United 4 Mile Award Ticket to/from/through Hong Kong

As many of you have probably heard, a week ago United’s online award booking tool allowed United Mileage Plus customers to book award tickets to, from, or through Hong Kong for 4 miles and as little as $33 roundtrip. I read about this mistake and was able to book a ticket for myself and a few of my family members to Asia and back. My immediate family has our travel slotted for the next several years so taking advantage of this mistake simply added another unplanned trip to our vacation plans. As such, whether or not this mistake was honored was not a big deal to me. As I’ve described in this blog, my family gets our air travel covered for free through the frequent flyer miles that we’ve compiled by signing up for credit cards. Therefore, we didn’t have a huge stake in this mistake. However, some of my extended family members do not have such a cache of miles and I was hopeful this would be honored for their sake.

But, alas, on Thursday, United cancelled all tickets booked via this mistake. And they did so without notifying their customers first. Several hours after the cancellation, I did receive an email stating that we booked tickets under a mistake and therefore, the tickets were being cancelled. However, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is looking into whether or not the tickets bought under this mistake should be honored. If United is found to be liable for the tickets, despite the fact that they were clearly sold at a faulty rate, tickets could be reinstated. I don’t believe the likelihood of this happening to be very high, but it’s a possibility, nonetheless. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but definitely not holding my breath. Here are a few articles about the mistake. I’ll keep you updated on any DOT outcome!

USA Today

BusinessWeek

Wall Street Journal Blog

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