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.
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