United Awards to Hong Kong and Beyond for 4 Miles

Reader Sean emails to let me know that United’s website appears to be pricing out award tickets originating in China for 4 miles plus taxes.

I’ve checked this with tickets originating in Shanghai and in Beijing (though I haven’t checked other cities), and for business and economy awards, and the result is the same. Here’s for a Beijing-Hong Kong roundtrip in business:

I love that for $1035 I could save my 4 miles.

You’ll see that it shows the correct mileage price initially and then the mistaken cost in the ‘total’.

I haven’t tried to ticket this, though Sean reports that he was successful and had only 4 miles deducted. It remains to be seen whether this will be honored or not. My guess is that it will not be, but some may find this useful — even though pricing out this way appears to require starting the award off in China.

Update: Indeed it appears to show 4 miles for awards originating in the U.S. to China as well. And it appears to show 4 miles for standard awards as well as saver awards.

Update 1:56pm Eastern: Still seems to be working. Connect from the U.S. to anywhere you want via Hong Kong and it is pricing. Some reports of success first class to Vietnam and even to Australia.

If you have enough miles for ‘regular’ mileage price in your account, it will deduct the full miles but send you a receipt showing the lower 4 mile per person price.

If you do not have enough miles for the ‘regular’ redemption cost, it will send you a receipt showing the 4 mile per person price, and no miles will be deducted from your account at this time.

Update 2:23pm Eastern: It does not appear over, despite comments suggesting otherwise. Remember that the United website is glitchy. It hangs. It gives errors. The key is that you have to connect in Hong Kong or have Hong Kong as your destination at this point, regardless of where you’re originating.

And if you have problems with the United website, clear out and start over. My advice to minimize glitches is to be logged in when you start your search and to already have your credit card on file in your account. Ideally to even have the passengers loaded into your profile.

Update 2:34pm Eastern: Will these be honored?

Lucky thinks new DOT rules requiring airlines to honor tickets as they are sold will mean United has to honor these.

I disagree, at least it is not obvious to me that an airline saying that the number of miles required for a promotional ‘free’ ticket counts as raising the ‘price’ of that ticket at least as far as DOT regulations are concerned. But then I am not a transportation lawyer.

As of this moment, no one knows whether United will honor these tickets or not. Let’s just hold our collective breaths for the next 48 hours to see. If I had to bet money, I would bet against. But stranger things have happened.

If United doesn’t honor these then everyone will certainly get a full refund. You can normally cancel awards for a full refund with no fee for 24 hours. If United doesn’t honor them at 4 miles per person then I have to imagine that anyone that has a 4 mile per person e-ticket receipt but more miles than that deducted from their account will be able to get a full refund even after the 24 hour period.

Update 2:54pm Eastern: It appears that United has shut down the ability to see reward flights to/from Hong Kong, meaning that this is likely dead.

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. […] on Sunday, Gary from View from the Wing posted that United was pricing award flights to and from Hong Kong at only 4 miles per award!  I jumped online and booked our first class flights to Hong Kong.  The total fare came […]

  2. […] now you may have heard of United’s mistake fare over the weekend — first class award tickets routed through Hong Kong were pricing at 4 miles + taxes. (A mistake fare is when a ticket is unintentionally priced far below the intended price, usually […]


  1. However it turns out, it was a rush. I dragged my wife out of bed for this and she was so excited on it possibly happening she couldn’t get back to sleep! 🙂

    I do think that there is a high chance of it UA not honoring this and finding someway to wiggle out of it, so I’m not keeping my hopes up. However, doesn’t cost anything to be in with a chance. 😉

    (I’m just kicking myself now that I didn’t book a few more tickets….)

  2. That was fun. I went hogwild on the off chance UA will honor it. Must’ve spent close to what would normally cost 3 million miles for me and the family.

    Well, I consider it like buying a lottery ticket. Chances are you won’t win. But a man can dream with a lottery ticket in his hand, can’t he?! And the best part is, if I don’t win, I’ll get a refund – it’s a free ticket.

    Thanks Gary, at least for letting me and my wife dream.

  3. I actually read about this before there was one comment on here and i thought to myself this is a blantant mistake and if you think united is gunna take a big loss and give free rides then your probably mistaken. However i wish you all the luck in getting your flights. I also find it amazing how much free time / vacation time people can come up with on a whim. You guys have it good.

  4. Does anyone have 1000 Chase UR to transfer to UA? Please contact me at yerffej201[at]gmail.com. I still have a ticket pending!

  5. I am hardly a UA apologist, but clearly a mistake. Would not blame them for not honoring.

  6. @Eric – That applies only if a reasonable person would have believed the price to be a legitimate offer and then you relied upon that price to your detriment. It is going to be hard for anyone who saw hundreds of thousands of miles quoted as they added segments and had only a fraction of those in their account to argue successfully that they *both* believed 4 miles was a legitimate offer *and* they made the purchase relying on that offer in a manner that was detrimental when cancelled (i.e., refunding the taxes/fees/few miles wasn’t enough to make them whole).

  7. It seems United does not serve HKG any more…lol..nothing showing up on search results …

  8. I booked one of these for two friends with no UA status. They’re a little nervous that they’ll get dinged for some kind of cancellation/re-deposit fee if they decide not to go. I’ve been telling ’em I’m fairly confident that UA would be thrilled to redeposit for no penalty in this situation, if the deal is honored at all.

    That makes sense, right? It’s likely that they don’t have to cancel within 24 hours to get a free redeposit in this case…?

  9. I booked a BOS-HKG round trip in March 2013, it was confirmed and ticketed…However, I made the stupidest mistake in the world…I calculated the return day wrong and it turned out the return trip was one day after my ideal day to come back to the states…So I called UA Hongkong and asked them to change the flights for me in order to push the date forward for a day. My heart was literally on string when I was calling them. And the agent seemed to be unaware of the wrong price 4 miles that I used to booked the standard BOS-HKG first class trip which requires 32W normally…And then she successfully change the return trip day for me. However, It took forever for she to ticket it. Finally she said there was something wrong with the system and she cannot ticket it but can confirm it for me at that time. And she said she will call me tomorrow and try to ticket it tomorrow…What should I do? Will they ticket my trip???

  10. @Karen – if United doesn’t honor this at 4 miles per person, folks won’t be on the hook. My guess is that even if United does honor this they’d be happy to have the seats back with no cancellation fee even post-24 hours, but potentially for a limited period of time like a week. I wouldn’t sweat this one.

  11. @Pablo… very stupid indeed. There is nothing you can do now and it would be very surprising if they re-ticket it.

  12. We’re in a similar situation to Karen. I booked a couple of trips speculatively (without elite status). The one I want to cancel is within the window in which I was charged a $75 per person booking fee. So now, when I go to cancel, it looks like I’ll only be refunded the $121 in taxes, but not the booking fees. Is that right? If so, I’m thinking now that I’m better off keeping the booking and hoping that United cancels it or offers us something for it. Agree?

  13. UPDATE:I called the UA America and they realize that I used 4 miles to book the trip. And they said I am in the calling list and there will be someone to discuss it with me……

  14. Again,what’s the good thing for me to do at this point? Will they make my ticket disappear?

  15. The good thing for you to do right now (nay the only thing, I’d argue) is to sit and wait like the rest of us.

  16. Why so many haters? The airlines nickel and dime us left and right and the service levels are in constant decline. We’re practically molested before we even get on a dang plane. Soon we’ll be paying for the recirculated oxygen we breathe on the flights. I feel no guilt about trying to take advantage of this deal. If this pans out, good for us. If not, oh well, it was fun, while it lasted!

  17. Shannon just posted on FT that UA will be contacting all with the incorrect mileage debuted to let them add more miles or xl without penalties

  18. Just my 2 cents. I don’t hate you guys getting the deal, but I can imagine that it will become way much harder for others (like general people) to redeem award tickets to Hong Kong or SE Asia for the rest of the year. BTW, there is a published award chart in United that doesn’t vary much.

    It will be even worse if people who get on this mistake fare don’t fly at all. This will really hurt everyone else chance to redeem award tickets in the short term, and hurt United frequent flyer program reputation in the long run.

  19. United just came out with a statement that these 4 mile awards will not be honored and the 4 miles refunded.

  20. Hi Gary, for those who already have had the ticket(s) issued (with ticket number(s)) and credit cards charged for the taxes and fees, what’s going to happen to them? will they all receive an email or a phone call from United regarding the cancellations of the tickets? and get a refund on credit cards? Has anyone already gone through that process? Thank you.

  21. @WT as far as i know folks haven’t been contacted by united yet. but yes folks will be able to cancel without penalty and get the taxes refunded

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