The Best Trip That Never Was

You may look at that and say, “Uhh?” Exactly what many people are doing today. Yesterday, due to a bug in the award reservation system with United Airlines, travelers booking travel to/from Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai were able to get award tickets in first class for 8 miles r/t + taxes. That’s right, 8 miles. The loophole existed for a few hours and thousands of tickets were “sold” during that time. I actually found it too late to do anything (even if I had time to take to go), which is one of the reasons that I didn’t post it here yesterday.

People were talking all day over at the Flyertalk thread about the legal aspects and the DOT regulations that prohibit the raising of the ticket price after the ticket has been issued. I was of the opinion, as were others, that miles (that legally belong to the carrier even if they are in your account) were not currency as detailed under the regulations so United wouldn’t face the DOT fines that come when the regulation is broken.

At the end of the day, the United Airlines spokesperson on Flyertalk issued the following statement:

UAs Official Response to HKG Ticketing/IT Error: Redeem @ Correct Amount or Redeposit

Hi Everyone, over the weekend, we discovered a programming error that allowed customers to obtain Mileage Plus travel awards to and from Hong Kong for as little as four miles roundtrip per person, substantially below published levels, which we disclose to customers. We have since corrected the error and will be in contact with customers who have tickets issued at the incorrect award amounts. Customers will be given the choice to redeem at the correct mileage amount or re-deposit their award with all fees waived. We regret any inconvenience this has caused you, and appreciate your understanding.Shannon Kelly
Director, Customer Insights
United Airlines
So, that ended a lot of peoples’ hopes that it would be honored and they would get to take an unexpected luxury vacation to China. There were at least two people that supposedly got tickets for yesterday and currently are in Hong Kong on this “deal.” It looks like they are the only ones that will be able to take advantage of it. My guess is that United will hand out 2,500 – 5,000 miles per person for the inconvenience (even though most of the people that purchased these tickets figured they would not be honored).
The big problem for many people is that if they had the correct number of miles that the flight would typically require (140,000 miles), that amount was deducted even though the receipt said 8 miles. If they had less than the correct amount, no miles were being deducted. Hopefully, everyone will get their miles back soon, especially if they had other plans for those miles. According to United, if they choose to have the miles refunded, they will get them refunded as well as any taxes and fees they paid with no penalties (normally, you only have 24 hours to cancel, after which the redeposit fee is $150).
These are the fun types of things that can happen in the mileage world! Hopefully something will come eventually that will be more genuine and you can experience a once-in-a-lifetime trip of your own instead of the best trip that never was!
This was first broken in the US by Gary over at View from the Wing
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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.