolved and the correct prices are being displayed. Delta will honor any fares purchased at the incorrect price."

One customer, Tazmun Nahar, who also runs an airfare-tracking site, managed to book four round-trip flights from Seattle to NYC and L.A. to NYC for $25 each. "Isn't that insane?" Nahar said. To which Delta presumably said:

Other fliers got Boston to Hawaii for $68, Oklahoma City to St. Louis for $12 first-class, and Tallahassee to L.A. for $27 ... (we can't even finish this sentence).

While it's certainly decent for an airline to let customers keep their cheaper-than-dirt fares (dirt's actually really expensive, just saying), it's not a mandatory obligation. Most airlines have a little get-out-of-jail clause in their contracts that permits them not to honor fluke fares — though, to be fair, barely any of them utilize it in cases like this.

"Should they have to pay for the mistakes of their employees? I don't know, but it would cause some uproar if they didn't," Hobica said. "They could face a hefty fine if they don't honor the prices ... the fine may have been cheaper than the cost of the mistaken flights."

Earlier this year, United Continental had a worse whoopsie when some of their fares were basically offered for free, which they also honored. Now about those checked bag fees...