I was alerted to this story earlier in the week which is interesting for a couple of reasons –  but first I’ll run with the quotes.

“I filled in our details and the passenger details. It asked us to select the seat numbers as well. “Finally, I went to the last page where it asked for my credit card details … I did everything and we were all excited. “I clicked at the bottom and I thought that the payment had gone through and suddenly this message popped up saying ‘this is a duplicate of the original booking’.”

Initially Jetstar were saying they would compensate people affected, but then in a foll0wup story in the New Zealand Herald, all does not appear quite so rosy.

Jetstar said staff were contacting those affected by the glitch and honouring their bookings. However, seven people contacted the Weekend Herald to say they were frustrated the airline had not been in touch. A Jetstar spokeswoman said yesterday that the airline had been contacting passengers – emphasising they were dealing with customers who had “already contacted us”.

Here are the two reasons why this is interesting. Firstly, if it works properly, then detecting duplicate bookings in the booking engine before ending the user session is a nice piece of functionality. Normally with revenue integrity processes, duplicates bookings are detected and corrected after the event; although in this case it appears there was no original booking at all, or else the only thing people would need to complain about was reversing the second charge on their credit card.

Secondly, it is somewhat interesting as if there was no original booking, or even worse no record of the attempted booking, then how would Jetstar know who to contact. Sometimes internet booking engines can be set up to do a pre-book procedure, but I am not familiar with what options are avaliable in a Navitaire New Skies implementation. If it relies on people contacting the airline with no proof of the error, then I’m sure the first article would have seen all sorts of people coming out of the woodwork to claim a cheap fare that they were not even aware of at the time. I’m not suggesting this is the case with the people mentioned in the Herald story, but as an airline, how would you sort of the genuine claims from the fake claims.

In hindsight, maybe it is better to honor none, and say that if the booking cannot be completed fully on the website, then consider yourself as having missed out. Your airline needs to be careful of being caught in any bait and switch type claims, but assuming this aspect can be managed, then I’m wondering if Jetstar wishes they had never agreed to retroactively honor these low fares in the first place.