The Playbook For The Modern Man

Passenger’s $28 Million Refund Exposes Common Airline Industry Error

You had one job…

There’s a lot you can do with $28 million. From mega-yachts to sleek mansions to luxe round the world trips, it’s hard to decide what you would do if that much cash magically appeared in your bank account.

For one Qatar Airways passenger (and Australian Frequent Flyer forum moderator), however, that bizarre hypothetical recently became a reality.

As Australian Frequent Flyer reports, “A… forum moderator got the shock of her life recently when she discovered that her available credit card balance was suddenly over $28 million. The reason? She’d just received a refund for a Qatar Airways flight!”

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“JessicaTam had booked return Qatar Airways Business class flights from Jakarta to London. But like most flights at the moment, they were unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19 and a refund was processed,” Australian Frequent Flyer reports.

So far so normal.

“JessicaTam posted on Australian Frequent Flyer: ‘Hmmm. I notice that today my QR refund has come through to my credit card.'”

“My account is now showing as $28,179,789 available balance. (The refund was less than $3000.)”

“Can anyone suggest a small country I should purchase?”

While countries may not be up for grabs, there are more than a few private islands she could have potentially – temporarily – put down a deposit for.

 

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The windfall, however, was not to last, with AFF reporting: “Somehow, somewhere along the way, it looks like the refund was quoted in Australian Dollars – but for the amount in Indonesian Rupiah (a costly mistake, given 1 Australian dollar is worth almost 10,000 rupiah!).”

“Fortunately (for Qatar Airways), either the airline or the bank corrected the error the following day!”

“This may seem like a bizarre amount of money to refund when the ticket only cost around $2,800. But the amount wasn’t quite a coincidence. As the first flight on this ticket departed from Indonesia, the fare was originally paid in Indonesian Rupiah. The total airfare, converted into Indonesian Rupiah, was IDR28,179,000.”

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“Sad news everyone. My bank has decided to take close on 30 million dollars from my account.”

More than just a funny story though, this reflects a broader ‘mistake fare’ issue in the industry: currency conversion errors are actually a frequent cause of mistake fares, which can lead to everything from ridiculously cheap flights being sold by accident on Skyscanner to incidents like the one discussed above (though usually, the margins aren’t so huge).

 

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Other sources of error fares, AFF reports, include: typos, fuel surcharges being erroneously removed and airfares being filed for the wrong class of travel (which happened recently with Cathay Pacific, with $2,000 first-class flights accidentally being sold).

Sometimes airlines honour these, other times they don’t. But you can be sure if they stand to lose AU$28 million, the odds are not in your favour.

Update: Qatar Airways released a statement on the 7th of July, which clarifies the situation and reads as follows:

“Qatar Airways is aware of a story regarding the overpayment of a refund. The airline processed the refund correctly and was not involved in the transaction between the bank and the passenger. We are glad to learn that the matter was swiftly corrected.”

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