It is a fairly regular occurrence for an airline or hotel chain to make a minor error with its website and end up selling tickets or rooms at ridiculously low rates. The companies normally discover the error within a few hours and then – probably depending on the financial damage caused – decide whether they will stand by the incorrect rates or simply cancel and refund the bookings on the grounds of palpable error.

On 10th July, Air China’s website mistakenly sold some Business Class tickets for the price of the tax only. Clearly, anyone who bought such a ticket must have known there was something wrong but Air China have decided to honour the tickets.

Maybe they had not sold many tickets but what impressed me was the thoroughly Western approach to managing their reputation. Their spokesman said, “The company decided to bear the relevant losses as we think our integrity is the most important thing.”

Chinese airlines have often been criticised by Western passengers for the poor English of their cabin staff and being rather unsophisticated in their style. This very careful response shows that Air China, at least, have learnt the value of Western-style PR.

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