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Is OpenSkies’ “$550 NYC to Paris” Advert Misleading?

Posted in: Budget Air Travel

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openskies

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!)

Openskies Google ad

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…

Open Skies special offer

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.

Open skies booking page

Calling OpenSkies…

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…

Final laugh

The irony is soooo “2.0.”

About the author

Tom Meyers

About the author: Tom Meyers created and launched EuroCheapo from his Berlin apartment in 2001. He returned to New York in 2002, set up office, and has led the EuroCheapo team from the Big Apple ever since. He travels to Europe several times a year to update EuroCheapo's hotel reviews. Tom is also a co-host of the New York City history podcast, The Bowery Boys. Email Tom. [Find Tom on Google Plus]

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5 thoughts on “Is OpenSkies’ “$550 NYC to Paris” Advert Misleading?”

  1. Heck, I think it’s immoral to advertise “$XXX one-way” with “based on round-trip purchase” in the teensy-weensy small print (I drooled over the NY Times Sunday Travel section as a kid). But just about everyone is onto that by now, and I really only see it in print ads these days. As it is, I feel like advertised travel specials only exist about 2% of the time.

    Reply
  2. Now see, I thought FOR SURE you would be calling OpenSkies’ ad department and demanding truth in, well, advertising. You Cheapos are feisty, I know this!

    p.s. Take me with you.

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  3. Hi DJFyer,

    Thanks for your comment. Well, I guess I’m the “procrastinator knucklehead.” And you’re right–the OpenSkies website is easy to understand and the pricing quite clear (as I’ve illustrated)… once you’ve clicked through their ad.

    The point of my post was that the airline is explicitely advertising an offer that doesn’t exist — and that’s not right. I’m used to sifting through scams and misleading come-ons online and only giving the time of day to offers that seem legit. An offer, however, from a major airline should carry a certain amount of moral authority. I shouldn’t have to question whether or not an advertisement from a major carrier is being truthful. They have, after all, a reputation to uphold.

    Tom

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  4. Yes, the ad is wrong and misleading. Contacting the airline was correct to verify. The official Open Skies website is clear about pricing and easy to understand. However, what procrastinator knucklehead thinks he can get business class RT to europe for $500 when a typical one way fares are over $1000??

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  5. Believe me, the mislead was on purpose. Some copy writer is feeling the guilt right now while an account manager is convincing him or herself it’s not at all misleading. Kind of like when I used to work on bank ads suggesting to customers closing bank branches was more convenient for them.

    Reply

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