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2014 UA Issued Awards on Air China (CA) Are Mysteriously Being Canceled (Hacked?)

2014 UA Issued Awards on Air China (CA) Are Mysteriously Being Canceled (Hacked?)

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Old May 13, 14, 4:42 am   -   Wikipost
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A number of folks with award flights booked on CA (Air China) found their reservations cancelled. The only notification of cancellation appears to be an email in from UA written in chinese. UA reps confirmed that cancellations were made online and CA award space was no longer available. UA can rebook on other flights when award space is available.

It is plausible that a third party with access to PNR and pax name on the flight can fraudulently cancel an existing itinerary and book the reopened award seat.

Affected FlyerTalk members — with links to where in this discussion they posted their experiences — include:
  1. MikeMpls
  2. nihaoa
  3. lewende Reported 4 friends with this issue
  4. ordbkk
  5. twebst
  6. kb1992
  7. litesleeper
  8. zombietooth
  9. critten Reported 2/3 confirmations (3 people CA Business class) cancelled at the same time
  10. skyvanman Also 1 friend with the issue
  11. chris1234
  12. atiger29
  13. bubble o bill
  14. genemk2
  15. jefftiger
  16. CuddlyFlyer
  17. gpeso8
  18. imm2b
  19. acf1270
  20. dgxoxo
  21. ACM two passengers
Originally Posted by ordbkk View Post
It seems everybody wants to see the message.. here was mine:
united.com 通知 - 航班预订取消
2014年4月17日 (星期四)
united.com | 优惠促销 | 预订 | 赢取前程万里 (MileagePlus®) 奖励里程 | 我的帐户

先生 ORDBKK
您的预订 MYRES123 已取消,我们已收到您的退款申请。申请信用卡退款需 7 个工作日。如果信用卡退款未在一个付款周期内寄出,请联系信用卡公司。对于包括现金退款在内的 所有其他形式 的付款,需要 20 个工作日。

如需详细信息或查看退款的状态,请访问 united.com 并提供您的机票号码。

感谢您使用 united.com

电子邮件信息
请不要使用“回复”地址回复此邮件。
此电子邮件中的信息仅供原接收人使用。
如果您遇到技术问题,请通过电子邮件或电话联系 united.com 服务支持。
通知:机票取消确认
电子邮件地址: [email protected]

Originally Posted by ordbkk View Post
For tracking purposes, I went through the 27 pages of this thread and compiled a list of those affected:

MikeMpls
nihaoa
lewende (reported 4 friends with this issue)
ordbkk
twebst
kb1992
litesleeper
zombietooth
critten
skyvanman (also 1 friend with the issue)
jefftiger (but, happened during October 2013)

So we're at 13 people affected, although some like critten have had multiple trips canceled.
From what I understand, all of these occurred in the last 3 weeks.
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:08 pm
  #361  
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Chicago
Programs: UA 1k
Posts: 83
Originally Posted by critten View Post
ohh surprising, united cant put me back on the CA flights because they sold out 10 mins after my flights were cancelled
What date was your IAH-PEK leg? That was our flight too (CA996).

Originally Posted by critten View Post
websupport confirms it was air china cancellation after explaining the situation and looking at the logs. still on the phone but operator is not too optimistic in getting reservations back for CA. At least someone sees what this thread has thought all along.
Can you ask what exactly they mean by Air China cancellation ? I was told an individual logged into the site and requested cancellation (which is why they initially blamed me).

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Apr 21, 14 at 6:01 am Reason: merge
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:15 pm
  #362  
 
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Originally Posted by ordbkk View Post
Can you ask what exactly they mean by Air China cancellation ? I was told an individual logged into the site and requested cancellation (which is why they initially blamed me).
pmed flight- waiting on websupport to get back and i will ask them

They see documentation of cancellation came from me, but according to the websupport the person, the person who cancelled went on as a guest (not logged in to my account) to cancel without logging in

Which i guess may be a stretch to blame air china, but I know I would always log in to get better premier availability.

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Apr 21, 14 at 6:00 am Reason: merge
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:21 pm
  #363  
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Originally Posted by critten View Post
ohh surprising, united cant put me back on the CA flights because they sold out 10 mins after my flights were cancelled
This sounds suspiciously like whoever cancelled your award ticket grabbed the space right away. The odds of this happening naturally within ten minutes for some particular flight when there's no relation between the person who cancelled it and the new tickets would seem unlikely.
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:23 pm
  #364  
 
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Originally Posted by critten View Post
They see documentation of cancellation came from me, but according to the websupport the person, the person who cancelled went on as a guest (not logged in to my account) to cancel without logging in
Okay, that matches what I was told. So it wasn't an official Air China cancellation, it was somebody doing it anonymously.

Originally Posted by critten View Post
Which i guess may be a stretch to blame air china, but I know I would always log in to get better premier availability.
There is no evidence that points to Air China any more or less than anybody else who has access to your confirmation number.

Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
This sounds suspiciously like whoever cancelled your award ticket grabbed the space right away. The odds of this happening naturally within ten minutes for some particular flight when there's no relation between the person who cancelled it and the new tickets would seem unlikely.
United is only saying there is no longer any open award space. It's possible that the cancelled award seats do not immediately become available, so United finds none even though the seats are open.

Although it's possible the seats do become immediately available, and then my money is on a travel broker who accepts extra money to "find" open space where nobody else can.

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Apr 21, 14 at 6:00 am Reason: merge
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:28 pm
  #365  
 
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
This sounds suspiciously like whoever cancelled your award ticket grabbed the space right away. The odds of this happening naturally within ten minutes for some particular flight when there's no relation between the person who cancelled it and the new tickets would seem unlikely.
I agree and told them this on the phone. It is noon in China but Air China North america is closed sweet - can't do anything till the morning.

Originally Posted by ordbkk View Post
United is only saying there is no longer any open award space. It's possible that the cancelled award seats do not immediately become available, so United finds none even though the seats are open.

Although it's possible the seats do become immediately available, and then my money is on a travel broker who accepts extra money to "find" open space where nobody else can.
I agree - but they somehow re booked my asiana (sold out business class) and ua metal already.

Last edited by FlyinHawaiian; Apr 21, 14 at 6:01 am Reason: merge
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:38 pm
  #366  
 
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Originally Posted by ordbkk View Post
... It's possible that the cancelled award seats do not immediately become available, so United finds none even though the seats are open.

Although it's possible the seats do become immediately available, and then my money is on a travel broker who accepts extra money to "find" open space where nobody else can.
While it might be the case the cancelled seats on the Air China flights don't go back into award right away, my guess is that Air China allows members of their own frequent flyer program to waitlist on awards (I know several Asian carriers allow their members to waitlist for awards for flights on their own metal)?

My speculation is that a mileage broker may have had their clients waitlisted on the Air China flights for the desired travel dates, made a phone call to one of their "corrupt contacts" at Air China (someone who has a way to pull up passenger lists) for the name/UA PNR of anyone with existing reservations, and then go to the United website to cancel the booking.

Once the reservation is cancelled, even if it takes a few hours for the seats to go back into award inventory, those who have already waitlisted for them (Air China FF members) would automatically have them confirmed.
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:45 pm
  #367  
 
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Originally Posted by daniellam View Post
While it might be the case the cancelled seats on the Air China flights don't go back into award right away, my guess is that Air China allows members of their own frequent flyer program to waitlist on awards (I know several Asian carriers allow their members to waitlist for awards for flights on their own metal)?
This reminded me of something the United rep told me after she tried in vain to call Air China and have me tickets reinstated. The CA rep told her the only option was to add us to the award waitlist, but the United staff has no way to do that for another carrier. So you're probably right, CA does have a waitlist for award seats.
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:50 pm
  #368  
 
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Originally Posted by ordbkk View Post
This reminded me of something the United rep told me after she tried in vain to call Air China and have me tickets reinstated. The CA rep told her the only option was to add us to the award waitlist, but the United staff has no way to do that for another carrier. So you're probably right, CA does have a waitlist for award seats.
Award waitlists (for carriers that allow them) are usually only for members of their own FF program.

While it may be unconventional for UA to waitlist another carrier's award segment, it is technically possible to do so in Shares. Due to your extenuating situation, somehow I feel that if you escalate it further, they may relent in waitlisting the segment (but then there's no guarantee that it will clear).
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:50 pm
  #369  
 
Join Date: May 2012
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Originally Posted by daniellam View Post
While it might be the case the cancelled seats on the Air China flights don't go back into award right away, my guess is that Air China allows members of their own frequent flyer program to waitlist on awards (I know several Asian carriers allow their members to waitlist for awards for flights on their own metal)?

My speculation is that a mileage broker may have had their clients waitlisted on the Air China flights for the desired travel dates, made a phone call to one of their "corrupt contacts" at Air China (someone who has a way to pull up passenger lists) for the name/UA PNR of anyone with existing reservations, and then go to the United website to cancel the booking.

Once the reservation is cancelled, even if it takes a few hours for the seats to go back into award inventory, those who have already waitlisted for them (Air China FF members) would automatically have them confirmed.
I wonder how a broker would advertise this service, and get enough people to sign up with him then pay for doing something illegal.

If I have lost the award availability - will united put me and my party on UA Metal in the same class of service without increase in mileage cost? Told me that I should wait till morning so that when they call CA they can show that I don't have another valid trip and need that flight.

Last operator was very nice, documented, and filed a report on it - but not optimistic at all on being able to force CA to re-open the seats for the lost awards.
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:54 pm
  #370  
 
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Originally Posted by critten View Post
I wonder how a broker would advertise this service, and get enough people to sign up with him then pay for doing something illegal.
There are places where things might be a bit more informal than you're used to.
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Old Apr 20, 14, 10:55 pm
  #371  
 
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Originally Posted by DaviddesJ View Post
Originally Posted by ordbkk View Post
A simple fix would be to generate two "codes": the PNR, and a passcode.
That's effective but not simple. Given what I've seen of UA IT, this would take them months to implement across their own system, at least. And just training all of the call center staff on the passcodes and when to require them and what to do when people don't know them would be a big project. It's also not clear that you could get all of the third-party systems that make reservations on UA to even pass on the passcodes to their users.
Another method that is easier to implement is to require members to be logged in to the UA account before being allowed to make changes to or cancel their reservations.

For reservations of those who are not UA members, the reservation must have an e-mail address in it in order for changes to be made (including the e-mail address itself). When a change (including changing the existing e-mail address, seat assignment, flights etc)/cancellation is attempted, the passenger will receive an e-mail with a link that they must click on before they are taken back to the website to do the change/cancellation.
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Old Apr 20, 14, 11:16 pm
  #372  
 
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Originally Posted by daniellam View Post
Another method that is easier to implement is to require members to be logged in to the UA account before being allowed to make changes to or cancel their reservations.
Don't forget the only thing protecting our accounts is a 4-digit number. Get rid of that, and allow a true password, and I'm okay with this.
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Old Apr 20, 14, 11:19 pm
  #373  
 
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Originally Posted by ordbkk View Post
Don't forget the only thing protecting our accounts is a 4-digit number. Get rid of that, and allow a true password, and I'm okay with this.
Well, at least that 4-digit number can't be discovered through a magical query on a GDS system.

I hope...
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Old Apr 20, 14, 11:23 pm
  #374  
 
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well this whole night has been a nightmare with all the cancellations - and possible adjustments. Just a giant mess - 1/4 people still on the same flight, 3 in limbo - either re-book all four, get them back on CA, or something, but it'll be one messy phone call that I have yet to see any possible satisfaction for me from other examples here.

I can't believe what the people without FT are doing. This has got to be a widespread issue by now?
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Old Apr 20, 14, 11:31 pm
  #375  
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Originally Posted by ordbkk View Post
I've looked for threads similar to this one on the other forums, but so far every one I've read has been a United placed reservation, including at least one F or C class flight on CA.
Sure, but if you were, say, a German with Lufthansa miles booking an award ticket to China on CA, would you post on FT?
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