An airline glitch, a belated Christmas present for traveling couple

Queens couple R Sonny and Edith Sampayan in Paris.

Queens couple R Sonny and Edith Sampayan in Paris.

By Cristina DC Pastor

A $52 round-trip fare from New York to Los Angeles! It was enough to jolt awake Air Force veteran R Sonny Sampayan the morning of December 26 as he was reviewing the Twitter and Flyertalk feeds on his laptop.

He knew it was another one of those occasional computer glitches, but this one resonated with urgency. He and his wife Edith were looking for fares to the West Coast. They planned to visit the Philippines in March and thought of departing through L.A. or San Francisco. All he could find, as a United Airlines frequent flier, were rates hovering around $400.

He waited about 45 minutes before booking 2 Delta Air Lines tickets for himself and Edith: round-trip at $288 including taxes! If they bought the tickets now, airfare would be $9,519.20 total for both, when Sonny last checked.

There was another stunning surprise. The round-trip tickets were first-class!

“I was skeptical. My miles are all with UA,” Sonny, a Queens resident, told The FilAm. “But $400 versus $52? It was still a difficult choice.” Difficult only because Sonny, a near-Platinum UA frequent flyer, would be flying Delta for the first time.

On Twitter and, readers went wild sharing stories about the unbelievably cheap rates they were seeing on the Internet. Customers were booking for entire families, others just booking even if they had no travel plans at all.

Flyertalk reader, Mrgolfer21, said he doesn’t usually fly Delta, but would have to book a ticket to Florida “for the heck of it b/c it is crazy good.”

Here are just some of the astoundingly low rates:

• Jacksonville, FL to Minneapolis one way: $2.66
• Newark, NJ to Los Angeles including taxes: $23.84
• Las Vegas to Los Angeles, one way: $13

Momentary state of caution was followed by cheers from online customers who managed to book with success. They urged others to do the same before Delta pulled the plug on the wrong rates. But Sonny said the mistake fares were on Delta’s website and other travel sites, like Expedia, for almost two hours.

“Mistake airfares happen from time to time usually lasting 5 to 10 minutes. This one lasted nearly two hours,” he said.

Delta later issued a statement through CNN that they would be honoring the “incorrectly priced fares.”

At their favorite Paris restaurant, a snapshot frames Edith with Leon de Bruxelles’s famous ‘moules-frites’

At their favorite Paris restaurant, a snapshot frames Edith with Leon de Bruxelles’s famous ‘moules-frites’

Sonny did not immediately break the news to Edith. “I didn’t let her know until we had an on-camera interview with CBS,” he said. CBS reporter Tracee Carrasco, a Filipino American, did a news segment on Delta’s post-Christmas Day ticketing error presumably caused by the heavy holiday traffic and interviewed Sonny and other beneficiaries of the airline’s malfunctioning machine.

Sonny and Edith are a wanderlust couple who loves to travel for relaxation. Hence, they are always on the lookout for travel deals. It was in the summer when they decided to make traveling a serious hobby. Over several months, they’ve seen Frankfurt, Venice, London, Paris, Lucerne and Hawaii, and visited relatives in San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. In all, they logged more than 71K miles for the year, slightly short of the Platinum 75K miles that would reward them with more flights and more deals.

On their most recent romantic getaway in November, Sonny and Edith left their Manhattan offices at 5 p.m. and headed straight to Newark International Airport. He took a quick shower at the UA Club before they boarded the flight to Paris. That same evening they celebrated Sonny’s birthday with dinner at Leon de Bruxelles, at the Champs-Elysees known for its mussels and fries.

“I’ve travelled to more than 83 countries and I want to show the world to my wife,” said Sonny, who retired in 2001 after 22 years with the U.S. Air Force. “I want to take her to places that I’ve been to.”

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