DOT Likely Will NOT Hold United Responsible for Denmark “Mistake” Fares

by Adam

The DOT is currently investigating Wednesday’s “mistake fares” on United, but according to several experts, it is very unlikely that UA will be forced into honoring the tickets. While DOT provision 399.88-a requires an airline to honor a fare once booked, there are exceptions for manipulation and/or misrepresentation. Does indicating you are a resident of Denmark when you actually live in the US qualify as misrepresentation? That’s something the DOT will determine, though you can bet United is saying that it does.  A few interesting quotes from the Bloomberg article:

“It’s true that DOT rules require airlines to honor a fare once a flight is booked and the passenger is confirmed,” Anita Mosner, an aviation attorney with Holland & Knight firm in Washington, said Thursday. “However, DOT has had a longstanding policy of permitting carriers to cancel bookings when there has been evidence of passengers’ manipulation or misrepresentations during booking, or misstating their status.”

Another aviation attorney, Mary Schiavo, said the rule probably won’t be enforced in this incident. Schiavo, a former DOT inspector general, said United could argue that no one could reasonably believe that she could get a first-class fare for $75 or so. If a class-action lawsuit is filed, United could probably find evidence from Web chat sites that customers misrepresented themselves, she said.

Check out the full read here.

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14 comments
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14 comments

Alex February 13, 2015 - 9:08 am

I dont see how using the airline’s Danish website counts as misrepresentation

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Adam February 13, 2015 - 9:28 am

@Alex – Using the site certainly does not. Selecting Denmark as your country when entering your billing address might…

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Ben February 13, 2015 - 9:32 am

Since when does your billing address suggest residency or nationality?

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Nic February 13, 2015 - 10:26 am

@Adam – No one selected Denmark, it was the default country.Probably United only uses zip code to authorize payment.

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Kris February 13, 2015 - 9:28 am

Because people had to use Denmark as their country for billing address, which for most, if not all, people was lying about their address, which I think we can all agree is a misrepresentation.

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Nic February 13, 2015 - 10:30 am

What is the purpose of the billing address? I have had for several years my main address, in United.com, in a different country than my billing address.

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Noah February 13, 2015 - 10:41 am

Point of sale is usually set to point of origin or your location. It matters not just for currency calculation, but also for taxes. It is not just a matter of pricing in DKK, but rather misrepresenting where the sale took place.

In addition, since the fare was filed properly, and the conversion is clearly wrong, it took extra steps to get there, it was way too low to seem reasonable, and UA responded within 24 hours before most PNRs ticketed or were settled payments, it seems they can and will cancel the flights.

@Shaun – doesnt matter where server is located for point of sale info

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shaun February 13, 2015 - 9:30 am

If they are getting techincal, is united’s Danish website located in Denmark? If not I would argue the technicallity of where someone resides opens up the door to where United’s servers are located. But then again my legal experience stems from 4000 episodes of Law & Order i’ve watched

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Ben February 13, 2015 - 9:30 am

1) I’m not quite sure where I said I was a resident of Denmark when I bought the fares.
2) United isn’t arguing that people misrepresented anything. United is claiming that a 3rd party screwed up a F/X conversion causing fares to price as they did.

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Huy February 13, 2015 - 9:54 am

yeah how did people even claim they were danish residents or not? united didn’t ask me when i booked

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Mike R February 13, 2015 - 9:35 am

This is where United should have stepped up, used the event for positive marketing, and let the third party’s E&O insurance cover the actual cost difference (up to the actual fare a correct exchange rate would have represented). It’s what insurance like this is for…

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Nick February 13, 2015 - 9:35 am

The attorneys quoted in the Bloomberg article get a TON of work from the airline industry. They’re not exactly impartial in their opinion of whether United should honor thew tickets or not.

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scibuff February 13, 2015 - 9:56 am

not to mention, once again, EU consumer protection laws guarantee equal treatment of all EU customers. In particular, if a price is available to those in Denmark charged in DKK, it must be available to all EU customers in DKK (or their local equivalent).

Besides, this is not a mistake but rather a deliberate feature of united.com to allow you to be charged in the currency of your choosing. Setting the currency to what you like is in no way a misrepresentation of any sort.

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My Guide - Which Flights to Earn Miles, Earn Status, & Burn Miles - Point Me to the Plane May 26, 2015 - 8:39 am

[…] before they happen. The DOT, which had a rule requiring airlines to honor all ticketed fares, is backing down because people are booking lots of mistake fares, something the rule wasn’t intended to […]

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