Hawaiian Airlines Refuses to Honor Mistake Deal, Charges Customers Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

Frequent flyer award tickets are supposed to reward loyalty. They don’t feel very rewarding when they come with a cash co-pay in the form of fuel surcharges which — for economy redemptions — can be almost as much as the cost of a paid ticket. (We’ve even seen instances in the past where British Airways fuel surcharges on an award ticket were more expensive than the cheapest fare you could buy with cash.)

Hawaiian Airlines accidentally started imposing the mother of all carrier-imposed surcharges on its awards last week, and they are “deeply sorry.”

Eighty five HawaiianMiles members who redeemed miles for award tickets were charged $17,500 to $674,000 on their credit cards. Apparently the airline was charging cash equal to the number of miles being redeemed. And you thought being hit for a 674,000 mile award was bad enough.

One woman “was mistakenly charged more than $150,000, even though she has a $10,000 limit on her HawaiianMiles credit card.” It’s not clear to me how the bank issuer could have approved this charge. Even without a preset spending limit this is 15 times the card’s credit line. Now she’s worried that bills charged to the card automatically each month will be declined.

The glitch was limited to this past Monday and the airline said it’s reversing the incorrect charges.

Meanwhile, also on Monday, the airline was allowing redemptions for zero miles. 1300 awards were issued, however those tickets were voided. In 2012 United awards to and through Hong Kong all priced at 4 miles and those tickets were cancelled. The existence of a published award chart showing more expensive prices was cited by the Department of Transportation for why United didn’t have to honor the bookings. (Some people who booked with United for travel in the days after the glitch did get to take their trips.)

Hawaiian Airlines is giving each of the people making these bookings 10,000 miles, a generous move. However one customer complains that they made “thousands of dollars” in related bookings. If they cannot cancel those presumably DOT rules would require Hawaiian to cover the costs. (If you ever have to sue over a deal like this gone bad, the lawyer who represented members in the easyCGI shopping portal case I believe takes his compensation in miles…

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. A crap airline and an embarrassment to the industry
    I will never do business with them and don’t trust them
    Almost started doing business with them months ago
    One call to their poorly trained clueless agents and I was done
    Will avoid at all costs

  2. @dwondermeant… and please avoid Hawaii itself at all costs. Don’t need haoles like you. Thanks in advance.

  3. I’m generally sympathetic to folks who book mistake airfares, but if somebody actually paid zero miles for their award ticket and then immediately made thousands of dollars of non-cancellable travel arrangements based on that “deal,” I would tell him “too bad for you.”

  4. Agree with @Chopsticks. Until you get that ticket issued DO NOT make any non-cancelable reservations …. even then do not many any for the first and last day of your flight. Zero Points? come on you know that is not going to fly by any radar. With or without a chart It just does not past muster. Not like you can say it is formally 40,000 with 40,000 off because it is a day ending in Y

    Our NRT-DFW-PVD flight has changed 4 times since issued last November. and our flight to NRT has changed 2 times. I always book a cancelable hotel the first night and last night of our stay knowing that it will most likely change (to lock in a price) and then modify if need be.

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