Customers of Aer Lingus have come up trumps as the airline has agreed to offer them bargain-priced flights after it had mistakenly sold business class seats at a knock-down rate on its website.

The airline faced scathing criticism from Irish consumer groups this week when it said it would cancel business-class flights which were booked on its website by around 100 people for just five euro apiece.

And last night it was reported that a number of Aer Lingus staff as well as staff friends and family members took advantage of the deal.

The company originally refused to accept the cut-price bookings – normally valued at 1,775 euro (£1,433) each way.

But after a wave of bad publicity bosses said they would give customers who booked the seats on Wednesday the chance to fly on economy class at the price advertised.

An Aer Lingus spokeswoman apologised for the “technical error” and said the airline was contacting those affected in order to rebook travel arrangements.

“It is regrettable that this technical error occurred and Aer Lingus recognises and accepts that customers were upset and inconvenienced.”

Queen’s University tutor Dr Hilary Downey booked cut-price seats after spotting an ad on the airline’s website. She and a colleague had hoped to travel to Boston in June for a conference.

“I thought it was some kind of bargain they were offering,” she said. “To me I had a contract and it was broken. It’s not our fault it was put on the website like that.”

But after contacting the airline again yesterday afternoon, Dr Downey was told she would be able to travel to the US for the knock-down price after all.

“With all the additional charges it would come to about £141 for the return flight,” she said.

SDLP Assemblyman John Dallat welcomed the turnaround from Aer Lingus. ” I am delighted that Aer Lingus has decided to honour all the tickets purchased as a result of this error,” he said.