Travis is my first new contributor to the blog, who will be posting a couple of times per week. The idea behind adding guest contributors is to add different perspectives to the blog. Travis has a unique approach towards travel, given that he travels almost exclusively with his wife and young children, which is in stark contrast to my travels, which are usually alone.
Sorry Ben, but I’m going to take issue with much of your post stating that the United Global First fares out of England yesterday were an obvious mistake and should not be honored.
After about a decade in the game, and a veteran of many so-called “mistake fares,” I’ve come to believe that most of those who make these arguments are those who missed out. And come to think of it, you seem to admit as much.
I didn’t bother posting about it at the time because I figured it was a given that this fare wouldn’t be honored (and I was also away from my computer when it was first announced).
So while you were out trying to find your mom’s purse — sorry that was below the belt — some of us were actually playing with and / or trying to book this fare.
Let me tell you what I believe to be true.
England – US Wasn’t The Only Option
Most of the attention focused on $80-$100 tickets between England and the US. But there were other good deals as well.
London – Sydney priced and booked at about 9000 DK, or about $1400RT. Now let’s compare that to other “jumbo” deals of the past decade. And to be sporting, I’ll only list those sold by United.
- 2007: Business class tickets from San Francisco to Auckland for about $1500 RT.
- 2011: Business class tickets in Business from Burma to San Francisco for about $1000 RT.
- 2014: First class tickets from Boston to Korea for $1700 RT.
- 2015: First class tickets from London to Sydney for $1350 RT.
The first three of those so-called “mistake fares” were honored. How can you possibly argue that that the fourth should be treated differently?
I guess anytime we see a lower than usual fare we should all immediately email Ben to see if it passes his eye test. Then once we have his “blessing” we can all proceed with booking it.
United.com Can Detect Where You Are
I was actually in Denmark a few weeks ago. My wife went to United.com to book a ticket and was surprised to see that it knew where she was and was pricing in DK. Apparently United.com can detect where you are based on your IP address and show ticket prices in the local currency.
What if someone had been visiting Denmark at the time of this deal?
The first prices they would have seen would be these “mistake fares.” Sure when they went to book them, united.com would reprice them in their home currency, but so what? It’s not uncommon in many parts of the world for tickets bought by locals to be far cheaper than those sold to foreigners. If you had seen the “local” prices first, and then watched united.com reprice the itinerary in USD once it found out you were a rich American, wouldn’t you at least try to see if you could find a way to book the “local” price?
You Could Use Your Own Address
I acknowledge that we might differ on the components of an address. But hear me out.
It was indeed possible to book these tickets while keeping the same number, street, city, state and postal code. All that was required was to change the country to Denmark. For example, you could have booked and had a ticket issued using the following address:Ben Schlappig 2900 Bayport Drive Tampa, Florida 33607 Denmark
I expect you to argue that the country is part of the address. But apparently United and / or their credit card processing agent doesn’t really care, because they don’t actually validate the country you enter against the country the card is registered in.
Look at it this way — I can’t buy a tank of gas if I fat-finger the zip code, but you could have completely spaced-out on what country you live in and still booked this deal. Clearly the technology exists to validate that the country on the billing addresses matches that on the credit card, but it’s not being utilized.
This is even more ironic considering that United will grant you a waiver for the PQD requirement if you live outside the US, but apparently doesn’t care what country you list with your billing address.
What About The Poor Danes Who Booked This?
First, let’s be clear — the Danes aren’t poor.
But I can easily imagine that some of them may have thought they were booking a legitimate fare. It seems reasonable for me that a Dane could just love flying United and love connecting in Heathrow (work with me here) such that he chooses to book all of his trips to the US out of London. And then he uses Avios for the short haul positioning flight. Plausible, no?
Maybe it’s wacky, but come on Ben, you book tickets that depart from countries other than your own every day of the week! Why do you assume that nobody else does similarly?
Why Just United?
I guess those in the know are saying this is a currency translation error, and that the currency translation table is provided by some sub-contractor. Guess what? I couldn’t care less.
The real point here is that apparently these fares were showing for a variety of other carriers on ITA Matrix, including American. Yet only United was actually booking and ticketing them.
United has had plenty of IT issues since the merger, and many of them exist to this day. Supposedly United has often chosen to go with the cheapest IT option, and frankly, sometimes you get what you pay for.
Did anybody else notice how quickly Gary crafted a detailed post describing exactly how to book this deal? I mean it even had images showing you how to change your billing country to Denmark! I know the man is super-human, but that is seriously impressive.
Then again, who knows, maybe he has a collection of screenshots like this for every country, just waiting for the right occasion.
Can anybody calculate how many minutes elapsed between the first reference to this deal on a forum until Gary posted?
Regulations exist for a reason. You may not like them, you may think they are being misapplied, but they exist. And while they exist, they need to be adhered to. If you don’t like them, fine, argue that they should be changed, but until then, enforce them.
I don’t expect you to agree with every point I’ve made, but I hope I’ve at least demonstrated that there could be some questions here. Maybe it’s not quite as cut and dry (or pancake flat) as you seem to believe. And once you start down that slope….
As for me, I think United should own their mistakes.
And finally, Ben, please don’t make me call you a United apologist…..
So what do you think? Should we all email Ben every time we see a great fare to ask for his blessing? Or should United own their mistakes and honor the deal?