The Aer Lingus 20% Sale That Would Have Saved Me 1.56% … And It’s All Above Board.

I got an email from Aer Lingus on 24 June offering “20% off all Cork flights – 20% off every seat, every flight, every day”.

AerLingus-ad-1Jul13

Sounds good, I thought. I did a quick mental calculation for a flight that would normally cost €130 – about average for Cork/Heathrow return when booked a month or so in advance. I would save €26. Not bad. A day trip to London would be nice. I picked a random date – 22 October – and clicked the “Book Now” button.

Oh dear.

The actual sale discount amounted to €2 on a total cost of €127.98 – a percentage saving of 1.56%, a far cry from the 20% I was expecting.

AerLingus-Fare-1Jul13

I felt peeved at being suckered by Aer Lingus into clicking on their site with an offer that proved illusory. Surely this was dishonest advertising? I emailed a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland.

I received their reply yesterday and it said: “while we appreciate your concerns, we do not feel that the advertisement is likely to mislead consumers. The Code requires that an advertisement be assessed in the light of its probable effect and when taken as a whole. We note that the advertisers make it clear from their terms and conditions that the “discount applies to fare before taxes, charges and admin fee.” As all the information is contained within the advertisement to allow consumers to make an informed choice, prior to booking flights, we do not consider that there is a case for investigation under the Code.”

Ah, the Terms & Conditions. Silly me for not noticing those. And yes, when I checked them they did indeed specify that the discount applied to the fare only. The fare in this instance amounted to €4.99 each way.

And silly me for assuming that “20% off every seat” applied to the total cost and not just a constituent part of it. It’s as if a shop advertised a 20% sale on men’s suits only for the small print to specify that it applied to the left sleeve only.

I didn’t book the flight as I wasn’t that bothered about going to London in October. But presumably Aer Lingus’ strategy with these “sales” is to increase the hit rate on their site in the expectation that a significant number of people will book anyhow. Obviously it works as they have such sales every year.

Aer Lingus: I like you a lot, you are my first choice for UK and European travel, but the next time you send me an email about a “sale” it will go straight in the bin.