United First Itineraries Booked Using the 4 Mile Award Glitch – Updated Results So Far…

Another weekend, another great mileage redemption opportunity courtesy of United.com. After a late night celebrating my friend’s bday in the hamptons last night, I woke up to Gary’s post this morning detailing UA awards to Hong Kong and beyond for only 4 miles per ticket.  If I had more time I probably would have made several speculative bookings but I could see that the post had been up for some time so I headed straight over to the UA website. I decided that I wanted to start by booking my parents two tickets to Hong Kong as they’ve never been to Asia. I booked them two different first class itineraries, one completely on UA and one via Munich on Lufthansa.  I then emailed my colleagues and told them to make their bookings ASAP, about 5 minutes later the deal was gone.  Here are our results:

Me:
Booking 1 – United from New York to Hong Kong roundtrip – Quoted 8 miles in the total and 140,000 up top.  Booking was ticketed and 140k instead of 8 miles were deducted from my MileagePlus account.

Booking 2 – Lufthansa connections via Munich to Hong Kong  roundtrip – Quoted 8 miles in the total and 140,00 up top.   Booking was ticketed and confirmed but no miles have been deducted yet (used my parent’s account which did not have enough for the 140k).   However, one of the Lufthansa flights that was in First is now displaying as an Economy award on both UA and Lufthansa’s website.

Colleague 1 (Extremely Spontaneous):
He booked a roundtrip first class flight for this evening and ran to Newark immediately.  He was ticketed and confirmed using 4 miles and $35.50.  No miles were actually removed from his account.  He checked in successfully hours ago and is now in-flight to HKG! I would say he got away with the 4 mile pricing as he does not have enough miles in his MP account for the standard award.  However, I would be worried about the return, though I’m not too concerned as he has plenty of AA miles for a Cathay ticket if necessary. In all honesty, I think this was super smart.  He got a definite flight today and probably has the highest probability of UA honoring his return ticket as he is already mid-itinerary.  I’ll let you know as I hear updates!

Update July 16th – He arrived in Hong Kong about two hours late but had no problems at all at Newark, inflight, or post-flight.  He’s currently resting up at the JW Marriott utilizing some of his award points.  No miles have been deducted from his UA account at this time and he’s had no communication from UA regarding his flight back home on Friday.  I’ll continue to update the blog as I hear further updates from him.

Update July 17th  – Just spoke with him and he has not yet heard from United regarding his return flight on Friday.  This was about three hours after the official response from UA (see bottom of this post).  Will let you know as soon as he does!

Colleague 2:
Booked a first class flight to Hong Kong using UA and ANA.  Ticketed and confirmed successfully for 4 miles but the full 70,000 were deducted.  Additionally, his ANA piece was later downgraded to economy.

Colleague 3:
Booked three first class tickets to Bangkok via Frankfurt and Hong Kong using UA, Lufthansa, and Thai for 12 miles and $93.60 in taxes per passenger.  Ticketed and confirmed and credit card charged, no miles deducted.  He does not have nearly enough to cover the actual mileage cost of these tickets.

Potential Outcomes

  • It’s clear that for those MileagePlus members with enough miles to cover the tickets, UA deducted the normal amounts regardless of what the total line on the confirmation indicated.  I am going to hold on to my reservation that was ticketed normally.  Why?  Unfortunately, I think those of us charged the standard award amounts have a very slim chance of UA actually honoring the 4 miles per ticket rates. I just can’t see them reversing out the normal number and then deducting only the 4 per ticket.  I do however believe that we may receive compensation in the form of a miles gift so why not hold the reservation a little longer until there is some additional clarity.  United will certainly allow you to cancel past the normal 24 hour deadline given the pricing discrepancy.
  • Those members who don’t have enough miles will most likely be allowed additional time to come up with the miles or given the opportunity to purchase additional miles. Perhaps they too may receive a mileage gift for their inconvenience.

I’m usually an optimist but in this scenario I really think the winners will be those who took their flights today (especially with the normal price being displayed next to the incorrect price), though I definitely hope I am wrong!
Were you someone who was also able to take advantage of this glitch for an award today?  Please share your experience!

Does anyone feel differently and think UA will honor the 4 mile price?

Good luck to everyone who got in on this juicy deal!

***Update colleague results here***

UPDATE – OFFICIAL RESPONSE FROM UA as per 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.

Shannon Kelly
Director, Customer Insights
United Airlines

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Comments

  1. Its not a deal! It was a mistake. You are a thief. I hope you get charged full amount and hope life comes back and kicks you in the ass one day.

  2. Mike go get a life and stop being a negative nancy on every single blog related to this. You snooze you lose. Don’t hate on everyone else that got in on it.

  3. Mike: this is not theft. You have posted before on this. Relax! UA, through their IT incompetence allowed this error to occur. Why should we not take advantage of this?

    I hoping UA honors this as I have a trip to HKG in first next weekend and a trip to SIN during my spring break (I’m a teacher) at the end of March 2013.

  4. Here’s a quote from a WSJ article a couple years ago. I doubt it will work out too, but you never know.

    Delta Air Lines Inc. DAL +0.65% states in its contract of carriage, the legal rules printed on tickets, that for erroneous fares it “reserves the right to cancel the ticket purchase and refund all amounts paid by the purchaser or, at the purchaser’s option, to reissue the ticket for the correct fare.” But some airlines say they will honor any price they sell, mistake or not.

    UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, Continental Airlines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., LUV +1.40% JetBlue Airways Corp. JBLU +1.59% and Singapore Airlines C6L.SG -0.28% all say their policy is to not cancel tickets even when a mistake is discovered, no matter how large the error.

    “That is the right thing to do,” says United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski. In 2007, United honored a business-class fare from Los Angeles or San Francisco to destinations in New Zealand that was missing one zero: it was sold as $1,062 plus taxes and fees instead of $10,620 plus taxes and fees.

    • @ Kyle – the WSJ article definitely adds some credence to the belief that UA may honor these. However, we do have a totally new management team in place from 2007 and award redemptions (especially on partner airlines) are very different. We shall see…

  5. ” I do however believe that we may receive compensation in the form of a miles gift so why not hold the reservation a little longer until there is some additional clarity”

    Seriously – you want to make this public?

    • @amnesiac – just my thoughts, I don’t think it harms anyone either way by posting this especially given the fact that UA will certainly have to allow for free cancellations if they do not honor the quoted price.

  6. I doubt they will be honored, but I sure am crossing my fingers and toes!

    @mike go back to commenting on YouTube. Your comment does not add anything of value to this conversation.

  7. Get bent, Mike.

    I’m in for 2 for my sister, as we were already planning to visit HKG. Even if it doesn’t stick as-is, a negotiated midpoint is acceptable for exact flights they wanted.

  8. How is he a thief?? United advertises a low fare because they can’t their **** together. He takes advantage of it.
    Anyone who calls him a thief is irrational.

    • @Dude, totally agree this is a reverse of the normal situation. If you make a mistake in your booking UA will certainly charge change fees to correct it.

  9. I’m glad to hear that people who booked are being charged full miles if they have them and being downgraded to Y in some cases if they don’t.

    I will be damned if UA starts giving out miles as a “sorry your attempt to f*** us over failed” gift. Hopefully they just cancel every itinerary, mid flight, mid trip, whenever.

  10. Seems that we have two airline execs posting above.

    I missed out on this by about an hour. Good luck to those who made bookings!

  11. I made sure to get the awards that cost the most amount of miles and booked all my family’s tickets under my account. I only had 80,000 miles in my account, so I figure that if United takes all those miles it will still be worth it for the 1,000,000+ miles it would have cost.

  12. As mentioned, I’m impressed with the person(s) that booked flights for last night and are on flights. Wish I could be that spontaneous!!

    @Mike (first one to reply), stop posting the same useless info on every blog.

    • @ Dennis and Curtis – Ditto on the spontaneity of my colleague, I just spoke to him from his JW Marriott room in HK, everything worked perfectly and no word from UA yet.

  13. I was around to get in on the deal, and I wish I’d thought of going yesterday, because I would have in a heartbeat!

    • @Joel – Just spoke with my colleague who traveled yesterday and he has not yet heard from United regarding his return flight on Friday. This was about three hours after the official response from UA (see bottom of this post). Will let you know as soon as he does!

  14. It’s like the Friends Helping Friends Ponzi Scheme awhile back. It’s a “great deal” for those who got in at the beginning — even though they “knew” that others would lose out.

    The only difference is that people don’t mind AS MUCH screwing over corporations as they do strangers.

    There IS a moral imperative here, guys. It was an error, demonstrated by the showing of the correct miles at the top of the screen. Just an error by an IT guy who will lose his job. But if B of A spits out $4000 on a $40 withdrawal, I guess that’s YOUR MONEY too.

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