Like many of our readers, I’m heading to Paris this summer. And like other procrastinators, I haven’t booked my flight yet.
I’ve been holding off because airfares to Europe from the US continue to slide — even for summer travel. However, my trip is now just weeks away, so the time has come to whip out the plastic and book it.
Flying the OpenSkies
Imagine my happy surprise this morning when I logged into Gmail and saw this Google advertisement displayed at the top of the page: (Gotta love that creepy, targeted advertising!)
The ad states: “Openskies 1st anniversary – flyopenskies.com/NYC_Paris – Special business class offers NYC Paris roundtrip for only $550.”
This wording seems unambiguous enough. OpenSkies, the business class-only airline that flies between New York, Paris, and Amsterdam, is celebrating their first anniversary by offering New York to Paris roundtrip flights, in business class, for $550.
The offer seemed remarkable, although not inconceivable. After all, the Guardian reported yesterday that British Airways, which operates OpenSkies, is considering selling off or shutting down the airline. Perhaps this was some sort of promotion intended to fill up their planes.
The rest of the story…
When you click through, however, you discover…
Wait a second: The “$550 roundtrip” immediately becomes a “$550* o/w based on a r/t purchase”? How can that happen?
To be sure, I tested their rates with my dates (July 20 – August 3). A $550 cheapo seat was available for the outgoing flight, although the return seat was a hefty $1,930. If I returned a day earlier, however, I could score a $662 seat (and yes, another $550 return seat would be available if I pushed back my return date several days). In the end, that “$550 flight” turned out to cost $1,328.
Thinking that I had perhaps misread, or at least misinterpreted, the ad, I called OpenSkies to discuss the matter.
I explained to the friendly reservation agent that I was calling because I had seen an advertisement for a “New York to Paris roundtrip for $550.” His response:
“That’s right. Let me have a look. (clicking) I think that’s per sector. Hmmmm. (more clicking) Not really for a return flight, is it?” Nope. “Yeah, it’s $550 one-way based on a return basis. That’s what it says here.”
Here, being on their website. “But what about this ad you’re running?” I asked.
“It’s unfortunately not correct. I haven’t seen the ad myself. But it’s based on a return purchase.”
What to do?
We’re left wondering what to think. Was this a simple instance of clumsy wording? Had I misread the ad? Are there $550 roundtrips somehow available on the carrier (unbeknownst to their reservation agent)? Or worse, was this deliberate “truth-stretching”?
In any case, this Cheapo thinks that OpenSkies should stop running the ad.
Ironically, I think that their one-way $550 sale is actually quite interesting. They should simply inject their ad with accuracy by making one simple switch: “Special business class offers NYC Paris only $550 o/w”.
Granted, I probably wouldn’t have clicked. But at least I wouldn’t feel duped.
What do you think?
Do you find this ad misleading? Should we know better as consumers and just ignore “too good to be true” offers? Did we misunderstand the ad in the first place? Let us know in the comments section below!
Update: A final laugh
To top it all off (literally!), when we took this post live at 1 PM EST, a familiar advertisement ran at the top of the page…
The irony is soooo “2.0.”