You may have seen yesterday that the DoT issued a statement on their review of the July UA 4 mile fiasco, and it wasn’t exactly good news for those who were hoping that the DoT would side with their claims that UA should have honored all tickets:
We have completed our review of United’s conduct regarding its recent Frequent Flyer fare sale to Hong Kong from the United States on its website. Our review found that the actual price of the advertised fare was never clearly stated during the booking process, thereby creating ambiguous circumstances in which it could be reasonably interpreted that the actual price of the fare was significantly more than the amount consumers paid at the time they attempted to purchase the fare, e.g., $40 plus 4 frequent flyer miles. Therefore, we are not able to establish that consumers, in fact, paid the full amount of the offered fare at the time of purchase. Accordingly, the evidence does not support a finding that United engaged in an unfair and deceptive practice in violation of the relevant statute. Please note that, regardless of the outcome of our investigation, consumers are free to pursue claims (e.g., a breach of contract claim) against the airline in an appropriate civil court for monetary damages and other remedies particular to their situation.
As you may remember, my colleague Nate was able to take advantage of the 4 mile glitch due to his spontaneity and extreme flexibility. The day of the 4 mile discovery, Nate booked himself on the direct Newark flight to Hong Kong for that same evening in BusinessFirst and was already cozy in his Hong Kong JW Marriott hotel room the following day . In the end, he spent exactly 4 UA miles and $35.50 for the entire trip! Was it a gamble? Sure! Was he worried about his return flight? Sort of, he was definitely worried UA might cancel his BusinessFirst return, though he was comforted with the fact that he had plenty of AA miles for a Cathay Pacific ticket home if things got bad. My friend Jason R from New York also completed a r/t 4 mile trip by taking action the same day. Lesson learned – if you have the flexibility and can just up and fly, do it!