United Airlines announced on Twitter yesterday that it would honor the mistake fares that allowed many to book fares for as little as $5 round-trip.
The wording is important–while legacy United explicitly vowed to honor fare mistakes, United doing business as Continental went to great lengths to state that this was a case-specific decision. That’s a reasonable corporate strategy to take, but I am not sure it matters if the DOT is willing to enforce its rules against post-purchase fare increases.
Admittedly, I am bummed I missed out on this, but I am also happy many could take advantage of this good deal. My inbox has been flooded with messages asking whether I got in on this and the ironic thing is that I was booking awards for clients on united.com, oblivious to the whole mistake fare transpiring on the revenue side of the website, until united.com suddenly shut down and I soon after found a thread on Flyertalk about what was going on…
United has wisely determined that rather than waste the time involved in fighting lawsuits, threats of lawsuits, potential intervention by the Department of Transportation, and the inevitable negative press coverage cancelling these fares would bring on, it would just honor the tickets. This move makes sense because these were for discounted economy class seats–seats that United certainly would have sold for more than $0, but not for thousands of dollars like a premium class error. For all the good publicity this has generated, the net effect must not be so dire or else United would have fought this harder.
So congratulations for all who got in on this and enjoy your free trips!