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Mistake Fares: 4 Miles To Hong Kong on United. Seriously! Let’s Be Real Now

United to Hong Kong Mileage AwardsUnited just can’t catch a break these days, first it was the 3-day cancellation of the flight in The People’s Republic of China (PEK) and now last Sunday on United.com, you were able to purchase a ticket to Hong Kong for four (4), yes, 4 frequent flyer miles plus the applicable taxes and fees. Yup, a mistake fare.

Obviously this is an error, but that did not stop many people from buying tickets and of course sharing this windfall with their friends.  So a few days ago, United said they would not honor the tickets and would work with trips already in progress.  Here’s what they said on a popular frequent flyer site, FlyerTalk:

Hi Everyone, over the weekend, we discovered a united.com programming error that allowed customers to obtain Mileage Plus travel awards to and from Hong Kong for as little as four miles roundtrip per person, substantially below published levels, which we disclose to customers. We have since corrected the error and will be in contact with customers who have tickets issued at the incorrect award amounts. Customers will be given the choice to redeem at the correct mileage amount or re-deposit their award with all fees waived. We regret any inconvenience this has caused you, and appreciate your understanding.

Now, I’m all for getting a good deal, but folks, you knew the fare was incorrect, you bought it, the airline said they won’t honor it as it was an error and then you complain to the Department of Transportation about it?  Seriously!

This is what it actually cost to Hong Kong from Newark in a combination of First Class and BusinessFirst Class.

Actual Cost to Hong Kong

Now, in full disclosure, I used to work for United, well Continental in the very area that is now dealing with this issue.  In the past, there’s been fare errors and they were honored.  But this is a new company and clearly the fare to Hong Kong for frequent flyer miles is not four (4) miles plus taxes and fees.

I’ve been reading a lot of comments about the United customer service and while the airline seems to be at fault sometimes, other times customers expect way too much and are sometimes unreasonable and also are unaware of the rules of the ticket they purchased.  Also, some customers don’t understand the rules and are confused, while others know the rules and are trying to get over.

I travel a lot and see and talk to travelers all the time and its easy to blame the airline for everything that goes wrong, but that’s not always the case.  I read some comments on this situation and I see people tying other issues into it that has no bearing on the erroneous fares on the web site.

I’m not defending United, just trying to get you to understand the picture.  As you know, United is going through a merger of two distinctly different cultures and that’s not easy in any industry.  At the same time the airline has to be kept operational.  I’ve spent 16.5 years in the airline industry, primarily in Customer Service, so I’ve read a lot of customer e-mails and listened to many phone calls and spoken to many customers in person.  There are going to be issues people; hopefully though they’ll get it together sooner than later.

I don’t know that I could enjoy a trip knowing that I was profiting from what was clearly an honest mistake.  But then, we are all different. What is your take on this situation?

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