I saw this post on Flyertalk, by Hans Golden, and loved it. With his permission, and my gratitude, I am republishing it here. Enjoy!
Ahhhh….the emotional phases of a legitimate* mistake fare.
1. Discovery – mistake fare is posted on FT. Novices frantically check how much vacation time they have and if the dates of availability mesh with their schedules. Experienced FTers just check their TripIt to line things up with existing trips and hotel mistakes they have already booked and then book it and worry about contacting spouses or their boss later. Word spreads like wildfire. Bloggers blog; trolls gnash their teeth.
2. Excitement – Tickets purchased, confirmation emails received and dates of travel shared with other FTers. Many feel so lucky they contemplate buying Powerball tickets. Discussions of what to see and do and where to stay crop up in other threads. The Timbuktu destination forum sees a sudden burst of activity. The Travel Photography forum gets three new threads entitled something like “Which camera is best 4 Timbuktu???????” Seasoned FTers sit back and enjoy reading the discussion threads.
3. Stress Stage 1 – Concern over e-ticket delivery causes novices to frantically check their email inbox every few seconds, constantly monitoring their iPhones for a Gmail notification. Seasoned FT veterans sit back and relax, having already PDFed the eticket receipt from the website. Kind veterans give step by step instructions to the newbies, only to have their posts buried under several pages of fretting and the question re-asked 16 minutes later. Helpful “thread monitor” members post either soothing or derisive comments pointing repeated questions back to already-given answers.
4. Kindergarten – Jealous, self-righteous trolls show up a few hours after the deal (their timing because of not having noticed the thread in time) and begin to pontificate upon the hacking, fraud, and all manner of illegal and immoral behavior that clearly had ensued, predicting with near certainty that anyone that booked the ticket would have their frequent flyer accounts shut down, be banned from flying, and be sent to Guantanamo. And if by some lucky break they weren’t, they wish they had!
5. Backlash – Veteran FTers retort smugly, listing from memory a litany of similar mistake fares that were honored and did not result in so much as a traffic ticket. The truly elite recite 49 CFR 41712 § 399.88(a) from memory. Some hint at non-public mistake fares they’ve enjoyed; the true ninjas just enjoy thinking about them.
6. Stress Stage 2 – Novices call the airline to correct a letter on their name, ask for exit row seats as a one-time exception because they’re almost silver, and worry whether they’re going to get the $7.93 refunded that the airline overcharged them in taxes. Veterans angrily berate them for having called or being such tightwads. Novices give entire biography, reason for trip, and dietary desires while asking a simple question; three veterans simultaneously reply with a monosyllabic answer or ignore the question altogether.
7. Premature Jubilation – Re-confirmations from the airline’s Twitter account safely PDFed, vacation request submitted, spouses finally informed, hotel reservations made and bragging to friends and co-workers begins. Both novices and experts get very excited.
8. Stress Stage 3 – Rumors of fare not being honored, troll posts regurgitated, discussion threads about the airline and ticketing agency ensue. Predictions about how much money the airline will lose range from -$3 million to $7 trillion, with little basis for the estimates. Some think this will be a PR coup for the airline, upping revenue substantially, while others are certain they’ll slip into bankruptcy. Armchair lawyers and estate lawyers are suddenly experts on contract law, transportation law, and advertising law with terms like “mutual mistake” flying, helpfully appended with authority-boosting things like “Goofus v. Gallant, Superior Court of Ottawa”. Rumors crop up like crabgrass at this stage. Many FTers begin to worry excessively about whether or not the trip will happen. Novices make non-refundable and financial commitments to their trip. Some do so in hopes of forcing the airline to pay for them if they decide to cancel. Seasoned FTers make mixed drinks (and maybe a sandwich) and are patient.
9a. Mass Cancellations – Novices quiver in fear. Veterans file DOT complaints. Some reservations are unaffected and speculation ensues that the lucky few must have booked using a Diners Club card while in Incognito Mode after having clicked through from Kayak and used a United codeshare of an Edelweiss Air flight.
9aa. DOT Bomb – DOT decides to come up with some Clintonesque definitions of the words “within, to or from” and allows the cancellations to stand. The trolls show up to say I told you so, forgetting about Guantanamo.
9ab. X Marks the DOT – DOT announces the fare will be honored. (However, because SWISS is domiciled in Zimbabwe and spent on lawyers 3x the face value of the tickets, they’re exempt. Some vow to never book a mistake again on SWISS, other vow the precise opposite to punish SWISS. All LX passengers are kicking themselves for not having booked on SQ when they were wavering between the two.)
9b. Confirmation – The airline announces they’ll honor the fare while vigorously patting themselves on the back for being so nice.
10. Jubilation – Everyone is jubilant. A few trolls show up to lament the sad state of affairs where airlines must honor advertised prices and face a downside to sloppiness, but most retreat to their caves and prepare fresh spins on old canards for the next mistake fare.
11. Reality Check – Accurate information is obtained – usually takes place a week or two after mistake fare is published. Details about chauffeur, changability, refunds (“I booked it over my great-grandma’s wedding! I have to cancel… “), ideal seat assignments, things to do in Timbuktu, etc are all established and added to the Wiki. Novices learn more about GDSes, NOGO, CheckMyTrip, codeshare agreements, VirtuallyThere, joint ventures, Saudia, conjunctive tickets, Finnair, etc than they ever wanted to know. Airline and GDS moles make marvelous and slightly creepy posts through third parties, giving essential info. PMs fly.
12. First Success – First person flies, and posts diagrams of the ticket counters and bathrooms of origin airport, details which agents were friendly and which cussed him out, gives the GDS commands the agent needs to type to re-instate the ticket, explains how to get the chauffeur even if they don’t want to give it (“Swagger up to chauffeur counter wearing tux while holding poodle on leash…”), and how to pre-order lobster thermidor. Still-nervous novices post, asking questions the first flier just answered. A few naysayer trolls sally forth to point out the grammar and punctuation errors of the first flier. Most people thank the first flier heartily.
13. Complete Success – Trip Report forum becomes very active.
* as distinguished from 4-Mile and LM cabotage
(credit also goes to MileageAddict, who wrote the original “stages of mistake fare” that Hans Golden’s post is adapted from).