An airfare glitch for round-trip flights between New York and Israel on El Al Airlines created major problems for the airline and a huge deal for travelers.
A glitch on the airline's website created airfares at a 75% discount which were displayed for about three hours on Monday. Before the issue was fixed, around 5,000 tickets were sold as fares were listed at less than $400. The trip usually costs an average of $1,600.
News of the deal quickly spread through the Orthodox Jewish communities of New York after an email alert was sent out.
Families bought several tickets for several members of their extended families.
"Me and my wife, her three brothers, her parents, her parents booked again for March.," Brooklyn resident Joey Monsoir told WCBS 880. "Three kids bought, then another one, it was probably a total of 20, 25 tickets," bought by his extended family.
"Communities in our area tend to have big families, so everybody jumped on it," Monsoir said.
At first, travelers were skeptical about the deal as it seemed too good to be true, but the sale went through despite the prices being created due to a glitch.
Miriam Leichtling, a New York designer had been trying to send her parents who lost their jobs on a trip to Israel, but she was unable to because the fares were so high, until she discovered the deal. She received an e-mail alert from a friend about the sale.
"The subject line said 'tickets to Israel under $400.' It looked like spam; I normally don't bother with these things," she said.
It was no scam. Leichtling was able to purchase the tickets at the low price. "I must have cried four times just thinking about taking my parents to the Western Wall," Leichtling told JTA. "This is an opportunity that never ever would have presented itself any other way."
The error was done by a subcontractor that was handling El Al's winter promotional fares. Trips from some US cities including New York, Boston and Chicago to Israel, were sold for as low as $330. Some other fares from November to March sold for less than $460.
"It eventually took my entire server down," said Daniel Eleff, founder and owner of the bargain hunting website DansDeals.com, which posted an item about the fares around 11 a.m. "A hundred thousand people tried accessing the site within a couple of hours."
According to the airline's Twitter account, the discounted tickets will be accepted even though there was a glitch.
"An outside company posted incorrect fares on travel websites, so all tickets sold will indeed be honored," the company wrote on Monday.
"On a daily basis, any published airfare consists of the basic fare, a fuel surcharge and taxes," El Al later said in a statement according to JTA. "In this situation, the fuel surcharge was omitted."