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4 United Reward Miles for a Roundtrip Ticket to Hong Kong? We’ll See…

Earlier today, someone noticed that all United Airlines reward flights to and from Hong Kong were priced at just 4 reward miles. Yes, thats 4, not 4000 or 40000. News of this quickly spread through aviation and travel sites, especially the One Mile at a Time Blog, and many people snagged the low fare while they could. I managed to snag a roundtrip flight from Rochester, NY to Hong Kong in a couple weeks at the 4 miles price. The deal has since been taken off the United website.  Now comes the fun part: seeing what United will do next. Different customers have had different results since the "4 mile fare" was discovered. According to One Mile at a Time, people with enough miles in their account for the standard award price were debited that amount. For those Mileage Plus members without that many points, they were still able to book the reward flight. For me, I was able to book the flight with nowhere near enough miles in my account for a standard reward flight. The majority of the people that fetched these super low fares are skeptical that the tickets will actually be honored. I was emailed a confirmation email as well as an eTicket itinerary, so it seems that my ticket is official as it gets. My reservation online shows me as "Ticketed and Confirmed." This by no means signifies that they will not do something within the next few days. A couple of passengers booked flights for today at the 4 mile price and are currently on their respective flights to Hong Kong. They may be the only ones that are lucky enough. It is obvious that this was most likely some kind of error within the United reservation system. United will probably cancel all the tickets and all of us will be out of luck. Some people are questioning as to whether United can actually do this. Section 399.88(A) of the Department of Transportation Regulations suggests that an airline isn't able to just cancel a fare, even if it was a mistake. An excerpt from the section is quoted below.
"Therefore, if a consumer purchases a fare and that consumer receives confirmation (such as a confirmation email and/or the purchase appears on their credit card statement or online account summary) of their purchase, then the seller of air transportation cannot increase the price of that air transportation to that consumer, even when the fare is a “mistake.” 
 
United will undoubtedly have a very busy day tomorrow in trying to sort this mess out. In my opinion, United already faces enough criticism these days and doing something to make themselves look better, like honoring these tickets, might help them renew some faith in their passengers. On the other hand, the costs may far outweigh the benefits. I am sure I will be hearing something from them tomorrow and will definitely keep everyone updated.

5 Comments

  1. Ralph Boyes Ralph Boyes
    July 16, 2012    

    Maybe United could charge $750.00 a bag for everyone that got the 4 mile tickets. Just for kicks they could cancel advance seat assignments and board these folks last.
    The best thing is like you suggested, just swallow the mistake, do the publicity thing and let it go. Anything else could turn out to be really counter productive. Have a nice flight.

  2. Joseph Joseph
    July 16, 2012    

    Is it really true, shoot 4 miles per roundtrip I would have loved to gotten 4 tickets for April 2013 at that rate. I’ve been talking Hong Kong for weeks now. but I guess these tickets dont come cheap now. wow.

  3. Kyle Dunst Kyle Dunst
    July 16, 2012    

    Update: It’s officially 5:00 PM at United Headquarters in Chicago. I still haven’t heard a thing and my reservation still looks like everything is set. Will keep everyone posted if anything changes.

  4. Irony Irony
    July 19, 2012    

    Quote from an article about DoT penalty for canceling issued tickets:

    “The maximum penalty per violation is $27,500 but the government has wide discretion in what amount to actual fine.”

    I’m thinking if a glitch in the DoT system led to the fine being $4 per canceled ticket the karmic gods would be happy.

  5. Kyle Dunst Kyle Dunst
    July 22, 2012    

    All reservations due to this error have been cancelled by United, including mine. Would have been fun, but I don’t blame them for canceling.

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About Kyle

I am a recent college graduate with a degree in Aviation Management. I spend my time as an airline industry professional, private pilot, blogger and world traveler. I have visited 36 countries to date and don't plan on slowing down. This blog is my way of sharing the latest developments in the airline industry as well as experiences from my world travels. All views and opinions are strictly my own.

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