United Cancels Mistake Hong Kong Award Tickets

by on July 20, 2012 · 28 comments

in United

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Around 8pm on Thursday I noticed that United canceled my 4 mile Hong Kong first class award ticket. I was a little annoyed that they did so without even contacting me, but their mass email just came through:

“Update regarding award itinerary that includes Hong Kong
Dear Brian Kelly,
You recently requested the ticketing of MileagePlus award travel to, from or through Hong Kong (confirmation XXXXXX). Because your account does not have enough miles to complete the purchase, we have canceled the ticket for non-payment and refunded all taxes and fees. The number of miles required for this award was provided during your transaction and is published on the MileagePlus travel award chart on our website.
If you have already canceled the ticket, please disregard this email.
We appreciate your understanding and look forward to serving you in the future.”

I guess the Department of Transportation’s rules didn’t come into play because United did actually list the correct amount of miles needed, but it totaled up incorrectly upon checkout. Oh well, we all knew this was a mistake with a large percent chance of it not working out, so I don’t think anyone should be angry. People who had plans to fly before July 21, 2012 actually had the deal honored, so congrats and safe travels to those lucky few!

On to the next deal…

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  • Jamison

    i never received that e-mail from United

  • Jamison

    Update regarding award itinerary
    that includes Hong Kong

    Dear Jamison XXXX,

    You recently requested the ticketing of MileagePlus award travel to, from or through Hong Kong (confirmation XXXXXX). The correct and published number of miles was deducted from your account when you completed the reservation.

    If you did not intend to use these miles for this ticket, you can cancel it without paying a fee, and we will refund all miles, taxes and fees.

    If you have already canceled the ticket, please disregard this email.

    We appreciate your understanding and look forward to serving you in the future.

    got the e-mail… still no refund of miles on my account since I called to cancel my reservation

  • thepointsguy

    It’s probably en route.. I suspect they had a large batch to send out!

  • KS

    Will the DoT weigh in and counter this at all? They have yet to make an official statement.

  • thepointsguy

    My guess is that the DoT gave united the go-ahead to cancel. Though I’m sure people will still file claims- this probably isn’t the end of the saga for some.

  • Joel

    If I’d thought about it, instead of thinking to fly at a later date, I could have easily booked a flight for that day. And it would have been an amazing RTW flight in first class that would return sometime next year. If anyone has a time machine, I’ll pay them handsomely.

  • John Adams

    I am sure those persons who have already travelled will have a negative balance reflected in their mileage account. United isn’t going to give away anything for free.

  • Jamison

    I hope the DOT issues a press release stating United is at fault and that they never gave them authorization to cancel the tickets!!! Let’s get these tickets reinstated like the ex-RGN fares

  • PJ

    I saw the availability for Chengdu-Jiuzaighou ( CTU-JZH) flight for 12.500 miles, I could not book that online and UA did not honor it for simple reason – Our partner did not update the reward availability. AND THE SAME REWARD hangs in there for days and days. The fly time on the trip is 45 minutes and costs merely 222 on full price with China Air ( a star alliance partner). Can I carry the complaint to DOT ?

    As a chinese ( taiwanese in narrow sense) , I feel bad Air China is loosing face big time and also bringing down partners’ image.

  • hc

    I don’t agree with this. My receipt says that the tickets were a total of 8 miles plus taxes. I paid the taxes and united failed to deduct the 8 miles in my account, but there were enough miles there.

    As for the correct number of miles showing in the booking process, so what? When I buy something online using a promotion or something of the sort, the normal amount always shows and then the total shows the sale or promo price.

  • Stephen

    Brian – I 100% agree with your attitude here. Everybody that got in on this knew it was a huge mistake, so we shouldn’t act like we were somehow entitled to a near-free trip to Asia. If it had worked out, awesome; otherwise, back to work.
    The ones that do irk me are when airlines cancel “mistakes” that are really just a couple hundred bucks off, which has happened to me a couple times.

  • Mooper

    A lawsuit would be a non-starter. Not only was the correct price shown throughout the shopping and checkout process, but no sane person would believe that the errant 4 mile tally was legit any more than they’d believe a total price of one unicorn was legit. Therefore, they were knowingly and willingly entering into a bogus transaction to begin and should have no expectation of a valid contract. DOT regs are moot because of this.

  • Peach Front

    Sorry to hear it! I had hope that you would get the trip when I read your post yesterday, but you have a good attitude and those are the breaks. Better luck next time.

  • Grant Thomas

    Bryan, what happens if I purchased travel insurance and United cancelled the reservation?

  • TravelShooter

    So where is “line” when a “mistake” is allowed to continue on as an unbelievable deal?
    (in general, not just United)

  • Ticketace

    You did not have enough miles in your account to complete the purchase? I find that hard to believe. I thought you would have had plenty of mileage points in your account to back up that purchase. What gives?

  • thepointsguy

    I don’t fly united so I only transfer in Chase points as needed.

  • Cory

    I am also still waiting for this email. I wasn’t going to file a complaint with DOT. I still don’t feel that I deserve this ticket or should get it. I don’t like that I haven’t heard anything yet from United directly and I don’t like that they canceled it for non payment. That makes me feel like they are saying I refused to pay full price. I haven’t refused because I paid what I was billed. Don’t make me out to be a deadbeat 0r something.

  • Rob


    Would you honor a $4000 plus (times many) for your business?

  • Susan

    I have never received an email either….there can’t be so many tickets that were purchased that x amount of people would receive a letter and almost 18 hours later there are still those of us who have not received notification. If they can run a program to ferret out those who purchased one of the tickets in order to cancel, then that same program could have generated the pertinent emails. It is also apparent that thet are canceling other non-mistake-fare related tickets too.

    I think the complaint is just that this was handled poorly by United. The DOT has not ruled on this yet.

  • Sclb

    Brian – Do you know if this latest message from United came from an agreement with the DOT or if the DOT is still investigating. I’m curious if this is the final ruling or not (thinking about Korean Air incident).

  • MCMiles

    I’m pretty bummed. No cheap honeymoon for me. I can’t be mad at United though. It was obviously a mistake and I knew it when I was booking. Hopefully the DOT told them if this ever happens again they will have to honor the tickets. United’s web programmer must be in the unemployment line right now as I write this.

  • Liv

    Wow, bad PR move IMHO. Worse yet, is they’re figuring most won’t litigate. Likely a quick stop at the local court house to file in Civil Court would change their minds, if you have more time than money.

  • DaveS

    None of these people ever earned the right to fly United to Asia for 4 miles. It was an obvious mistake, everybody, knew it, and there are just a bunch of freeloaders out to get something for nothing. I’m not impressed by the whining.

  • Josh_brooks

    I highly doubt that this is a “bad” PR move. Could anyone really be outraged that they didn’t get a free first class ticket that they knowingly clicked two links that said “200,000 miles.” The only thing anyone can be pissed about is not flying out the next day.

  • Rpj2k002

    I wonder what happens to those who are in the middle of their trip?!?!

  • thepointsguy

    All who flew before 7/21 had their tickets honored

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