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[PREM FARE GONE] UA: NCL-EWR 600 DKK (mistaken fare) DOT ruled; see wiki for link

Old Feb 11, 15, 11:49 am
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Last edit by: drewguy
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DOT Investigation UpdatesNews Media Updates:

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According to USA Today, Ben Mutzabaugh:
United is voiding the bookings of several thousand individuals who were attempting to take advantage of an error a third-party software provider made when it applied an incorrect currency exchange rate, despite United having properly filed its fares. Most of these bookings were for travel originating in the United Kingdom, and the level of bookings made with Danish Kroner as the local currency was significantly higher than normal during the limited period that customers made these bookings.
Note that United has also accidentally cancelled "legitimate" tickets paid for in USD, purchased in USD from LHR... Please check your other tickets if purchased today to ensure they were not unilaterally cancelled.

However, there is no chance at all that you can have your tickets re-instated if you complain to DOT on the basis of DOT rule 399.88:
399.88 Prohibition on post-purchase price increase.

(a) It is an unfair and deceptive practice within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. 41712 for any seller of scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States, or of a tour (i.e., a combination of air transportation and ground or cruise accommodations), or tour component (e.g., a hotel stay) that includes scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States, to increase the price of that air transportation, tour or tour component to a consumer, including but not limited to an increase in the price of the seat, an increase in the price for the carriage of passenger baggage, or an increase in an applicable fuel surcharge, after the air transportation has been purchased by the consumer, except in the case of an increase in a government-imposed tax or fee. A purchase is deemed to have occurred when the full amount agreed upon has been paid by the consumer.
Form for filing DOT complaint. File complaint as soon as your ticket is cancelled.

Link to PDF of enforcement bodies for European customers affected. File complaint as soon as your ticket is cancelled.


Tips for DOT Complaint:
  • File on DOT for every ticket number affected.
  • If you have one reservation with four people traveling (four tickets) file 4 DOT complaints, one per ticket.
  • If you have separate reservations, file a DOT complaint for each.
  • The DOT complaint website may take several minutes to load, depending on demand.
  • When you go to upload a file, be careful as it will reset all your radio buttons. So, if you want a copy of the complaint, make sure you double check that "Yes" is still selected before submitting, especially if you upload a file.

Template For Complaint:
United has unilaterally cancelled my ticket without my consent.

Facts:
1. The ticket was ticketed (had a ticket number).
2. I received a confirmation number, ticket number, and emails stating both
3. The ticket was paid for and my credit card charged.

United must reinstate the ticket within its original cabin. This trip is for travel TO the United States.

At no time during the booking process was any other fare than the Danish Krone equivalent displayed. As a reasonable, prudent consumer, I believed I was paying the price displayed to me on the website. United never sent or displayed the equivalent fare in any other currency.

Trip Details
Ticket #: 016XXXXXXXXXX
PNR: XXXXXX
Routing: LHR-EWR-LAX-HNL

Attachments: Attached is a document showing the ticket, routing, and providing proof that the reservation was ticketed.

Filename: Cancelled - UA Reservation - LHR-EWR-LAX-HNL - XXXXXX - 016XXXXXXXXXX.pdf

+-------------------------------------------------------+
| Relevant Law |
| http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/399.88 |
+-------------------------------------------------------+
399.88 Prohibition on post-purchase price increase.

(a) It is an unfair and deceptive practice within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. 41712 for any seller of scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States, or of a tour (i.e., a combination of air transportation and ground or cruise accommodations), or tour component (e.g., a hotel stay) that includes scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States, to increase the price of that air transportation, tour or tour component to a consumer, including but not limited to an increase in the price of the seat, an increase in the price for the carriage of passenger baggage, or an increase in an applicable fuel surcharge, after the air transportation has been purchased by the consumer, except in the case of an increase in a government-imposed tax or fee. A purchase is deemed to have occurred when the full amount agreed upon has been paid by the consumer.

+-------------------------------------------------------+
| Relevant FAQ |
| http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/rules/EAPP_2_FAQ.pdf |
+-------------------------------------------------------+
Does the prohibition on post-purchase price increases in section 399.88(a) apply in the situation where a carrier mistakenly offers an airfare due to a computer problem or human error and a consumer purchases the ticket at that fare before the carrier is able to fix the mistake?

Section 399.88(a) states that it is an unfair and deceptive practice for any seller of scheduled air transportation within, to, or from the United States, or of a tour or tour component that includes scheduled air transportation within, to, or from the United States, to increase the price of that air transportation to a consumer after the air transportation has been purchased by the consumer, except in the case of a government-imposed tax or fee and only if the passenger is advised of a possible increase before purchasing a ticket. A purchase occurs when the full amount agreed upon has been paid by the consumer. Therefore, if a consumer purchases a fare and that consumer receives confirmation (such as a confirmation email and/or the purchase appears on their credit card statement or online account summary) of their purchase, then the seller of air transportation cannot increase the price of that air transportation to that consumer, even when the fare is a mistake.
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Tips for retrieving your ticket number:
  1. paste(right click copy link location first) following link into your web browser
  2. change XXXXXX next to COPNR= for your reservation number and LASTNAME next to LN= for you SURNAME
  3. go to the webpage address you have just created

https://www.united.com/web/en-US/app...NRCD=2/11/2015


Originally Posted by MatthewLAX
Originally Posted by MatthewLAX View Post
R E L A X

Breathe deep.

Congrats on all who got in.

Now comes the fun part.

1. Discovery - mistake fare is posted on FT. Novices frantically checks how much vacation time they have and if the dates of availability mesh with their schedules. Experienced FTers just book it and worry about contacting spouses or their boss later. Word spreads like wildfire.

2. Excitement - Tickets purchased, confirmation emails received and dates of travel shared with other FTers. Discussions of what to see and do and where to stay crop up in other threads. Novices contact source to change seats or inquire about upgrades, Seasoned FTers sit back and enjoy reading the discussion threads.

3. Stress Stage 1 - Concern over paper ticket delivery - Novices Frantically check otheFedEx website every few hours, constant monitoring of driveway for FedEx truck. Seasoned FT veterans sit back and relax.

4. Glee and happiness - Paper tickets in hand, vacation request submitted, spouses finally informed, hotel reservations made and bragging to friends and co-workers begins. Both novices and experts get very excited.

5. Stress Stage 2 - Rumors of fare not being honored, discussion threads about the airline and ticketing agency ensue. Rumors crop up like crabgrass at this stage. Many FTers begin to worry excessively about whether or not the trip will happen. Novices make non-refundable and financial committments to their trip. Seasoned FTers make mixed drinks (and maybe a sandwich) and is patient.

6. Reality Check - Accurate information is obtained - usually takes place a week to 10 days after mistake fare is published. Confirmed information from the source as to whether or not tickets will be honored.

7a. Pure Joy (Icelandair style- Fare is Honored) - Lots of happy people, FT threads on shared information regarding hotels, restaurants, tours, etc. Jealousy from others sets in. First "FT guinea pigs" embark, post confirmation threads that all is ok.


7b Hostile Feelings (Copa Airlines Style - fare is not honored) - Many angry and disappointed FTers. Refunds are issued. Novices have multiple discussion threads of lawsuits and hostile correspondence, FT pros mutter "c'est la vie" and look for the next fare mistake.

8a Success (Honored) - Trip Report thread becomes very active


Freedom of Information Act Request
File #2015-147, Office of the Secretary of Transportation - Receipt acknowledged 3/13/15

http://www.dot.gov/individuals/foia/office-secretary-foia-information

Relevant excerpt from my request on 2/24/15. There no need for multiple requests for the same thing, though feel free to request more or different information obviously. I'll post any updates as I get them.

"Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S. C. subsection 552, I am requesting access to any and all records of correspondence, including electronic, between anyone working for, or on the behalf of, United Airlines and its subsidiaries, and with anyone working for, or on the behalf of, the Department of Transportation; specifically this would include only the date range beginning on February 11th, 2015 through and including February 24th, 2015.

In addition, I am requesting access to any and all internal records and correspondence in relation to coming to the decision made on February 23rd, 2015 regarding the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings Determination Regarding United Airlines Mistaken Fare, with the exception of any of the consumer submitted complaints via phone, email, website, or letter. Specifically, this would be any records beginning on February 11th, 2015 through and including February 24th, 2015."
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[PREM FARE GONE] UA: NCL-EWR 600 DKK (mistaken fare) DOT ruled; see wiki for link

Old Mar 16, 15, 12:50 pm
  #5236  
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Global
Posts: 5,737
Originally Posted by thepaul500
Not that it means much or anything will come of it, but the DOT FOIA Division has acknowledged receipt of my freedom of information request (asking for records of all correspondence between them and united, as well as any documentation related to their decision, with the exception of the actual complaints submitted)

I'll post an update when I hear anything else from them, the statute requires a response (but not actual release of documents) in a further 20 business days.

I fully expect them to not release very much and claim exemption under either intra-agency communications/decision processes, or confidential trade secrets.

I'll appeal either if they do:
Department of the Interior v. Klamath Water Users Protective ...'n, Merit Energy Co. v. United States Department of the Interior, Center for International Environmental Law v. Office of the United States Trade Representative for intra-agency, and will need to find some case law if they claim trade secrets

This is not what I do for a living, so it is very likely nothing will come of any of this, but its interesting for sure.

For reference:
File #2015-147, Office of the Secretary of Transportation
+1

Please update us. Would be interesting to see if they release anything of interest. (Doubt it, but you never know.) Thanks for the extra effort.
Global321 is offline  
Old Mar 16, 15, 2:28 pm
  #5237  
 
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Originally Posted by Travel4Love
Got the same. Another standard response. Where in the laws does it say "limited to websites that market to United States customers"? I can only find something about travel to or from the United States. Does anybody consider taking this any further?
From the full explanation by DOT:

In order to purchase a ticket, individuals had to go to Uniteds Denmark website which had fares listed in Danish Krone throughout the purchasing process. In addition, only people who identified Denmark as their location/country where billing statements are received when entering billing information at the completion of the purchase process were able to complete their purchase at the mistaken fare levels. Consistent with the Offices treatment of fare advertisements and disclosure of baggage fees, it does not intend to enforce the rule in question (the post-purchase price increase prohibition) when the fare offer is not marketed to consumers in the United States.
Basically this is an enforcement discretion question, with an overlay of discretion to interpret the statute given to DOT.

I doubt very much one would have much success with appealing this. First off, the statute is very general, given definition by the DOT regulations. Any court will defer to their interpretation as set forth in the regulations. In addition, they are taking a discretionary interpretation regarding non-US websites that a court would also likely defer to as reasonable. The underlying objective is protecting US consumers, but is written to cover US consumers wherever they are harmed. But here DOT is basically saying that you had to circumvent the "normal" UA website to get this deal, as well as enter information that may not have been accurate.

So, for the vast majority of people further action seems unlikely to succeed. It might be possible for someone who is a US citizen, but happened to be in Denmark at the time and was redirected automatically to the Denmark site, and used a real Denmark address to buy a ticket to succeed. But I expect that DOT figures that's a very small percentage of the complainants.
drewguy is offline  
Old Mar 16, 15, 4:19 pm
  #5238  
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
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Originally Posted by thepaul500
Not that it means much or anything will come of it, but the DOT FOIA Division has acknowledged receipt of my freedom of information request (asking for records of all correspondence between them and united, as well as any documentation related to their decision, with the exception of the actual complaints submitted)

I'll post an update when I hear anything else from them, the statute requires a response (but not actual release of documents) in a further 20 business days.

I fully expect them to not release very much and claim exemption under either intra-agency communications/decision processes, or confidential trade secrets.

I'll appeal either if they do:
Department of the Interior v. Klamath Water Users Protective ...'n, Merit Energy Co. v. United States Department of the Interior, Center for International Environmental Law v. Office of the United States Trade Representative for intra-agency, and will need to find some case law if they claim trade secrets

This is not what I do for a living, so it is very likely nothing will come of any of this, but its interesting for sure.

For reference:
File #2015-147, Office of the Secretary of Transportation
I actually think you will be somewhat successful. They released a fair amount of information after the Hong Kong 4 mile mistake fare, including some stuff that I would have thought they would have claimed deliberative process privilege on.
dilanesp is offline  
Old Mar 16, 15, 4:21 pm
  #5239  
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
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Originally Posted by Paul4Travel
many thanks! it would be funny to see what they discussed behind the scenes!
Unfortunately the actual internal discussions would fall under Exemption 5 of the FOIA. Would be neat to get a peak into what was discussed, but no go on that. However, any purely factual information they used should be discoverable. I'm most interested in what communications occurred with United, as I cannot see any legal basis for those not being able to be released based on the relevant case law (but who am I, right?). As United was acting on their own behalf (as opposed to working under the instruction or contract of the government) in what was likely an attempt to influence the outcome of the decision, it should not be protected and instead subject to release. If those conversations were recorded, could be some interesting things in there.
thepaul500 is offline  
Old Mar 16, 15, 4:23 pm
  #5240  
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
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Originally Posted by dilanesp
I actually think you will be somewhat successful. They released a fair amount of information after the Hong Kong 4 mile mistake fare, including some stuff that I would have thought they would have claimed deliberative process privilege on.
I'll have to dig into this and see who ran with this to see what issues they ran into along the way. Thanks.
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Old Mar 16, 15, 4:26 pm
  #5241  
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Programs: united
Posts: 1,636
Originally Posted by SCSA
Untrue as usual...you could purchase using Western Union, which didn't require a Danish credit card or a selected home country.

Not sure why people have a difficult admitting it was a flawed ruling reached for pragmatic reasons.
SCSA, I'm not commenting on what you "could" have done. I'm talking about the law.

If you go into an American court and argue "the purchaser's representation was material because without it, I wouldn't have offered the fare", that's a winning argument. It's still a winning argument even if there were 1 or 2 other representations one could have made to get the same fare. The point is, because you had to make some representation to get the fare, making that representation becomes material to the transaction.

If you would like me to march you down to a law library, we can look this up in a contracts treatise.

Materiality of a representation, under US contract law, CAN be established by the fact that the seller is going to use the information for some purpose, but it can also be established by the fact that it was necessary to induce the seller to enter the transaction. That's enough.

Now, as I said, you guys are pursuing this in Europe. And in Europe, the law may be different. I don't know anything about European contract laws. I wish you success.

Finally, on the ruling itself, (1) i said it was flawed-- the "not offered to US consumers" ruling is terrible; (2) however, other than the terminological choice "bad faith", which I would not have said, the portion of the ruling dealing with user conduct seems entirely defensible to me; and (3) some pragmatism is more defensible than other pragmatism.

To expand a bit on (3), I think it was inevitable and defensible that the DOT was going to consider that a lot of consumers messed with the billing address and country of purchase settings to get the fare, for reasons I won't repeat but which I stated upthread. On the other hand, the "not offered to US consumers" ruling looks to me like bad pragmatism-- they didn't want to order United to honor tickets booked by Danish consumers, so they came up with a fig leaf.
dilanesp is offline  
Old Mar 16, 15, 4:31 pm
  #5242  
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
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Originally Posted by thepaul500
I'll have to dig into this and see who ran with this to see what issues they ran into along the way. Thanks.
Here's a link to the documents:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1cq...UDQ/edit?pli=1

And here's the FT thread where they were discussed:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...posit-268.html
dilanesp is offline  
Old Mar 17, 15, 9:42 am
  #5243  
 
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Originally Posted by dilanesp
Here's a link to the documents:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1cq...UDQ/edit?pli=1

And here's the FT thread where they were discussed:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...posit-268.html
Yeah, I'm not too impressed with what was made public in that case, though I'd be surprised if anything different happened on this one.
thepaul500 is offline  
Old Mar 20, 15, 8:51 am
  #5244  
 
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Has anyone got any update in the EU on what there next steps are?
Oliveredmunds is offline  
Old Mar 21, 15, 5:27 am
  #5245  
 
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A number of people have suggested EU citizens still have a chance to proceed, but no one has come forward with what might be the best course to follow.

I have tried with the UK CAA and got nowhere.
teahan is offline  
Old Mar 22, 15, 10:26 am
  #5246  
 
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The only thing you can do in eu now is going to European consumer center and filling the online complaint against United. Then it would be sent to European commission and it may happen what happened to air Berlin. This January eu commission ruled that any price posted at any site of theirs must be the final price
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Old Mar 23, 15, 12:16 pm
  #5247  
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Originally Posted by ironmanjt
I was scheduled to fly 3 days after this happened, and was left high and dry at LHR. I filed for EU261 since they canceled my flight inside of 14 days.

Look what I got from United today

$100 off my next flight...
Originally Posted by Paul4Travel
Since it was a denied boarding (someone would still disccus about it!), if i were in your shoes, I would deepen the issue with the EU261/2004 through your national authority (I mean the national authority deputed to regulate all the EU261/2004 issues, we're not talking about the judicial process at this stage!))!
The national authority in the UK (Civil Aviation Authority) does not step into EU 261/2004 disputes. The only option is to bring a claim against the carrier.

This can be done online if you have a service address within the United Kingdom (at Money Claim Online).

If not I believe you can submit a claim by post.

However, I think UA would stand a fair chance of winning their case at a low level court at least.
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Old Mar 23, 15, 2:30 pm
  #5248  
 
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Originally Posted by hellosweets
The only thing you can do in eu now is going to European consumer center and filling the online complaint against United. Then it would be sent to European commission and it may happen what happened to air Berlin. This January eu commission ruled that any price posted at any site of theirs must be the final price
European Court of Justice actually, but you are right.
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Old Mar 24, 15, 5:58 am
  #5249  
 
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Cheers everyone! If anyone gets a response let me know!
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Old Apr 16, 15, 7:54 pm
  #5250  
 
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The DOT report on complaints from February 2015 came out a few days ago:

http://www.dot.gov/sites/dot.gov/fil...prilATCR_1.pdf

Take a look at page 41. This was far more widespread than I had realized-- there were over 15K DOT complaints on the error fare. Even if you assume that each complaint was only for one ticket (doubtful), and everyone who bought a ticket made a complaint (also doubtful), that's an enormous number of people impacted.
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