United Should Man Up And Own Their Great Dane Mistake

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.

A Lounge You Won't Be Visiting As Part Of The Great Dane Mistake
A Lounge You Won’t Be Visiting As Part Of The Great Dane Mistake

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.

Random Tangent

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? 

Bottom Line

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….

A Lounge You Won't Be Visiting As Part Of The Great Dane Mistake
A Lounge You Won’t Be Visiting As Part Of The Great Dane Mistake

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?

 

Comments

  1. @Travis: Agree with you on Gary’s posting abilities. See his latest post on $1300 CMB-AKL fare. I tweeted that to him and there were exactly 30 minutes before the post appeared on his blog, again complete with screenshots and commentary.

  2. Everyone seems to forget that matrix showed AA with the same prices too! It’s just “customer loyalty” that most chose United

  3. I’ll withhold judgment on the “this is right/wrong” debate. Check out the FT thread, there’s seriously no horse left to beat.

    But I agree with you wholeheartedly that Ben has a mad case of the jelly jels. And I kind of thought it was pathetic for him to say he didn’t write on it primarily because he knew it wouldn’t be honored. Drop the hubris dude. You just happened to miss out, mmk? It happens to everyone from time to time.

  4. With all due respect, Travis, it seems pretty straightforward to me. Nobody is disputing that this was a mistake fare. People and businesses, make honest mistakes. Trying to take advantage of those mistakes is unethical, and frankly tacky. Sorry.

  5. I, for one, love your post, and your “attitude”, breath of fresh air. I have in my Feedly probably way too many travel blogs, and can’t help but notice that over time, they all pretty much say the same thing, you could take one “guy’s” name on one and put it on another, and you probably wouldn’t even notice.

    Delta, for example, got a “pass” for way too long without all those bloggers really tearing into their side. Perhaps all those extra “goodies” bloggers get, their connections to the airline folk as potential sources of information, keep them from saying what they really think or should think…

    So just wanted to say thanks, as content aside, I enjoyed reading your post that had spirit and attitude, and didn’t pansy down the topic to a bland analysis that has already been recycled on 10s of 20s of blogs.

    Refreshing. If you get a “regular gig” somewhere, you’ll be at the top of my Feedly list!

    Steve Miller

  6. I’d suggest that “(Guest Post)” be added to the post titles when applicable. In this case, Ben’s post history is going to read like he’s schizophrenic.

    And you should be aware that attempted humor often doesn’t come through when written, compared to spoken. Your references to “getting Ben’s blessing” are not only a false choice, but rude. And they added nothing to your position.

  7. Mike is correct. This was attempting to get something through fraud. And there are laws against acquiring something through fraud, too.

  8. Why do people think that somehow this is an “illegitimate” mistake fare? A mistake is a mistake. United doesn’t care if I misread their departure time and need to change my ticket; I don’t really care if they misread the exchange rates (for several hours while these fares were on sale).

    United sold the ticket, issued the ticket, charged for the ticket, and now they decide that they don’t want to honor it. That seems like exactly the kind of thing that the DOT regulations exist to prevent.

  9. One, yes this wasn’t UA’s mistake, on ITA you could have priced EK first class from UK to almost anywhere for 200-300 DKK, e.g. >> http://i.imgur.com/7Z7HKhg.png

    The original post appeared on FT on Feb 11, at 1028 GMT. I didn’t see any blog posts about it for 3-4 hours. Once the story appeared on blogs, UA was fairly quick to disable the Denmark country option. But, how long to you think it takes to make screenshots, and write up some information – some of which you have in a template – and having written hundreds of similar points, you know exactly what sort of wording and style you will use …

  10. Travis
    Agree w/ @Colleen
    Although i’m all for United honoring the fare, having gotten in on this deal several times myself, I think you’re being rather snarky and rude considering that you are posting on Ben’s blog as a guest poster, humor or not

  11. @ Gregory Thomas – if the airlines had ethics, I would agree with you. But when was the last time you got them to understand that you just made “an honest mistake” when you need to make a change the departure time on from a.m. to p.m. on your own ticket?

  12. The new United Airlines has erected an incredible changes to the rules of carriage such that even their highest frequent fliers don’t get any more leeway on the application of rules and add collect in route than a once a year holiday traveler.

    They are pathetic in their pursuit of the last dollar, squeezing it out of any corner they can without regard to who they’re squeezing and how.

    Now the question comes up how generous we should be with them giving a free pass or holding them to the deal…. From my personal experience this is not even a question, they should stick to the deal and fess up to their mistakes just like all of us. Jeff S (UA CEO) drives a hard bargain on and collect revenue, so should we.

    Instead what we got was a simple hat trick and a blatant double standard.

  13. People’s capacity to appreciate humor and sarcasm has become virtually extinct. What a boring world it would be, if everything was bland, everything was “correct” and we gave trophies to everyone, which is exactly what we’re becoming. Guest posts that have attitude and spice, are there to make you question the taken for granted reality on a blog that we all internalize and assume is normal and correct when we pull up a blog’s link. Let your hair down, enjoy the attitude, the humor, the sarcasm. Just because it’s out there, doesn’t mean that you have to pull it back to the mean, let the wind blow in your hair and eat a spicy taco once in a while.

    The HUGE drop in the number of planes that now sit on a runway filled with warm bodies hour after hour after hour, due to the HUGE fines for non-compliance, is what got the airline’s attention, and made a MAJOR issue, alot less of an issue. If airlines have to honor fares that are advertised AND booked, regardless whether it’s a mistake or not, they will take the necessary steps to competently revise their booking system.

  14. Quick two things.
    People arguing this was a fare mistake: United said on their email that this WAS NOT a fare mistake. Only and error on the currency conversion and blamed a 3rd party. Please stop using mistake fare as an excuse.
    Second one: fraud. There was no fraud here. You can pick any country on any airline’s website and see the fares in local currency. There is nothing illegal or fraudulent here. Regarding credit cards: again, nobody paid with a forged CC. The country listed in the billing address doesn’t mean anything since it is supposedly used to verify the validity of a CC but in reality is not even used during the transaction.
    You can argue that people booking this are doing something unethical, but please don’t use the term illegal or fraudulent.
    Last but not least: most companies/corporation try to avoid paying millions/billions of taxes in the US using some unethical practices (allowed by the current law) so I can’t feel a lot of sympathy for them.
    🙂

  15. Great article, one thing you could add:
    U.S. credit cards issued in North America do have a real billing address and it will get checked on many online purchases when you buy anything with that U.S. credit card.
    However, we do not have this ‘security’ level in Europe! At least in my country 😀
    I have many cards and tried it many times already, you can always use a false billing address on any online purchase and the card does get approved since our credit card companies don’t provide billing address information to the merchant.

  16. Also something else nobody has talked about it yet:
    If it is a 3rd party error, why does not United just honor the tickets and sues the 3rd party vendor for their mistake? I’m sure they all have insurances for this to cover the loss!

  17. They’re not honoring this one because too many people purchased the tickets and it would be too expensive to do so. Love the tongue-in-cheek post, though — including the “tangent.”

  18. My two cents:

    1) There is a difference, legally and substantively, between a fare an average person would believe could be real vs one that is clearly not.

    2) If you are falsifying the country of your address, then you’re falsifying your address. Plain and simple. If you just went to the Denmark site and put in your real address (with the real country), that would be one thing. But putting in a false country makes it clear that there was an intention to game the system.

    3) A ‘mistake’ fare of $1700 First is very different from a mistake fare of $100. It’s unclear whether the former was even a real mistake, given the quality of UGF.

    4) I tend to want to give the buyer the benefit of the doubt on these; as others have said, if I make a mistake and miss my flight, United won’t reimburse me.

    5) Unfortunately, however, complaining about something like this is just going to hurt us in the long run, since the DOT will start to put in exceptions to its rules, and the other, more legitimate fares will no longer be available to us.

  19. Folks, for those of you that think I’m butt-hurt over what Travis said, I guess I should chime in. We’ve been friends for years, and what he says amuses me, and doesn’t offend me. Our friendship is largely based on making fun of one another, so… 😀

  20. I agree with your argument but my experience with the purchase process (toward the end of the deal life or EOD) was that the United website was trying to use Verify by Visa or the Mastercard version and it refused the purchases in my case unless I changed the address to reflect my billing address. I thought about playing with my visa or MC accounts to change the address temporarily but ran out of time. I also tried to purchase with Western Union and it started to fail at that point. I also think it picked up on my attempt to book using my United Visa card. I went back and started trying Amex as well but it was gone by then. Later I got the email saying my conf.# was cancelled when I never even got one during the process which I thought was weird. I guess what I’m saying as they seemed to know where I was and not in fact in Denmark.

  21. The way I look at it is this. It’s not a matter of moral or right or wrong, it’s about fairness. When the airline makes a mistake, customers take advantage and should be honoured. When passengers make mistake, airlines never show any flexibility or compassion. Think about it, I got my time zone wrong or my hotel let me down for failing to provide me wake up call, so I missed my flight. Would United help me get onto the next flight without charging me? If I booked a ticket and spelt my name incorrectly or typed the date incorrectly, no doubt United would charge me for making changes on fares that don’t allow date changes. Now the table is turned and it’s the airline’s turn to live with the consequences of their own mistake, they can just cancel the reservations and be done with it?
    I didn’t book under this fare, I got to as far as payment and before I typed in my address with Denmark ticked as the country, I felt an incredibly amount of guilt and decided it was not for me. However, I don’t blame for those who did try and as gutted as I would be, I was hoping United would honour the bookings.

  22. Haha…yes, you should email Ben to ask for his blessing. N1

    I think 1000$ for a bc or even fc (return) LHR-HNL is one thing….but 90$ for a first class return LHR-HNL is just ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I also would try to book it…but I would never start a fight about this and email the DOT or go to a lawyer. That’s just embarrasing!

  23. It’s really been something to watch the travel bloggers tie themselves in knots trying to justify fraud.

    United’s website is very clear at every step of the way about its definition of country of purchase, i.e. where you receive credit card billing statements. If you used Denmark as your billing address and your billing address is not Denmark, it is fraud: a willful misrepresentation to obtain a benefit to which you would not normally be entitled.

    Travis, if you used Denmark as your billing address, you committed fraud. The fact that it worked is not material. You willfully and intentionally misrepresented yourself. You’re the one that needs to man up.

  24. We’ll be the last ones laughing if it gets ticketed. The matter of fact the effort to file the DOT complaint is so trivial. The amount of miles each trip RT would be worth at the minimum $500-700.

    Time to file complaint: Less than 5 minutes

    Even if the chance to win was 1%, would you spend 5 minutes to earn $7?

    Every time I hear someone say “ethics” I roll my eyes. Name me one business that does everything by the book, minus ones sponsored by the government. Almost every successful company has gone through loopholes to become where they are, its part of the game.

  25. I think this will end in a “I don’t know how to define pornography, but I know it when I see it” justification from the DOT. “I don’t know how to define a mistake fare, but I know it when I see it. And we’re not honoring this one.”

  26. One more time: fraud has nothing to do with this. Let me play this scenario for you: I go to UA.com today and buy a ticket using my CC and put Germany as my country. They issue the ticket. I call UA in 3 days and I say to them: “hey guys, I made a fraudulent purchase on your website. Go ahead and cancel my ticket and refund my money”. How do you think the conversation is going to end: A) They say “Sure, no problem. Here is your refund” B) “Sorry bud, your bad”. Think about it and let me know 🙂

  27. Excellent post Travis and nice change of pace. By reading the comments, you can see it’s not just the bloggers that are airline apologists. Either United or their two-bit IT partner own this “mistake.”

  28. @Mike – You can only judge yourself by your ethics, not the other ones.I am pretty sure other people may deem some of your actions unethical.
    @Alan – Can you describe were did people committed fraud? Is using the danish version fraud? On the payment page, what is the purpose? to authenticate your credit card…I input the zip code, payment went through, is my credit card, no fraud.
    For everyone, please read United’s communication regarding the cancellation. There not canceling on the basis of fraud, they are just saying it was a third party error. The highlight that the fare had been filed correctly. It seems their argument is that isn’t a fare mistake but a currency exchange mistake by a third party.

  29. Steve Miller (post #1) said: “I, for one, love your post, and your “attitude”, breath of fresh air. I have in my Feedly probably way too many travel blogs, and can’t help but notice that over time, they all pretty much say the same thing, you could take one “guy’s” name on one and put it on another, and you probably wouldn’t even notice…..[the rest is just as precious]”

    That there must be one of the more incisive and lucid comments I have read in the comments section of any travel/loyalty blog. Yup. A whole universe has been created that is an echo chamber of self-anointed gurus, who spew platitudes about travel and loyalty programs, which are then recycled ad nauseam and offered as the “absolute truth” and “ultimate wisdom”. However, when you poke just a bit into what is being peddled, all you find is packaged material that is largely designed to maximize traffic and, hence, revenue without offering the readers the hard truths or facts that they need in order to be able to make informed decisions. Wanna hear about how great the Hyatt GP or SPG loyalty program is? Then tune in to the blogosphere and you will get an earful of superlatives. What you will not hear is how SPG is, by far, the least rewarding program in terms of earning free nights from one’s spend or how the relatively high room rates at the touted “aspirational” properties of both Hyatt and SPG compared to other chains, coupled with their very small “footprint”, makes them the least suitable programs for anyone who plays the mile/point game on their own dime. To read what the travel bloggers offer and recycle is like watching one of those TV shows about the “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” They make it all seem so grand, glamorous and…painless!

    G’day 😉

  30. All those who felt guit from booking this fare, you can all go to heaven and enjoy practicing celibacy with Jesus.

    I for one rather enjoy affordable premium cabins with my Krug.

  31. @Poyntee – “2) If you are falsifying the country of your address, then you’re falsifying your address. Plain and simple. If you just went to the Denmark site and put in your real address (with the real country), that would be one thing. But putting in a false country makes it clear that there was an intention to game the system.”

    1) Just to be clear, no one input a country, it was a default.
    2) What is the purpose of the address on the payment? a layer of security, to authenticate the credit card. People gave United the zip code, CC was authenticated, payment went through.

    If I want to pay in Danish Krones instead of USD, I am free to do it.

  32. It boils down to “do the right thing” vs. “gotcha, gimme what I want”. Didn’t we go through this a year or two ago on this blog with the St. Regis in DC?

  33. Honestly, what I think many people, incl myself are most ticked off about is the statement by united, which seems just immature, condescending, and downright rude. Instead of simply saying, we apologize for the glitch, which enabled people to book really cheap flights, but we are unable to honor such fares, and it’s within our legal rights to do so,” they chose to blame a “third party” and just say people were taking advantage. There’s nothing about that statement that has any customer service components. And THAT is the issue with United.

  34. Not a fan at all of the tone of this post, and many comments on here and Flyertalk. I admit, I missed out on this deal by a matter of minutes. Quite literally. May have even been less than a minute. With mistake fares my reaction is always the same: Book it now. Figure it out later. It isn’t until after the fact that I start to see if I crossed my own moral boundaries. I have had mistake fares I have purchased honored and I have had them voided. I don’t think there is a single mistake fare I’ve purchased that I felt it would’ve been wrong for the airline to cancel. In retrospect, I think had I been 2 minutes faster I would’ve probably canceled it myself anyway. Just didn’t sit right.

    The one that, I think, made this one stick out as being likelier to be canceled than others is that it’s nearly impossible for anyone outside of Denmark to say (Without brazenly lying) that they could believe this was legitimate. And, no, $1,500 in 1st to Sydney isn’t grey area when you have to manipulate the system to get there.

    You can call that jealousy if you want. You would be wrong, but when would that ever stop anyone from thinking it or saying it?

  35. The Ethical United that does what is right:

    OMAHA, Neb. —United Airlines said in a letter Thursday, it will outsource 80 UAL positions from Omaha’s Eppley Airfield. An employee that spoke to KETV NewsWatch 7 asked to be kept anonymous, because United Airlines could fire them for speaking out.

    Joyce Torchia worked for United Airlines for 36 years. She said employees are so loyal that some Omaha families have three generations at the airline.

    The employee brought up a recent Denver baggage debacle, where customers waited for hours for luggage. At the time, United Airlines blamed it on an independent contractor.

    When Continental Airlines and United Airlines merged, both CEOs testified before Congress.

    “Because we are so complimentary, we do not expect a significant impact on employment of frontline jobs,” United Airlines’ current CEO Jeffrey Smisek said at the time. He was then CEO of Continental Airlines.

    Now, this anonymous employee wants a new answer.

    “I would just like to know why corporate America isn’t held accountable for this type of action. You’ve got to understand that what you lose in the grand scheme of things is much larger than just the hard working employees,” the anonymous employee said.

  36. Beaten horses all over this one.

    Ethical or not (plenty of things are legal but not ethical), it was clearly a mistake by United. Their assigning blame to a 3rd party vendor is silly and ineffectual. Many have pointed out that 3rd party vendors do not excuse a business from responsibility for its fares and how they are displayed. Another issue is that plenty of airlines had flights priced this way through the software (I saw one from LHR-DPS for 378 DKK on Korean, and others reported AA pricing flights like this), but only United let people book. It was their reliance on shoddy IT that led to the mistake, and though I don’t expect it to get honored, it is yet again disappointing to see them waddle along while trying to hold a double standard.

  37. @Lucky — I won’t chime in on the debate of the fare mistake itself. But I just wanted to tell you that I think you should not invite back Travis. His style is rude and obnoxious and he is clearly not a very classy guy. As Ron Burgundy would say, “you stay classy!”

  38. I agree that United should honour the fare, and that it doesn’t matter whether the error was made by UA or a subcontractor.

    However, United will be able to cancel the tickets (at least for people who aren’t actually residents of Denmark) because of the website terms of service violation – even if the website defaults to “Denmark”, you’re still misrepresenting yourself if you don’t change it, and that’s a TOS violation and gives them the right to void out the purchase.

    Yeah, it’s a technicality, but it’ll likely hold up, even though United isn’t actually referring to the TOS violation in the cancellation notices (from what I’ve seen), but to the original vendor error.

  39. The DOT law was not put in place to allow people to take advantage of a legitimate and easily identifiable error or punish the airlines for making mistakes. But Travis, this is exactly what you propose.

    Ben, you should get rid of Travis. He has added nothing to your blog.

  40. @Westman812:

    “There’s nothing about that statement that has any customer service components. And THAT is the issue with United.” Seriously? It’s plain as day that it’s about trying to get something for nothing. Apparently, that’s OK with a lot of people these days. I had no idea there is a cottage industry of people who go around hunting down mistake fares in hopes that they will be honored. Sounds like the travel equivalent of ambulance chasing to me.

  41. @Jake hit the nail on the head please move on :

    “Falsifying your country for billing address nullifies your whole argument.

    Case closed”

  42. It wasn’t a mistake fare. The fares were filed correctly, so if anything the third party that handles conversions should be held liable.
    Not that any of it matters because the DOT won’t do anything, in fact, the explicitly say that people like you, Travis, and all the others that booked this are bad actors dealing in bad faith. You lied about your address, whether or not it checked, you lied. Fares shouldn’t be, and ultimately won’t be, honored.

  43. Travis sounds like he’s doing an impression of what I would sound like if I were a guest author on Ben’s blog. I’m not sure if I should be annoyed or flattered. The funny thing about this whole debate is that there really are no winners (except maybe the lawyers). Both sides are defending unethical behavior from their own perspective. I think if airlines hadn’t been so despicable over the years it would probably be a lot easier to defend them now, but since they’ve mostly been arrogant jerks it’s hard to seriously defend them against even the most obvious abuse at this point. So long as the website wasn’t hacked on a technical level then I don’t see how UA has much of a moral defense in this one.

  44. I cannot see DOT acting on this. They have previously talked of bad actors and in their statement on this case, they are already using the term mistake fare. Therefore the likely outcome will be people going to court to try and have UA honour the tickets. There is a lot of $$ at stake so this could go a long way in the court system. Ultimately, any reasonable person would conclude it was a mistake and that some element of bad faith was required to access it.
    Unless you have a Danish address, credit card or a history of purchasing fares priced in Krones, I cannot see how you have a case.
    Further weakening the case is the fact that UA canceled within 24hrs, so nobody could really claim to have suffered any damages due to this (unless you were trying a same day flight)

  45. Travis, I’m no lawyer so I won’t get into the argument whether or not people committed fraud in order to avail themselves of this pricing mistake.

    Yet, for most purchasers, they had to lie about their country of residence/billing in order to get the fantastic pricing. That differs from the majority of mistake fares that I’ve seen, where nothing underhanded or unusual is required. So, for those people, I have no empathy and hope they just drop it.

    Really … is the message here that it’s ok to lie and cheat to get what you want?

    Right now DOT regulations about mistake fares are pretty much in favor of the consumer, and I’d hate to see that change because people who manipulated the system file complaints over deals not honored.

    However, there are probably some people who booked tickets while traveling or residing in Denmark and did not need to misrepresent anything in order to get this pricing. IMO, their tickets should be honored.

  46. @Jake @Evan – Billing country has nothing to do with tickets. That’s only there for CC fraud. Period.

    @Tom – I agree that if the DoT refuses to rule on this chances of getting the tickets reinstated are close to 0. Now, if the DoT rules anything different than forcing UAL to honor this tickets that will open a whole world of possibilities for airlines to cancel tickets in the future by blaming 3rd party vendors.

    Very interesting case for sure.

  47. Travis, love this post. I’d like to see more of your family trip reports including activities, planning, etc…
    and in the same manner as this one 🙂

  48. Finally there is a sane voice! All those that are protesting are the ones that missed out on the deal! I look at it this way….. If united prevails, then I have a great story to tell. If the consumer with DOT’s help prevails, I’m going around the world four times in First for $1800 each. Either way I’m good……………

  49. I love the “everyone KNEW what they were doing, so these fares shouldn’t be honored.” Like people using the internet are hackers who TRICKED a fortune 500 company’s website into offering really low fares.

    FOR ALL I KNOW, UNITED IS DEEP IN CURRENCY ARBITRAGE OR FUTURES OR SOMETHING. It is their website; I’m just using it, and they are HAPPILY taking my money until they realize THIS IS A BAD DEAL FOR THE COMPANY!

  50. As someone said earlier the whole tone of this conversation has gotten condescending and rude.

    That comment about Ben missing out because he was searching for his mother’s purse was appalling.

    I will be fascinated to see how the United debacle turns out but I’ve gotten sick of this discussion.

  51. @Paul You know, I think the attitude of “Anyone who is are protesting are the ones that missed out on the deal!” is just a gross oversimplification at best. At worst it’s wrongheaded, immature and generally obnoxious. Your ethical compass does not guide them, and theirs doesn’t guide you. It is perfectly reasonable for someone to look at those who booked one of these as unethical leaches. Whether they did or did not get in on the deal is irrelevant. Feel free to disagree with their opinions, but do not just dismiss their opinions because you group them all together as jealous of not having gotten in on it when you have no idea whether they missed out or chose not to participate.

  52. I managed to get on the “mistake” deal, and I can tell you it was not a US$100 fare, but a fare that cost US$1600++ in first class.

    And I can argue that it really did not seemed like a mistake initially.

    It was cancelled anyhow by United. I am not going after United, but I want to say that United never apologised for the mistake nor cancellation.

    If United forgives us when we made a mistake, all is well. Do you believe United will buy your argument if you book a non-cancellable fare and realised your date is wrong after 24 hrs has passed? Will they waive the fees? I sure hope they do, but I doubt it.

    At the very least, they should apologise for it. The behaviour i get to see from United is, it’s the 3rd party’s fault, and your fault for booking it. But it is definitely not United’s fault.

  53. Can’t someone please make Travis go away? What is it with people wanting to get something for nothing when it clearly is a mistake? Lying and cheating to get the deal. One can only hope Travis’ kids are not learning their ethics from their father…

  54. I agree with AAExPlat… lucky, can you please make Travis go away? His posts are stupid, unethical and not interesting. He devalues this blog. Thank you.

  55. Ben, this is Travis’ best post in ages. While I have no problem with this post, I guess the angry mob here think he’s a guest contributor. And he’s writing it as if he owns the place. Please give us more of him.

    Seeing all these sensitive play-by-the-rules jokers just cracks me up. They all belong in Canada.

  56. @AAexPlatt (and others), “getting something for nothing”….oh please spare me yet another self-righteous airline apologists post.

    Read flyingfish’ post just before yours. He is spot-on and $1600 USD ain’t “nothing.” Every time United and their US airline brethren charge $200 change fee for any/every change, that truly is “something for nothing.”

  57. @AAExPlat : b/c Travis travels w/ family, so instead of missing out of a $1500 fare for $50-$100, his “miss” is a much larger amount..hence it stings more when fat-finger mistakes are made. I guess if he gives a $50 bill instead of a $5 bill when paying for something, he doesn’t expect it to be made “right”?? Always love the double-standard of bloggers.

    I think a better metric would be showing the # of mistake fares which weren’t honored. for everyone. Also, don’t you think it odd, now that the airlines have found a way to actually show a profit y-o-y (baggage fees, et al…), the change to revenue-based mileage earning, etc…that the airlines now have (or are consulting with) a team which is guiding them on how to handle customers and make more money??

    In short…who are they pissing off? A customer who books 15 tickets (for multiple trips thru the year to get their status for cheap) and deny that…or the guy who books once every few years and just-so-happened to book at that very time in that very country, etc…In short, they have VERY LITTLE backlash on this other than a whiny blogger. Reminds me of the union dock workers out west earning, on average, 95K/year w/ 88k/year in benefits and crying they aren’t getting enough in the latest deal. “Give me a break”. and posting anyone’s address..public or not….Slimy travis…slimy.

    Full disclosure: I could have gotten in on this deal, but decided against it at quite literally the final ‘buy’ click.

  58. Given that United is one of the lowest-rated/respected/performing airlines in the US, the amount of people willing to engage in endless debates defending its honor (on blogs or FT) is rather surprising.

    FYI, DOT issued a statement they are looking into this so let’s all be civil and see how it all plays out.

  59. Travis man, I’m disappointed in you.
    Is this really what you think?
    I love mistake fares just like every one else, and have taken advantage of them in the past, but this one is different.
    This one will not (and should not) be honored.

  60. @TomB – Why should it not be honored? Please explain why purchasers did not have a binding contract with United after United charged purchasers’ credit/debit cards and United issued ticket numbers. What would be the legal basis for reneging on the contract?

  61. The people who are appalled at the “rude/appaling and condescending” tone of the above post really need to lighten up and look for their sense of humour. Ben has already chimed in and said he thought it was funny.

    I’m pretty sure Travis was making light of an unfortunate situation. I for one, found the comment hysterical.

    Keep up the great work Travis. Looking forward to more of your posts.

  62. Alexander — Yep that’s exactly the case. Ben and I had already discussed his unfortunate situation earlier in the week. He knows I was concerned for him.

    That said, eventually you realize that lessons were learned, nobody got hurt, and it’s time to laugh about it. By the time you’re able to share the details with the world over multiple blog posts, I expect you’re comfortable enough with it to be able to laugh about it.

  63. Travis – You have to be the most mundane blogger i’ve ever read. In fact, the fact that you even post on this blog has caused me to visit onemileatatime significantly less.

    The next time you accidentally write an additional 0 when tipping, I hope that the bank sides with the restaurant and that they agree that the last 3 times you had accidentally tipped too much, even though you had let it go, that they were going to follow precedent.

    Can we please label more clearly which posts are written by Lucky since I don’t want to accidentally click Travis’ post…again..

  64. Sad to see folks so intolerant of mistakes that are rectified immediately. Note that stores that have a mistake in the ad aren’t obligated to keep to it if it was an honest mistake.

    In this cause, it was fraud. If you think lying about your billing address isn’t fraud, then what is it. A non-fraudulent lie?

    The intersection of entitlement and greed show up in this post.

  65. For those who think it’s completely OK to stick it to United for a 3rd party error because they think United would stick it to you, I should remind those people of the “Flat Tire Rule.” United will often accommodate you if you’re late and miss a flight due to a reason beyond your control (i.e. 3rd party).

  66. Travis I respect your position and its great to hear alternative views – but taking personal attacks against Ben and his mom is way out of line. This is a great website for information, but you have taken it to a low I would never have expected.

    As for the issue, it was a mistake and the I am willing to bet 99% off those who took advantage did so by falsifying country of residency. The easy out for United is to honor fairs that were booked legally and for those who misrepresented, the booking cancellation stands and they are given a warning that future abuse could result in closure of their United account and forfeiture of miles.

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