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. They pulled 300K miles out of my account for 2 businessfirst tickets. Think I will get nailed with a cancellation fee when I cancel these tix? I am only Premier Gold.

  2. cdegt: if you are the one took the news mainstream, you and the word ‘sorry’ are not allowed in the same sentence.

  3. So, now that the deal is dead, can we have a discussion thread on FT or MP? We need to consolidate this discussion, as now comes the fun part of the ‘7 steps of mistakes fares’!

  4. Great fun for a Sunday AM…excellent suggestion by hobo13…is there perhaps a “legal beagle” who got in on this deal has some perspectives as to the validity of the purchased fix?

  5. I just booked and held 2 JFK/CAN (thank you cgedt) Saver first JFK/CAN on Aug 30, returning Sept 11.

  6. I got SYD LAX SFO HKG ICN SYD for $622.35 and 16miles for 4 passengers all in F can’t wait !

  7. @hobo13 – I got this from a college student member of flyertea(a Chinese FFP community). I think he is the one first discovered this. He sent me a message and I just posted it few hours later. what a fun Sunday~~ Good luck everyone

  8. Thanks @Sean thanks @cdegt — fun all the way around, however it came about, so while I’m at it thanks to flyertea as well!

  9. @cdegt – Just wanted to give a big thanks for sharing, either way it turns out it’s appreciated!

  10. Yes, thanks to all who had a hand in taking this public.

    Lottery ticket punched.

    Popcorn popping.

  11. That’s not fun for me I had to buy 2k in miles and transfer points over from hotel accounts , look for surveys and tried transferring e miles all to just get. 200miles !

  12. Dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, parrots – who do you prefer? Or perhaps what that non-native animals – snakes, crocodiles, lizards, monkeys?

  13. DOT has no rules governing FF programs:

    Complaint about an Airline’s Frequent Fyer Program
    Published 03/05/2008 01:56 PM | Updated 11/08/2010 04:40 PM
    Complaint about an Airline’s Frequent Fyer Program?
    According to the Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection Division:

    “The Department of Transportation does not regulate airline frequent flyer programs. These are matters of individual company policy. If you are dissatisfied with the way a program is administered, changes which may take place, or the basic terms of the agreement, you should complain directly to the company. If such informal efforts to resolve the problem are unsuccessful, you may wish to consider legal action through the appropriate civil court.”

    This and additional regarding frequent flyer program information is available by visiting the Aviation Consumer Protection Division web site at: http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/publications/frequent.htm

    The Aviation Consumer Protection Division home page is: http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov

  14. Shane, how did you manage getting miles? I am missing 8 miles to complete my two bookings that are on hold…

  15. Looks like United is having more problem than this deal. Now it cant pull up any of my mileagePlus status…either they charge me 150k for the RT ticket and my account become negative or it might be a bigger problem than we think. I am anxious to see what the outcome will be 🙂

  16. For anyone who’s ever wondered just how many people read these blogs… It’s days like today;)
    I have 2 tix with legs in the lottery pile.

  17. Booked hkg-doh-JFK & hkg-jnb on QR and SA for 8 miles. Big thanks to @cdegt , @gary. Let the post speculation discuss begin!

  18. @Joe Bloggs – were you aware of this deal without reading it on the blogs? A ‘secret deals’ email list and a ‘secret deals’ forum cited this blog post. Flyertalk cited this blog post as well. Do tell, how many people were taking advantage of this under the radar already before I posted? This was never going to last a long time, and because of the posting a whole lot more people got to avail themselves than otherwise would. Who knows how it’ll turn out? But it was fun…

  19. It’s funny when people post the blog killed it. They would never have known about it without the blog. Thanks Gary for posting it.

  20. …it doesn’t matter who revealed this, when they did so, or how. These reservations will all be cancelled without recourse in just a matter of days – anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves, particularly when it comes to COdbaUA.

  21. Looks like people who were able to travel today are boarding flight. That’s amazing.

  22. Let me add my sincere thanks to cdegt, Gary and all involved in getting the word out on this. It cracks me up that people want to complain that Gary killed this deal. Killed it for who? The two people in China who knew about it before the blogs let us all in on it? 🙂

  23. Indeed, looks like JN commenting on Lucky’s blog and someone at Dan’s Deals forums are traveling. Which says little about what will happen for the rest of us…

  24. My money is on United with this one. Something happened on the retail end of the written code and we all see it as 4 miles a ticket but if you have the correct amount of miles in your account those miles are deducted for the flight so the code is correct at some point in the system. The glitch then is not that it showed 4 miles but it allowed those who have insufficient miles to book at all. If you booked a flight to leave within 24hrs you have a shot and that is it the rest of us will get a cancelled notification out of this and those who actually had the correct amount of miles and those miles were deducted from your account will most likely enjoy the joy and splendor of a UA representative.

  25. Travelling today is pure genius. Whoever thought of doing that was brilliant (and had the time!).

    I probably could have taken a quick trip tomorrow. Wish I had considered that. Of course, tomorrow may very well be too late.

  26. Blogs definitely kill deals. There is no doubt that they killed this one. Anybody arguing?

    But sometimes they also break the news on deals….. 🙂

    It’s like this — I want blogs to ONLY cover deals that *I* personally don’t know about yet. If *I* read about it somewhere else, then the blogs should just shut up. OK? Got that, Gary?

  27. @Joe Bloggs – The goose that lays the golden egg does die of old age eventually. Dissemination of where the goose is hastens its death, but ensures it lays more eggs during its wonderful life. Unless someone is engaged in tipping UA off, I think dissemination does all others, on balance, a service.

  28. I took advantage of this to a point. I booked R/T MSN-ORD-HKG for my 4 miles and $40.50. It is exciting to think of the possibilities of it happening. I’ts not entirely unlikely, afterall people a few years ago had free or nearly free weekends in Vegas thanks to Expedia’s Save300. I flew to Oslo for $300 a year and a half ago. I always believe that these deals are highly unlikely until I am in the clear on them.

    If I were able to go back in time I’d have also chosen a 2nd or even 3rd flight out of HKG to get around other cities in Asia. As it is, I’ll pay for a flight from HKG to other locations. I know I could get to BKK for a song from HKG. So, plenty of options in my 2.5 week itinerary that may or may not remain valid. I’d feel a lot worse about my chances if it wasn’t already ticketed.

    And I will keep my hopes up despite some negative Nancy’s out there trying to douse the excitement. I don’t see any downside to taking this chance.

  29. Im assuming mine will be cancelled too but there has to be some repercussions for these guys. If you go into a store and they price an item incorrectly, they are obligated to sell you the item at the cost marked, even if it results in a loss. why isnt there a law that protects consumes similarly in a case like this?

  30. It is more likely that UA will cancel those. It totally screwed up the award seats to HK and even southeast Asia for the rest of the year. Looks like it affects not just united flights but all star alliance flights.

  31. Well, I have one ticketed, but I already have CX F and SQ F. The SQ F I may never see again. It would be hard to choose SQ F for 280K miles or UA F for 4 miles.

  32. If they do decide not to honor the tickets, a thousand or so angry frequent flyers couldn’t hurt anything. United has enough problems right now so who knows, maybe they’ll do something to actually make themselves look better instead of worse.

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