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Earlier today a TPG reader emailed me that he had been able to book a ticket on United for $0 in airfare and $5 in taxes from Kansas City to Washington DC.
For a little while this afternoon, this FlyerTalk thread was also buzzing about the mistake fares that United’s booking engine was generating. Curious, I started investigating, and although by the time I started looking at United.com, the site’s reservations page had been shut down temporarily, it looks like a lot of people were able to get in on these mistake fares – someone even reported getting a ticket from Washington DC and Houston to Hawaii for just $10 roundtrip!
Clearly this was a system error, and other news outlets are reporting that United shut down its entire booking page for both paid and award tickets – though it looks like it’s back up and running now and pricing out normally.
For those of you that did manage to snag those free fares quickly, I hope that you took screenshots of your reservations since the airline has yet to issue a response and might say that it will not honor these tickets – although in the case of some travelers, they booked flights for today so they might just be able to squeeze onto them before the airline decides to clamp down.
One lucky traveler who managed to book one of the mistake fares even tweeted to United about them – and though the airline did not offer an official response, it did reserve the right to “do what is appropriate,” which sounds rather ominous.
Based on past fare mistakes like this one, I suspect United is going to do everything possible to wiggle its way out of honoring tickets bought during the system glitch, just as the airline did last summer when its award system allowed bookings from the US to China for just 4 miles; or earlier this year when Alitalia canceled many mistake tickets booked under a promo it was running in Japan.
If your flight is today or tomorrow and there’s still no response from United, you could still try to chance it and fly out and then try arguing your way back onto a return flight since your travel has already commenced, but the rest of the folks who booked tickets in advance might find themselves out of luck.
Did you book one of these fares? Tell us about it – and let us know what happens when United finally starts responding. In the meantime, what do you think?