United cancels yesterday’s cheap tickets – and no one is surprised


20-06-2013 12-05-17

United made an error yesterday and were offering tickets for just a few pounds in Business and First Class to the USA. Many people purchased these and a number of news outlets reported them, even bloggers mentioned them. After about 6 hours United worked out what happened, removed Denmark from its country of purchase list, and the deals stopped.

United has a proud tradition of honouring mistake fares. Over the years I have managed to take advantage of a couple – one to New Zealand and another from Miami to Shanghai. This basic decency was one of the things I liked about United. However new-United doesn’t feel the same way. Overnight I received this email:

12-02-2015 05-47-34

Interesting that the ticket has been issued and charged when United decided to cancel it. Clearly the ‘vendor’ responsible is not someone with whom I have a direct relationship – my ticket purchase was with United and so I wonder why the customers must suffer because United chose a vendor who cannot do didn’t do its job properly.

Let’s see how this turns out but for now we know that United has truly changed.


  1. Out of interest, were the tickets actually ‘charged’ to your CC? or was it a pending payment which later got removed, like mine.

  2. In general, I think airlines should be forced to honor mistake fares just as best buy or Amazon has to honor its published ads, mistakes and all.

    I can’t believe I’m defending UA…

    However, on this deal, users changed the point-of-sale to countries that weren’t their own and werent really the point of sale (you bought from USA using USA payment cards with USA addresses). Exploiting this loophole seems to go beyond what is reasonable to ask United to honor the deal in good faith. Beyond that, since point of sale is how taxes are calculated, I wonder if fliers are indirectly circumventing tax laws with this maneuver? (not like anyone is coming after you, but still…). Government precedent has usually asked the line of questioning “would a reasonable person know this was a mistake” and in this case, it seems to me, that there is little doubt that even the most inexperienced flier knew what they were doing was shady.

    UA has a poor track record of honoring legitimate mistakes because of deals like this. And, in their defense, the fare you paid does not match the filed fare.

    I think UA has to honor those who are based in Denmark.

    For US, if it already ticketed and paid, then maybe there is a good argument. But otherwise, no one should be surprised this happened.

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