British Airways Fare Sale : Lazy Website Programming? Or Bait and Switch?

Salelogob BA currently have a sale for travel to London and Europe, with discounted airfares and matching discounted hotel stays as well.

Great.  I thought I'd see if I could take advantage of their promised deals, and so went to look for the best deal on travel from Seattle to London.  So I chose Seattle as my departing city, and the website blinked then told me the lowest fare from Seattle was $288 each way, based on r/t, and in grey at the bottom was a mention of taxes and fees being extra.

So I mentally switched from a fixation on the $288 number, and of course then had to double it to $576, and added a guess of $100 for taxes/fees, and rounded it up further to $700 for the total amount of the charge I might expect to see on my credit card.

The site told me that the low fares were good for travel through 22 May.  But when I clicked on a link to show the travel dates, I was told that the $288 (times two plus taxes) fare was only good for travel between now and 12 April; from 13 April through 22 May it increased to $351 (times two plus taxes, etc).  Hmmm – $702 roundtrip to London in April/May no longer sounded like such a super deal, but I kept looking.

I started off looking for some of the $288 fares.  When I went to actual fare availability pages on their website, I was told that the $288 was available in March, but for April, there were no $288 fares remaining, instead the lowest fare was $313.

That was disappointing.  But there was more disappointment to follow.

I checked every day in March for the $288 fare, and the lowest I could find was $371 outbound on 22 and 28 March.  As for the return flights, the lowest return fare in March was $430.  So instead of the promised $576, it would cost me $801.  Plus taxes and fees.

Wow.  With those prices, it would be cheaper to travel in April, so I went looking for the lowest April fares.  You'll remember the special offer was for $288 if traveling prior to 13 April, and $351 for travel on/after 14 April, and when I then went to the BA actual fares page, this was replaced with a claim the lowest fare was $313.

So, what did I find?  The lowest outbound fare was $402, on 4, 5 & 6 April (at a time when the airfare sale promised $288 and the website promised $313).  The other 27 days of April saw appreciably higher outbound fares.

The lowest return fare was also $402, for three matching days a week after the outbound dates, ie, 11, 12 and 13 April.

So, for April, instead of the advertised deal $576 in the first half of the month and $702 for the second half, and instead of the updated offer on their availability web pages of $626, the lowest fare in the first half of the month was $804, and in the second half, the lowest fare was $868.

And the taxes (admittedly not BA's fault)?  They're now a massive $200 roundtrip. with the lion's share going to the UK.

So the reality of the advertised $288 price?  The lowest fare was $801, and with taxes, this came to an even $1000.  That's a long way from the $288 lead price, isn't it.

Real Time Fare Information Should be on an Airline's Own Website

More to the point, and this is where I feel uncomfortable, things have changed in the last 15 years or so.  It used to be that airlines would commit in advance to newspaper and television ads for a promotion, and the ads were all heavily asterisked 'subject to availability' and you sort of knew that if you waited until the last day or two, most of the special fares would be sold out.

But now, with internet advertising, surely that can be solved, because web pages can be updated at any time.

There are two types of pages on most websites.  There are 'static' pages where someone has to sit down and personally type in the data on the page, and then there are 'dynamic' pages where the information on the page is automatically taken from a database.

The first page on the BA promotion might perhaps be a static page, and so one can maybe forgive BA for its laziness in not updating its offers to reflect actual realworld prices and availability on its static promotion page.

But the pages that show actual airfares, day by day, are all dynamic pages, which are created automatically, and at the time you load the page, with the information being refreshed direct from BA's computerized fare/availability databases at the time of page load.

Each of these pages also has a box in the top right showing the lowest available fare for the month, and these boxes too are wrong.  Would you be surprised to learn that the low fares they promise don't actually exist?

Why are these showing wrong information – wrong information that purely by chance happens to be offering fares massively lower than those actually available in the time periods the lower fares were promised.  Why aren't these refreshed and updated each time a page is displayed, the same as the fares on the rest of the page?

Is this laziness on BA's part?  Bad programming (where did these non-existent fares come from to appear on their dynamic pages?)?  Or is it, ahem, bait and switch?

You decide.

If you'd like to see exactly how the conflict between promise and reality unfolds, I've put up on the site a sequenced set of screen shots showing every step of the process, and exposing the perfidy of BA's promises.

4 thoughts on “British Airways Fare Sale : Lazy Website Programming? Or Bait and Switch?”

  1. I agree 100% that web prices need to be more dynamic and show the lowest “currently available” prices with qualifing dates. Of course, that last cheap seat could be taken by someone else while you are starting to book a reservation.
    However, I think your comparison of $288 vs. $1000 is very misleading also. I think you knew the $288 was one way w/o $200 taxes. So a real comparison would be $776 advertised vs. $1,000 — not nearly the descrepancy you alude to.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to report on this. I spent much time trying to find the offered deal which really did not exist. BA wasted a lot of individuals’ time, don’t think it is innocent. I will think twice before going down their rabbit hole again.

  3. I tried this from PHL and found the same BAD pricing. There ought to be a law! BA surely knew what it was doing,however I think this produces more bad will than tickets.

  4. Hi David
    Im real glad you posted this blog, I thought I was going mad while trying to book a holiday, that’s a whole other bundle of charges, I thing something needs to be done about this, as it’s just false advertising, but big companies like BA have the cash to talk themselves out of anything.
    What ever happened to what you see is what you get.
    Ah well, rant over lol, all the best with your site, hope you get a lot of awareness.
    Best wishes

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