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How to Best Handle Getting in on an “Amazing” Deal

by on July 16, 2012 · 56 comments

in Amazing Deal Alerts, United

Yesterday we saw one of the most exciting deals I’ve ever seen in the mileage world – 8 miles to fly roundtrip in first class to Asia using United miles. Before long a frenzy ensued as many of us booked away with Asia on our minds.

However, this “deal” is far from over. While some people have reportedly flown on tickets issued yesterday, United may very well decide not to honor these tickets. I’ve gotten a ton of emails from readers walking through lots of hypothetical situations, so here is my advice:

1) Relax. There’s nothing you can do at this point to help ensure your ticket is honored. I’m sure lots of tickets were booked with United so I’m sure senior management is meeting as you read this post to figure out how they will handle this issue. Some airlines honor mistakes and some don’t – only time will tell. Per an old Wall Street Journal article :
“UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, Continental Airlines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. JetBlue Airways Corp. and Singapore Airlines 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.”

A positive sign, though far from being a sure thing that United will honor these tickets.

2) Do not book any non-refundable hotels or travel plans. Don’t up the ante by relying on your ticket to be honored, because it might not. Wait to see how this will be handled before shelling out any cash.

3) Don’t get angry. Good deals come and go and some work out and some don’t. The best way to come out on top is to have a positive attitude and not get too worked up – no matter what happens.

After yesterday’s award fare deal, United first class is on my mind.

My Thoughts
I hope United honors these just as much as the next mileage hound, but there are many factors at play here, including just how many tickets were issued (and thus what their financial loss was) and just how much negative PR there will be.

I think United will move swiftly on this and we will know by midweek how they are going to react (if at all). Hopefully, if they do decide to cancel the tickets, they will offer some sort of parting prize, like a discount code off future flights or even some miles for our troubles.

Whatever happens, I’m not going to stress about it, but I will be updating with the latest news since I do have several of these “cheap” award tickets booked.

FYI If you didn’t hear about this deal until it was over, consider following me on Twitter, following me on Facebook or adding the site to your RSS feed.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Andrew

    Do you really consider this a “deal”? I think a deal is when United has a big sale, or when you find something at a store priced for $10 — by the owner! — but you think it’s worth $100. This is just an absurd, ridiculous mistake caused by a computer glitch that everyone knows United didn’t plan. It’s basically a rip-off, but an unusual rip-off in that the customer has control rather than the seller. I don’t know how we expect airlines to appreciate their customers if we have so much contempt for United’s bottom line that we are willing to pile onto their GIANT mistakes like this.

  • JohnnieD

    If UA doesn’t honor this,oh well, we will just have to wait for the next deal……………….

  • Catjim

    Andrew and all, I think it’s really both; a fantastic deal and a gigantic mistake. It may be that the mistake garners enough PR and goodwill that people will continue to fly United on revenue tickets.

  • Mse3776

    Agreed. Quite an odd header/tags to this post, TPG. Love the blog, but you might want to dial down the “Amazing Deal” references on this one.

  • Nathan

    I was in starbucks enjoying a lattee when your tweet came in, i dropped everything, and ran home to book my ticket. got a OW.

  • http://www.frugaltravelguy.com/ Frugal Travel Guy

    Brian, your advice is spot on. When we booked a ticket for this deal, we bought a lottery ticket. It will either be a winner or a loser and nothing we do or say will change the results.

    But as the Michigan Lottery says:

    “You can’t win if you don’t play”

    We’ll know in the next 48 hours

  • lycidas1

    If the airlines can get away with it (it = taking our money for whatever), they do it. They take advantage of the collective “us” if they can. I don’t see how it’s not fair for us to take advantage of them.

  • Jim

    @Andrew – if United’s systems allowed these to be booked, then it’s ultimately their issue whether intended or not. I think United has a lot more at stake than we do with these tickets, given the negative PR they’ve received lately, and if they want to keep going that route.

    Also, let’s be real, what’s the real cost to UA for those of us who booked GlobalFirst when these would’ve gone to non-revs anyways? Maybe $10 for catering??

  • dhammer53

    RE: UA and WSJ comments… that was back in the day.
    Reminder… this is the ‘new’ UA. Groan.

  • David

    Yep, I think they should award 4 miles as a parting gift…

  • Milezjunkie

    I booked two tickets that should have cost 240,000 miles but the receipt reads 8 miles. My MP account was debited 120,000 miles. I booked dates that don’t work because I was relying on free date changes. Do you think I’m stuck paying the 120K miles? While it’s still a great deal, I wasn’t planning to spending 120K and not sure I want to use my ticket. How confident are you I could cancel for free?

  • Ken

    This will be interesting. I was relaxing in a park and saw what was happening but I actually didn’t attempt to get in on the deal (sometimes a smart phone is a curse). I would be delighted if the deal stuck for those that got in (at least one/customer).
    Back in the day when B&M shopping the store would honor one price mistake, online shopping everything seems to be a different beast. I once jumped on an error promo code by “THE ONION” to buy 3 tee shirts for $5-10 total. Although I received a confirmation # my order and all other orders were cancelled.
    Best of luck to those who got in on it!

  • MCMiles

    I was able to book 2 tickets yesterday but I don’t think UA is going to honor them. The MileagePlus Program Rules state:

    “1a United may, among other things, withdraw, limit, modify or cancel any award; increase the mileage, cash required, applicable co-pays or number of certificates required for any award; modify or regulate the transferability of awards or benefits; add an unlimited number of blackout dates; or limit the number of award seats available to any or all destinations. Members, in accumulating mileage or certificates, may not rely upon the continued availability of an award or award level, and members may not be able to obtain all offered awards or use awards to all destinations or on all flights.”

    I don’t really care if they cancel because I never expected such a HUGE mistake to be honored. If I get a couple thousand miles for free out of this I’m happy.

  • DC Flyer

    The new UA does this all the time. I’ve profited greatly on their recent mistakes. For example, I redeemed 150k miles for Asia/Europe in may. The miles were never debited from my account. The ticket worked perfectly. They refunded an entire ticket ($4k) even though half of the ticket was used.

    UA has always honored their mistakes with me, but the sheer volume of these tickets may hurt everyone in the end. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if they are honored. I will feel guilty over this, but as a 1k, I’ve spent my fair share of money with them.

  • arcticbull

    Right, but that quote refers to *before* a ticket is purchased. How can they add blackout dates after a ticket is purchased :p

    This likely falls under the new DoT rules which prevent the cost of a ticket from being raised after the ticket has been issued. Once you have an eTicket number in hand all bets are off. That’s how so many of us managed to fly out of Yangon, Myanmar on paid business class tickets for $31.50 a few weeks ago. The DoT even forced Korean to re-instate all hastily cancelled tickets — and the KE ones were in First no less.

    IIRC the rules don’t discriminate between method of payment (miles or otherwise). If I were you I wouldn’t worry.

  • arcticbull

    Thing is once they have their eTickets in hand it’s the equivalent of the FedEx guy dropping off your shirts :p The website isn’t going to send their people to come get them after you have them in hand.

  • AJTrenkle

    Brian,

    Since I am relatively new to “the game” is there a best place to follow or look for mistake fairs, or otherwise great deals? I do follow airfarewatchdog, but just curious if you have a go to way of looking for good deals.

  • thepointsguy

    Flyertalk and the blogs are your best bet. There are some invite only forums, but there’s no way to “apply” to be a part.

  • thepointsguy

    If flying from the US to Asia in first class for 8 miles isn’t an amazing deal, then I don’t know what is!

    I don’t like to use the work mistake, because there are a lot of grey area “deals” that may or may not be a mistake, but are great deals for the consumer. If its an amazing deal for my blog reader, thats how I’ll classify it and let others judge whether it’s a mistake or not.

  • thepointsguy

    I’m not 100% confident on anything, but if there was a pricing error between what the receipt shows and what you were charged, my bet is that United will gladly let you cancel it and walk away

  • MaryJ

    My account shows no movement in miles but under “current reservation” it says my purchase is confirmed. I, however, don’t have an eticket confirmationr or number…in fact, the email that was generated immediately after I booked yesterday said ‘Thank you for choosing united.com. There has been a delay in the issuance of your ticket(s) for technical reasons.” Wonder if this adds another layer of complexity to whether or not they will honor the booking…Brian, any thoughts?

  • thepointsguy

    My account shows no mileage deductions, but I do have ticket numbers and confirmations “This reservation was ticketed and confirmed on Sun., Jul. 15, 2012 at 12:33 p.m. Central Time.”

    You might have gotten in just as they were putting everything on hold. It’s wait and see at this point!

  • AceTracer

    It’s not a “deal”, it’s a mistake. A “deal” is a consensual agreement between buyer and seller, where the buyer believes he has gotten the best of it.

    This is akin to a business giving you incorrect change in your favor, and saying you therefore got “an amazing deal”.

  • PimPim

    United just cancelled my reservation – any recourse? I have the eTicket #, receipt and everything. Should I do anything?

  • Willw1

    I concur with AceTracer’s analogy. Taking it a bit further, what would you do if you were to receive $1 in change and instead received $100? It’s not reasonable to expect UAL to honor this mistake. I think UAL is fully justified in cancelling the tickets, and to avoid a pr mess add a few miles to each account.

  • Jettyboy

    Wish there was a dislike button here.

  • Chris D

    United not getting any good PR right now. See article link below for United Passengers stranded 3 days in Shanghai!

    If they decide not to honor it, just another blow!

    http://news.yahoo.com/united-passengers-revolt-stranded-3-days-china-054319545–abc-news-topstories.html

  • Ericlipkind

    Was yours ticketed already?

  • Lovecrusing

    Sad this was ever posted. Sad the points guy would post this. We all have to pay
    for this mistake in the end.

  • thepointsguy

    Call it what you want- I’m not recommending people get nasty and fight over this. If United doesn’t honor it, then just move along. If you don’t feel comfortable taking advantage of deals/mistakes, you don’t have to participate.

  • thepointsguy

    I don’t disagree with you at all- if United doesn’t honor this, I won’t lose any sleep.

  • StockShooterSoBe

    How many hours on the phone/emailing to untangle errors & counter errors equals a trip to Asia?

  • arcticbull

    A consensual agreement between buyer and seller to carry you somewhere… huh… oh you mean your eTicket? :D Once issued, it’s a deal! They always have the option of cancelling the reservation prior to ticketing, but they didn’t feel it necessary, so people shall fly!

  • arcticbull

    Actually not. As of January 2012 DOT regulations section 399.88(a) prevents an airline from increasing the price of a ticket after it’s been issued. And it specifically calls out mistake fares (saying that they are equally protected under the legislation). You can look it up.

    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2012-title14-vol4/xml/CFR-2012-title14-vol4-sec399-88.xml

    As I said before, that’s how a lot of people flew from Burma in Korean First for $180. Korean cancelled the tickets and the DoT instructed them to re-instate. They actually went back and resurrected the eTickets that they had requested be cancelled. They also consider cancellation of a ticket issued as part of a mistake fare to be a price increase.

  • Ericlipkind

    Agree. There is a time lapse between making reservation and when it finally tickets. They chose to let it ticket.

  • Tea4twosie

    With this reasoning if a bank forgets to lock its door it is then okay to go in and take the money and consider their mistake your deal while you stand outside yelling “hey the bank vault is open, come and get some while you can”. Maximizing miles is a great thing to help people with but encouraging people to take advantage of a mistake that would cost a company millions of dollars is just a seriously misguided action on your part.

    When companies lose money people lose jobs. It sure isn’t a deal for them and their families.

  • tringuyen82

    TPG – do you have enough for them to subtract the true award offer? The risk being they reissue and subtract the correct amount…

  • Ackrach

    @Jim-Hypothetically, it’s quite a bit more than that. It’s a lost seat to a possible full-paying revenue passenger up until the Global Service or lower FFs get upgraded. There are tons of very wealthy people who pay full-rate to visit this part of the world.

    Two, even if no full revenue passengers booked in GF, those who actually earned the upgrade by flying, juicing miles or whatever were denied their upgrade, preventing the opening up even more seats back in economy, thereby holding more revenue generating seats.

    I see your argument, and understand it, but it is more complicated than that-and I’m not even wading in to the moral aspects of all of this like some others have. From a strictly money perspective, UA is a loser here. In theory we could be talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • StockShooterSoBe

    One definition of a hypocrite;

    a. not savvy enough to jump on 8 mile offer to travel nearly free
    b. savvy enough to jump on 100K free bonus point offer to travel nearly free
    c. whines about (a) being unethical

  • thepointsguy

    No

  • Adams

    Just want to say “thanks” for letting us in on this deal/glitch/mistake/computer error/United’s biggest headache of the year/potential trip of a lifetime.

  • Lovecrusing

    I look at this as unethical on your part points guy. And to suggest we just ignore this is unethical on our parts. Shame on you for this.

  • Lovecrusing

    the end justifies the means….I get it. Its ok as long I we get what we want. Screw the airline as they have srewed us before…..Any thing else you want to add?? Forget being loyal anymore. Seems like this blog is only after getting a free ride and then move on to the next victim.

  • Willw1

    Followed your link, can you cite where it “specifically calls out mistake fares.”

  • Fairfair

    There is no harm to try and if United honour it, good for you. But if United does not honour it and anyone makes a big deal of it, shame on you…….United made a mistake and people are trashing them already for not honouring it.

    How about if United letting you know there will be 10 folds increase in redemption points starting from September, what would you do, guess people will trash them also. Tell me which one is more unethical, United had a system glitch and not honouring it or United telling you in advance there will be 10 folds increase in redemption?

  • Dontwhine

    why? that makes no sense? how are you paying for it? sour….grapes….much?

  • Lovecrusing

    I Love how people will add other issues to mix up people. Again I say the end justifies the means.
    If that is your point..so be it. I don’t agree. Thats cool.

  • MCMiles

    Guess you where wrong arcticbull. Sucks for my booking but I can’t say I’m shocked.

  • Guested

    Game over, They aren’t going to honor.

  • Fishesswim
  • Lovecrusing

    :)

  • Lovecrusing

    Love to see how all the Blog people stick together….:)

  • Jay
  • http://twitter.com/veeRob Rob Perelman

    This is nothing alike.

  • Adams

    I find it odd that an “official” statement would be posted on a flyer blog. Nothing in my email box (yet), no phone call (yet), my reservations are still showing for 8 miles and $137, and people have been flying to HK for two days. I’m sure I’ll get the “official” call from Shannon Kelly, but this seems like a sophomoric way to inform customers.

  • PimPim

    Yep Ticketed and confirmed. But, I think it’s a done deal now :)

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