Last night, Delta uploaded a host of new fares for Central and Southern European destinations including Madrid, Zurich, Athens, Barcelona and the like. In so doing, however, they managed to leave off the $200 fuel surcharge making for some outrageously low airfare deals.
For example, JFK-Zurich in August for $233 including all taxes and fees. Similar deals were to be had to Madrid and Barcelona - the taxes alone to Europe these days are often over $100. Athens was a bit more but who is going be bothered paying $400 for a ticket to Greece in the peak of summer?
How did this happen you may ask?
Airlines file or load international airfares from their internal systems to a distribution partner known at ATPCO or the Airline Tariff Publishing Company. ATPCO is owned by most of the major airlines and serves as a central "hub" for fare (but not inventory) distribution to the major Global Distribution Systems (GDSs) such as Sabre, Travelport and Amadeus. ATPCO sends international fare changes to the GDSs five times per day where it is processed and made available for sale. Travel agents (everyone from Amex to Expedia) can access the airlines fares, schedules and availability directly from the GDSs.
Airlines send two pieces of data to ATPCO with each load: Fares and rules. The fares are fairly self explanatory - a basic dollar amount for each specific fare product. The rules get more tricky. This is where each fare product is defined - things like Saturday night stay requirements, advance purchases, etc. Also part of the rules section is, you guessed it, fuel surcharges. In last night's load, Delta inadvertently left of the $200 fuel surcharge for these fares. ATPCO dutifully uploaded the fares to the GDSs and voila: Cheap tickets to Europe!
And, yes, the deals are still out there as of this posting - but dont expect them to last too long - you can be sure Delta is taking steps to correct their mistake....