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What are the Halachic implications of yesterday's El Al airfare snafu? In brief, El Al's air tickets were being sold online very cheap for a while; the price was later corrected, and El Al claimed the price had been due to a third party's error; and by law El Al must honor the low price for paid-for tickets.

Most of the issues I can think of are really variations on the same theme:

If you knew it was an error, could you buy the tickets?

If you did not know but assumed it was an error, could you buy the tickets?

If you thought it might possibly be an error, could you buy the tickets?

If you did not realize it was an error but your travel agent mentioned as much while booking your tickets, should you have stopped him from executing the transaction?

If you had no idea until after purchasing the tickets, do you have an obligation to offer to El Al to make amends (whether that means asking to cancel without penalty or offering the pay the difference or even canceling despite taking a penalty)?

Does the fact that El Al has virtually no way of forcing passengers to pay the difference or of canceling their tickets make any difference to my last question above?

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Someone asked something related on Avodah (so new that it's not even in the main archives) 1 2 –  b a Aug 7 '12 at 19:32
    
There are so many details specific to this case that I suspect it might be "too localized." –  Dave Aug 7 '12 at 19:56
    
What if El Al just wants to claim it was an error, but in fact did it on purpose? –  Yishai Aug 7 '12 at 20:12
    
@Dave, I think this can be used as a perfect model for varying degrees of the same issue causing a difference in Halachic application. –  Seth J Aug 7 '12 at 20:13
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@SethJ I think your most recent comment belongs in the question. –  Double AA Aug 8 '12 at 2:58
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1 Answer

Rabbi Yair Hoffman has an analysis in the 5 Towns Jewish Times here (hat-tip to VIN for pointing me to it):

The article views the question primarily around the issue of Onaah which it defines as 16.7% above or below market value (and possibly just a pricing mistake regardless). If that issue applied, then the sale would be invalid. The conclusion of the article is that the fact that the price was wrong because the fuel surcharge was not included is controlling, and makes the fuel surcharge not part of the sale, so El Al's failure to include it does not obligate the buyer to return it.

It then concludes with the possibility that beyond the letter of the law as a matter of personal discretion.

Notice that it seems the whole discussion is only about what is practical now (the sale is over) and thus the focus on Onaah, which could actually undo a done sale, rather than just prevent one, and does not deal much with the question of if it should have been bought in the first place.

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