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UAs Official Response to HKG Ticketing/IT Error: Redeem @ Correct Amount or Redeposit

UAs Official Response to HKG Ticketing/IT Error: Redeem @ Correct Amount or Redeposit

Old Jul 24, 12, 7:54 pm
  #2776  
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Originally Posted by zombietooth View Post
Jackie will play the frustrated HKG customs agent. When he finds out that Larry is carrying 8 cartons of smokes, hilarity ensues:

Agent Chan: "Sir, you can only bring 19 cigarettes into Hong Kong duty free."

Larry: "Who do you think I am, some health nut! I smoke that many in a few hours."

Agent Chan: "But sir, these are the rules in Hong Kong. You will have to pay duty and taxes on your excess cigarettes."

Larry: "But these are only for my own personal use. How am I gonna survive in Hong Kong for 5 days, with 3 insane kids and 'Matilda the Hun' here, with only 19 cigarettes. Are you crazy?"

Agent Chan: "I am sorry sir, but you will have to pay a duty on these excess cigarettes." (Chan starts fiddling with a calculator and writes some notes on a note pad.) "Sir, that will be 1,600- Hong Kong dollars please."

Larry: "What! Baby, just how much is that?"

Rosie: "About 200 dollars, hon."

Larry: "What? You all really are crazy! That's more than I paid for my airline ticket in First Class!"

Agent Chan: "I am sorry sir. If you won't pay the duty, you will have to forfeit your cigarettes."

Larry: Confusing Japan and Hong Kong says, "Well, I can see now why we kicked your asses in World War II!" (He dejectedly pays the duty and agent Chan hands Larry a receipt.)

(Larry turns and hands the receipt to Rosie.)

Larry: "Baby, you take damn good care of that receipt. We are going to submit a claim to United when we get home. This is all their fault!"

(The family takes their baggage and exits the customs inspection area.)
How are they going to survive? Go to a store and buy them locally which is what they want you to do in the first place. Also don't see what story has to do with the thread.
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Old Jul 24, 12, 8:06 pm
  #2777  
 
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Originally Posted by Baze View Post
How are they going to survive? Go to a store and buy them locally which is what they want you to do in the first place. Also don't see what story has to do with the thread.
It's a response to the post prior to mine by West Coast Ace. Levity was intended here.
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Old Jul 24, 12, 8:20 pm
  #2778  
 
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Originally Posted by Jesperss View Post
DoT isn't going to waste more than ten minutes on this. It's obviously to anyone who has half a brain what the result would be.

UA took several days in cancelling the tickets. They did their due diligence. You were lucky to even get a canned response from the DoT. There will be no "ruling" - case is closed.

It's over guys. The ticket is cancelled. Hong Kong isn't going to happen.
No, many tickets are not canceled.

Will someone else that has not had their ticket canceled posted what they are planning to do? I still have two valid tickets and the receipt has been updated to reflect the actual payment (FAR less miles than normally required) but I need a date change. Has anyone contacted UA? I may just wait a few months before calling.
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Old Jul 24, 12, 8:28 pm
  #2779  
 
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Originally Posted by Milezjunkie View Post
No, many tickets are not canceled.

Will someone else that has not had their ticket canceled posted what they are planning to do? I still have two valid tickets and the receipt has been updated to reflect the actual payment (FAR less miles than normally required) but I need a date change. Has anyone contacted UA? I may just wait a few months before calling.
Assuming the error is now fixed, when you try to rebook this, they will want to take the correct amount of miles from you as if you were booking a new ticket.
They won't just swap a FC seat for a FC seat because they will check the available fare buckets before they reissue a ticket.

The only way to preserve your booking is to avoid human interaction.
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Old Jul 24, 12, 9:15 pm
  #2780  
 
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Originally Posted by Milezjunkie View Post
No, many tickets are not canceled.

Will someone else that has not had their ticket canceled posted what they are planning to do? I still have two valid tickets and the receipt has been updated to reflect the actual payment (FAR less miles than normally required) but I need a date change. Has anyone contacted UA? I may just wait a few months before calling.
Not that I am for this 4-mile special. Why would you want to tell them that your reservations survive their cancellation sweep?
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Old Jul 24, 12, 9:57 pm
  #2781  
 
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Originally Posted by chinatraderjmr View Post
That would make your friend probably the only person that really believed these tickets would be honored. What reason would he have for "counting on" a 4 mile fare? It only took a day for Shannon to make even an unofficial comment. For a person to still make a financial decision after that just shows at best very wishful thinking and at worst a total break with reality.
I hate rehash this, but I will for chinatraderjmr because I loved his thread about refunding $132k woth of ticket to UA, and I think he deserves a well-reasoned response to his question. The simple answer is this: our experience on the RGN error fares guided our behavior for this error fare.

Background:
1. DOT published some new regulations that took effect earlier this year. They said an airline cannot raise the price of an airline ticket after it is issued. DOT published guidance that the new regulations included 'mistake' fares; they said the new regulations were extended to award tickets, and the full price of a ticket is the price "in miles and money".

2. A few months ago, near the end of April, the first major test of these new laws occurred. The government of Yangon revalued their currency from 6 kyat per dollar to 800 kyat per dollar, a factor of over 100. Sometime after the devaluation of the currency, a group of people noticed and posted on FT that first and business-class fares originating in RGN were pricing out at a few hundred dollars each way. A feeding frenzy ensued. I will refer to this incident as the "RGN error fare".

3. Several airlines issued tickets under these RGN error fares, but the hardest hit was Korean Air, who managed to issue the tickets in their 'premium first' suites instead of business class. Korean Air contacted all of the travel agents who issued these tickets and instructed them to cancel the tickets because this was a mistake fare.

4. DOT enforced the new regulations and worked actively with customers to see that their tickets were reinstated, often intervening in communications between the airline, the travel agent, and the customer. Everyone who had these canceled tickets were eventually reinstated, and people have been flying the tickets for months now.

So why on earth would we think DOT would balk on this one?

The 'reasonableness' of the mistake was not an issue for RGN, those tickets were arguably the same order of magnitude 'mistake'. If I price a similar RGN ticket now, it's $17,000 and I bought it for around $600. Is that mistake so much less obvious that paying $40 for a $10k valued ticket? Especially when UA sells miles at ~2 cents per mile, a better metric for the value of my HKG ticket was $3000 or so. A 30-fold price error is not qualitatively different from a 75-fold or 100-fold price error. Are we to think DOT draws the line at a 50-fold mistake?

Further, if UA wants to claim that the error was not a mistake because 'both prices' were listed, DOT clearly states in the regulations (not the guidance) that listing two prices, with similar prominence and font size, is inherently a deceptive trade practice as defined by the regulations.

Based on those facts, how can United differentiate their mistake from the RGN mistake? "It's not obvious" or "it's not fair" or "it's an award ticket" or "it wasn't deceptive" are not defenses or exceptions, according to the DOT.

More than I even want the ticket, I do want the DOT to rule on this, so we aren't plagued with weeks of speculation on the next error fare. I do think that if the DOT does not take a clear stance on this issue, that an FOIA request is in order, because, as an American citizen, I have a right to know what my government is doing with my tax dollars. I think a government agency ought to be accountable for interpretations of regulations that they are allowed to enact after only a cursory 'public comment' period. I think the DOT has some basic obligation of decency to not rule one way for KE and another for UA. Consumers have the right to know exactly where the line is drawn when an airline ticket is issued.

FWIW, I think the DOT regulations do leave the airline bare to multi-million dollar errors, and I would not be distressed if DOT levels the playing field by giving airlines a 24-hour cancel period to match consumers'.
Originally Posted by DianeDakota View Post
Okay but still my original question stands. Was it reasonable for him to believe that United would honor such a gross error when the mileage requirements are standard amounts and no reduced mileage sale was advertised? Did he cause his own harm by doing so? Those are the kinds of questions that are asked when lawyers get involved.
See above. While I don't know if it was smart to rely on it, I do think it was entirely within reason and with a legal basis, given the DOT's previous rulings. I certainly wouldn't have advised him to book a non-refundable ticket as a backup plan in case UA canceled the tickets.

In fact, given the DOT regulations, which supersede any common law mistake doctrine for generic contracts, I would say that if he were forced to buy a last-minute walk-up ticket, he could probably recover the value in court. Would I try that? No. But there are lots of things on the lawbooks I don't agree with. I still respect his right to seek redress when the law is clearly on his side, even if common sense isn't. <shrug>

At this point, I think it is futile to post more in this thread until we see more action from DOT, so I'm ducking out at this point. Good luck to all!
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Old Jul 24, 12, 10:08 pm
  #2782  
 
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Originally Posted by Milezjunkie View Post
No, many tickets are not canceled.

Will someone else that has not had their ticket canceled posted what they are planning to do? I still have two valid tickets and the receipt has been updated to reflect the actual payment (FAR less miles than normally required) but I need a date change. Has anyone contacted UA? I may just wait a few months before calling.
Yes, I would wait a few months. And I would be careful about attempting to make changes (i.e. have a strategy.)

As for posting about them -- I've actually come to believe that UA is not going to touch these special cases, because even their lawyers have told them they will lose if they do. (And to those who don't know what I'm talking about..... so be it.)
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Old Jul 24, 12, 10:30 pm
  #2783  
 
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http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/A...ed-3731020.php

Not difficult to foresee the turn this discussion will take now. Some have already staked out their positions.
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Old Jul 24, 12, 10:50 pm
  #2784  
 
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Originally Posted by Firewind View Post
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/A...ed-3731020.php

Not difficult to foresee the turn this discussion will take now. Some have already staked out their positions.
I don't see this changing the argument here at all. Everybody pretty much agrees that the DOT has the authority to do whatever it wants. What is unknown, is whether they will force UA to honor the 4-mile tickets. If they just remain silent, then United wins.
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Old Jul 25, 12, 2:45 am
  #2785  
 
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Originally Posted by janetdoe View Post
I hate rehash this, but I will for chinatraderjmr because I loved his thread about refunding $132k woth of ticket to UA, and I think he deserves a well-reasoned response to his question. The simple answer is this: our experience on the RGN error fares guided our behavior for this error fare.

Background:
1. DOT published some new regulations that took effect earlier this year. They said an airline cannot raise the price of an airline ticket after it is issued. DOT published guidance that the new regulations included 'mistake' fares; they said the new regulations were extended to award tickets, and the full price of a ticket is the price "in miles and money".

2. A few months ago, near the end of April, the first major test of these new laws occurred. The government of Yangon revalued their currency from 6 kyat per dollar to 800 kyat per dollar, a factor of over 100. Sometime after the devaluation of the currency, a group of people noticed and posted on FT that first and business-class fares originating in RGN were pricing out at a few hundred dollars each way. A feeding frenzy ensued. I will refer to this incident as the "RGN error fare".

3. Several airlines issued tickets under these RGN error fares, but the hardest hit was Korean Air, who managed to issue the tickets in their 'premium first' suites instead of business class. Korean Air contacted all of the travel agents who issued these tickets and instructed them to cancel the tickets because this was a mistake fare.

4. DOT enforced the new regulations and worked actively with customers to see that their tickets were reinstated, often intervening in communications between the airline, the travel agent, and the customer. Everyone who had these canceled tickets were eventually reinstated, and people have been flying the tickets for months now.

So why on earth would we think DOT would balk on this one?

The 'reasonableness' of the mistake was not an issue for RGN, those tickets were arguably the same order of magnitude 'mistake'. If I price a similar RGN ticket now, it's $17,000 and I bought it for around $600. Is that mistake so much less obvious that paying $40 for a $10k valued ticket? Especially when UA sells miles at ~2 cents per mile, a better metric for the value of my HKG ticket was $3000 or so. A 30-fold price error is not qualitatively different from a 75-fold or 100-fold price error. Are we to think DOT draws the line at a 50-fold mistake?

Further, if UA wants to claim that the error was not a mistake because 'both prices' were listed, DOT clearly states in the regulations (not the guidance) that listing two prices, with similar prominence and font size, is inherently a deceptive trade practice as defined by the regulations.

Based on those facts, how can United differentiate their mistake from the RGN mistake? "It's not obvious" or "it's not fair" or "it's an award ticket" or "it wasn't deceptive" are not defenses or exceptions, according to the DOT.

More than I even want the ticket, I do want the DOT to rule on this, so we aren't plagued with weeks of speculation on the next error fare. I do think that if the DOT does not take a clear stance on this issue, that an FOIA request is in order, because, as an American citizen, I have a right to know what my government is doing with my tax dollars. I think a government agency ought to be accountable for interpretations of regulations that they are allowed to enact after only a cursory 'public comment' period. I think the DOT has some basic obligation of decency to not rule one way for KE and another for UA. Consumers have the right to know exactly where the line is drawn when an airline ticket is issued.

FWIW, I think the DOT regulations do leave the airline bare to multi-million dollar errors, and I would not be distressed if DOT levels the playing field by giving airlines a 24-hour cancel period to match consumers'.
See above. While I don't know if it was smart to rely on it, I do think it was entirely within reason and with a legal basis, given the DOT's previous rulings. I certainly wouldn't have advised him to book a non-refundable ticket as a backup plan in case UA canceled the tickets.

In fact, given the DOT regulations, which supersede any common law mistake doctrine for generic contracts, I would say that if he were forced to buy a last-minute walk-up ticket, he could probably recover the value in court. Would I try that? No. But there are lots of things on the lawbooks I don't agree with. I still respect his right to seek redress when the law is clearly on his side, even if common sense isn't. <shrug>

At this point, I think it is futile to post more in this thread until we see more action from DOT, so I'm ducking out at this point. Good luck to all!
I think this is by far the best post on this thread bar-none.
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Old Jul 25, 12, 5:24 am
  #2786  
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Originally Posted by Eryeal View Post
I think this is by far the best post on this thread bar-none.
+1
Kudos to janetdoe on an excellent and accurate summary.
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Old Jul 25, 12, 6:12 am
  #2787  
 
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Originally Posted by Eryeal View Post
I think this is by far the best post on this thread bar-none.
+1 for me too. Of course some here aren't much interested in the facts, and would rather just repeatedly state their opinion (unconstrained by said facts).
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Old Jul 25, 12, 6:30 am
  #2788  
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Originally Posted by Eryeal View Post
I think this is by far the best post on this thread bar-none.
Originally Posted by SFO777 View Post
+1
Kudos to janetdoe on an excellent and accurate summary.
Originally Posted by burmans View Post
+1 for me too. Of course some here aren't much interested in the facts, and would rather just repeatedly state their opinion (unconstrained by said facts).
And another +1 to janetdoe's post.

I'd add that since UA has chosen to use a thoroughly deficient IT system that causes manifold problems for many passengers, it deserves what it gets when that system causes it problems. But that's a separate line of argument than jd's very well reasoned post.
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Old Jul 25, 12, 7:19 am
  #2789  
 
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Originally Posted by Eryeal View Post
I think this is by far the best post on this thread bar-none.
+4

In fact janetdoe's post is one of the best stated posts on that side of the issue, that I've seen here or in other forums on this matter. I agree 100%. All we can do at the moment is see what happens with the DOT decision.

Last edited by 84fiero; Jul 25, 12 at 7:20 am Reason: typo
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Old Jul 25, 12, 8:16 am
  #2790  
 
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Originally Posted by Eryeal View Post
I think this is by far the best post on this thread bar-none.
+1, cannot agree more.
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