A typographical error in a newspaper advertisement has turned the California dreaming of some lucky Harvard students into reality.
The students took advantage of an advertisement for Continental Airlines in Monday's edition of The Boston Herald. The ad offered one-way tickets between Boston and Los Angeles for $48.
Unfortunately for Continental, the price was a mistake. The tickets should have cost $148 each way, according to David J. Messing, director of public relations for the financially-strapped airline.
"It was a typesetting error," Messing said yesterday in a telephone interview from Continental's Houston headquarters. "The ad ran correctly the previous day in the [Boston] Globe. But it was re-typeset, and somehow a one got dropped along the way."
Herald advertising representative Gordon S. Richards, who sold the ad, said the agency that places Continental's advertisements made the mistake.
"We're not responsible at all," Richards said.
Messing said Continental decided to honor the advertised rate until midnight on Monday, even though doing so will cause the airline--which just emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy--to lose money.
"We did have some trouble deciding if we could honor it from a purely financial standpoint," Messing said. "It was just in the best interests of our relationship with Boston consumers and people who we want to have as our customers again in the future, so we thought it made good business sense to honor it in this case."
That was good news for several Harvard students who took advantage of the error.
"I'm psyched," said Dvora Inwood '94. "I have a job out there and I was calling all day [Sunday] to get regular flights."
Inwood said she stopped by the Harvard Lampoon castle and found several of her fellow staff members on the phone with Continental.
"Everyone was standing in line and passing the phone from one person to the next," Inwood said. "People who had absolutely no reason to go were just going."
David S. Joerg '94 said he and other Lampoon staffers kept the same ticket agent on the phone for an hour and a half.
"It was just crazy," Joerg said. "None of us had any interest in California but the fact that [the tickets] were so cheap suckered us all into it."
"I'm sure we'll all regret it later," Joerg added.
According to Messing, Continental was flooded with phone calls about the offer.
"It brought us a lot of business," Messing said. "We took thousands of reservations we wouldn't have otherwise had, but...at a heavy financial cost."
Inwood said her parents did not believe her when she told them about the bargain rate.
"They think the flight is going to get canceled or something awful is going to happen," Inwood said. "It's too good to be true."