Delta Appeared to Overcharge Frequent Flyers for Weeks – Was That Legal?

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John Amis / AP

Delta Air Lines appeared to be overcharging frequent flyer members for about three weeks.

If you’re a Delta frequent flyer, you may have been paying more on the company’s airfares than those who have not officially declared their loyalty to the airline.

According to CBS affiliate WCCO in Minneapolis, Delta Air Lines has been charging frequent flyers more than non-frequent flyers for the same flights. WCCO interviewed two businessmen who recently booked flights side-by-side and discovered that the frequent flyer fare was $300 more than the economy rate for the exact same flight.

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And it wasn’t just once. Time after time, WCCO discovered that the frequent flyer price was higher than the standard fare. In one case, it was $1,000 more than the economy airfare for a first-class seat from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.

“It’s a horrible black eye for Delta,” says George Hobica, founder and president of Airfarewatchdog.com.

On Friday, Delta addressed the price discrepancy issue on its site, saying that “over a period of about 19 days, logged-in customers were seeing different flight search results than customers who chose not to log in.”

Delta argues that while the flights may have appeared to be the same initially, customers who proceeded to book their return flight would’ve noticed that that leg of the trip was different for frequent flyers than for non-members.

“Please know that delta.com did not sell the same flight itinerary to different people for different prices,” says Bob Kupbens, Delta’s vice president for eCommerce. “That very idea goes against the grain of how Delta treats its customers.”

While Delta says the issues lasted for less than three weeks, as of last week, Airfarewatchdog’s Hobica said that he was still hearing from Delta frequent flyer members who appeared to be getting overcharged, and he even predicted that a class-action lawsuit may be filed by members looking to get money back. But do angry Delta customers really have grounds to sue?

“If it’s a glitch, then Delta customers are kind of out of luck,” says NYU law professor Florencia Marotta-Wurgler. “But if not, then Delta could have violated their customer commitment.”

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The airline has something called the Delta Air Lines Customer Commitment, and under “Offering the lowest fare available” it states: “We will disclose on our website … that the lowest fare offered by Delta may be available elsewhere, if that is the case.”

“They’re telling you that you’re going to get the lowest fare available, so it seems to have violated that,” says Marotta-Wurgler. “They’re not honoring the customer commitment.”

However, if you look at the terms of use of its website, it appears that the airline has protected itself from problems just like this one. “No representation is made or warranty given as to the completeness or accuracy of such information. In particular, you should be aware that the information may be incomplete, may contain errors or may have become out of date.” It also says that customers should verify information found on the site with a local Delta office and that the airline is not responsible for damages resulting from information provided on the site.

So it all comes down to whether the price discrepancies were done purposely or just due to a computer glitch, which appears to be the case. Delta customers who believe they’ve been overcharged should contact the airline and present their case. In the meantime, for frequent flyers booking their next flight – they might just want to check out the regular rate before declaring their loyalty by logging in.

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