United Will Honor Yesterday’s $5 – $10 Mistake Fares

United was selling $0 base fares (tickets pricing out at $5-10) yesterday. At one point they shut down their entire booking process to stop these from selling. These were for a variety of routes, long and short.

Earlier I speculated that United would honor the tickets,

My guess is that domestic coach mistakes that weren’t booked by nearly as many people as some past mistakes won’t be that hard for United to swallow

And indeed, United will honor the tickets but they word it very carefully to let you know not to think this is some sort of precedent.

We’ve reviewed the error that occurred yesterday and based on these specific circumstances, we will honor the tickets.

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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. Unfortunately didn’t get in on it, but I am curious… There was a FT’er who apparently knew someone at UA that mentioned that while they’d honor the bookings, they wouldn’t award miles. Anyone know if this is the case or not?

  2. @Jonathan I think most people could live with that if that were the case. They should be happy that the tickets are being honored in the first place!!

  3. I got in for one ticket, but I still think UA made the wrong call on this. It’s nice to get a freebie, but the consumer protections are completely out of control.

  4. I think this at least shows that United does know how to manage customer relations – not something that can be said of all airlines. To those naysayers about United, I think they are making an effort and are still one of the better US based airlines.

    BTW, I did not get any of the free tickets so not a biased opinion.

  5. “Earlier I speculated that United would honor the tickets”

    Wow, you really love to pat yourself on the back. OMG.

  6. LMAO @ Gary’s comment to mark.

    Most bloggers assumed UA wouldn’t honor the fares. There’s nothing wrong with taking credit where credit is due.

  7. @kokonutz – United didn’t seek regulatory clarification on this issue. They didn’t attempt to thread a needle of interpretation on this. They made a decision quickly to honor. I do not think it is as simple as you suggest, because even if United was ultimately held to the tickets they could have been ultimately held to them. And the regulations, while fairly plain in their language, haven’t really been tested.

    I believe they decided to honor the tickets rather than pushing back because the cost of honoring in this case was fairly low, these were not thousands of premium cabin tickets.

    And that if the same glitch had been for something more costly we would have seen a different reaction from United.

  8. I’m concluding that United probably decided it legally had to honor the fares and that they might as well avoid a fight and get some good publicity as a silver lining. Actually I wish they didn’t have to. There can’t be one person who really believed the fares were legitimate. You just got a lot of greedy opportunists taking advantage of an obvious human error.

    I think consumer protection regulation needs to be refined. How about something like the company has the right to void tickets if a fat finger fare is less than 25% the most discounted prevailing fare in the market over the past year and is canceled within four hours?

  9. @Gary – sensitive much? I post positive comments. But, you have to admit, you never pass up an opportunity for an “I told you so.” Never.

  10. I didn’t get in on the deal, but I do think that this was much better choice for United. Had they decided to cancel the tix, the amount of bad publicity wouldn’t probably be worth their trouble. In fact by honoring the tix they basically get a lot of free advertising since a lot of media outlets highlighted the story. Even my sister who’s not a flyer by any stretch of imagination has mentioned this to me the other day so any revenue loss can probably be offset by the free advertising.

  11. Maybe United did these fares intentionally. The do an extremely short unannounced extreme fare sale. Claim it was an error and then get goodwill and free publicity for honoring the fares.

  12. I am impressed by United’s decision. I think more of them as a company after honoring these mistake fares. I did not personally benefit, either. While I have found United to have been a sometimes painful experience the last few years, I am hoping to see them grow back towards a customer-focused airline and this was a good step. I wish them continued growth and success and will fly them.

    As for Gary, I am continually impressed by his on-target analysis and insight. I only wish I had more time to use the information. A decade ago, people like me paid travel newsletters good money for the quality of travel information that Gary provides in near real-time for free. There are other excellent travel writers and bloggers (JoeB, Lucky, Darius, etc), but Gary is always among the best.

  13. These fares shouldn’t (but afaik will) earn miles. MileagePlus T&C dictate that miles can only be earned on paid tickets, and these are not paid tickets.

  14. They got good publicity on all the mainstream news programs (ABC, NBC, CBS etc). The (low) cost of honoring a few hundred tickets far outweighs the advertising cost. This was a no-brainer.

  15. @mark – I flag when I’m wrong as well as when I’m right, both present learning opportunities, for me and hopefully for others too

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