The error coincided with the lead-in to China’s busiest online shopping season of the year.
China Southern Airlines has pledged to honour tickets sold for as little as $1.30 during a two-hour error on its mobile-phone app and other ticket-booking platforms on Wednesday.
Word quickly spread on Chinese social media late on Wednesday after consumers noticed unusually low airfares to and from the southwest city of Chengdu in the Sichuan province were available on the airline’s official booking app. The cheap flights were also temporarily available on some third-party booking platforms.
Some of the prices ranged from as little as ten, 20 or 30 yuan ($1.37 to $4.12), with one screenshot posted online showing a flight from Chengdu to Beijing available for just ten yuan. The usual price for the trip is around 400 to 500 yuan ($55 to $69).
“All tickets sold by China Southern Airlines during the system abnormality on the evening of November 8 (successfully paid and issued) are all valid and can be used by passengers normally,” the air carrier said in a statement on its website on Thursday.
On top of the low prices, buyers were also required to pay at least 110 yuan ($15) in airport fees and fuel surcharges.
Other users highlighted the three-hour, 1,030-mile trip between Chengdu and Shanghai, also available for ten yuan – significantly less than the one-way airfare of 2,000 yuan ($275) for the same journey on the booking website trip.com.
Details posted online by consumers appeared to show that the glitch lasted for about two hours before it was remedied by the airline. The error coincided with the lead-in to ‘Singles Day’ on November 11, an unofficial holiday and shopping season that celebrates persons who are not in a romantic relationship. It is traditionally China’s busiest period of the year for online shopping.
China Southern is one of the traditional ‘Big Three’ in the country’s airline industry, alongside Air China and China Eastern Airlines. Earlier this month, China Southern disclosed financial earnings for the first nine months of 2023 which showed a return to profitability for the airline, citing lower oil prices and a reduced depreciation of the yuan.