Joann Hanson’s booking on Delta started out straightforwardly enough. She and her husband paid $446 per coach class seat in January for a trip to Tucson, Ariz., in February. A few days before the trip, Hanson received an email from Delta offering an upgrade.
The email presented the following offer: “Upgrade to Delta comfort — at your service on First Class $458 per passenger entire trip, total price including taxes and fees.”
Hanson thought it was a great deal for “old clients.” Hanson is an old-school traveler who seems to think the airline industry extends great deals to long-standing customers, perhaps as a gesture thanking customers for their loyalty.
Well, here come the smelling salts.
“We immediately took advantage of what we read to be an additional $12 per ticket to upgrade to first class,” she wrote to our advocacy team. “Needless to say, we were shocked when we arrived back home and saw two charges on our credit card from Delta — not for $12, but $458 each. Combined with the $446 we had already paid, our tickets cost $904 each.”
Hanson feels deceived by the offer. “According to the dictionary, the word ‘total’ is defined as “the whole number, an amount of something.” Yep, there it is. She brought Noah Webster into this.
Whenever a dispute between two parties devolves to the point where one party reaches for the dictionary, we know there has been a gross miscommunication between the parties.
And looking at the offer, I can see it both ways. Call me a cynic, but I have a firm belief that when something appears too good to be true, it probably is.
I can see that the upgrade cost is $458 — what was intended by Delta. But Hanson and Webster have a point — total price does mean total price.
It seems we have a classic optical illusion, or trompe l’oeil. But how will Delta handle this?
The agreement between Delta and its passengers is a contract. Looking to contracts law, there is a general rule that any ambiguity in a contract should be interpreted in favor of the non-drafting party. In other words, where Delta drafted the offer and is in a superior bargaining position, this nebulous-looking offer should be interpreted in Hanson’s favor.
But outside of a court of law, is Hanson’s argument tenable? Do you believe in $12 upgrades to first class?
Delta’s customer service has told Hanson it cannot do anything to refund her money, because “the tickets have already been used.”
Has Hanson been deceived? She has asked us to help her secure a refund of the actual upgrade price charged (perhaps minus $12 would be appropriate). Our advocacy team might be Hanson’s only hope.