Did You Get in on the 4 United Miles “Oops Fare” to China?

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We were having a lazy day watching the Weather Channel and doing puzzles while it rained outside, when all of the sudden the internet basically “lit up” with news of the “mistake fare” (which in this case was a mistake reward mileage amount) to/from China on United.  I first saw the news on View From the Wing and ignored it for a while – I have tons of trips already booked, and China wasn’t on my short list with Little C while she is still little.  However, after more texts, messages, and emails came in, I changed my mind and decided “what the heck?”.

My husband laughed when I asked if he wanted to go to China, so I booked myself, my kiddo, and my mom for June 2013 from Houston to Hong Kong.  I didn’t ask Grandma Points in advance if she wanted to go, I just booked, and booked as soon as I found a routing that would work.  These things don’t last long, so it is important to book first and ask questions later.  I think this mistake lasted about two hours once it basically went viral in the miles and points world.

I had been unsuccessfully trying to book tickets to Shanghai, but then thanks to the advice of others, switched to Hong Kong as it was working more reliably.  My dad has made it clear that flying from Houston to Las Vegas is about as long of a flight as he prefers, so I didn’t bother booking him to China since it is a smidge further than Las Vegas.  However, once he learned of the “deal” (after it was over) he said he would have thought it was hilarious to go to China for 4 miles.  Lesson learned, book Grandpa Points next time, too.

The reality is I could have booked a dog, a clown, and three strangers and quite possibly (in fact, likely) none of us will make it to China in First Class for four United miles.  That is clearly an error as roundtrip tickets to China in First Class are in the hundreds of thousands of miles range, not in the 4 miles range.  There is speculation over whether the new DOT regulations will cover award ticket bookings like this one.  I’m not holding my breath, but I am happy to throw my hat in the ring, sit back, and watch what happens.  No skin off my back if/when this isn’t honored.  Sure makes for some cheap entertainment on a Sunday afternoon!

So, who else might be headed to China?

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  1. I’m in. Booked for April. Hope it works out as my stopover in Hong Kong this year on my way to Thailand was shortened to about 18 hours instead of 2 days because of mechanical issues. I will likely fly somewhere else from Hong Kong, but getting there for 4 miles would be awesome.

  2. Sadly, I missed it. 🙁
    What’s sad is I was just wondering what I was going to do with my 1700 orphaned UA miles….

  3. Would have tried if I was at a computer but no faith in my smartphone to book.:( will be intereting to see if they honour it.

  4. We booked Newark to Hong Kong for New Years. Like you, we did this more for the fun of it than anything else. It’s doubtful it will be honored but who knows? I’m willing to wait a few days to see how it all shakes out.

  5. I booked for HKG and BKK for about 10 days in November (leaving from ORD right after the SMD4). Fingers crossed, but I’m not holding my breath.

  6. Got to the party late and the window closed while I was trying to figure out the best months to visit Hong Kong. First time trying to get a mistake fare, so next time I will take a best guess and book and maybe move the dates later. Will be interested to see how it plays out. Good education for the future.

  7. Got if for two tickets from IAD in F. Sadly one through Tokyo and one through Beijing. But…for four miles, I guess that’s OK :p.

  8. Booked myself, Mr U&A, and our two kiddos for spring break next year. I had been thinking about Ireland, but if this holds it will be a good substitute! Admittedly, I’ll enjoy walking on with a 4 and 6 year old to the first class section! Even if it doesn’t work, it certainly is fun to think about it now.

  9. Got DEN-ORD-HKG on 3/30, then HKG-NRT-DEN (on new 787 flight) a week later in first (biz first on 787) for wife and I. 8 miles and $114. Only had 7k miles in my account at the time, so they couldn’t dock me a bunch of miles (as some reported). Booked and confirmed. Would love to go, but not holding my breath.

  10. Got LIT-ORD-PEK-HKG-NRT-IAH-LIT for spring break with the family. Can anyone tell me how to get seat assignments for Air China and ANA?

  11. My husband booked myself, him, and our 5 year old son for March 2012 from Vegas to HK. Funny thing is, my husband just got back from a 10 day adventure in HK and Vietnam on a Reward ticket. When he saw the deal this morning, he didn’t blink, he just booked. We too are enjoying the entertainment of reading the blogs and the excitement of soooo many people booking!

    Love your blog…We really enjoy it!

  12. Nothing could be finer than a “4 mile” trip to China on an oops fare. Nothing could be sweeter to a texter or a tweeter than an oops fare….Good luck to all and to all a good flight.

  13. Does anyone have 1000 Chase UR to transfer to UA? Please contact me at yerffej201[at]gmail.com. I still have a ticket pending!

  14. I’m glad that the crowd here doesn’t seem as entitled to the tickets as the people over at one mile at a time.
    I didn’t book any, mainly because I was 10 minutes late the the party, I wish I had, but realistically these should be cancelled. It was very clear what you were supposed to pay, and some had to pay that much, other have to pay nothing. I’ll be shocked if UA does give the people who paid full price the option to cancel without a fee and outright cancel the tickets of those who don’t have enough miles to pay.

  15. Late for the party too. Good luck to all who booked but don’t go crazy and think about suing UA if you don’t get to travel on 4 miles.

  16. Congrats to all who got in on this! The idea of possibly getting to China for next to nothing is very exciting to think about. I agree that it makes no sense to get overly upset if this doesn’t play out the way we wish. An interesting result of this is that it really has gotten me to think about taking my family to China for a visit…..perhaps the Chinese Tourism Bureau is behind all this. 😉

  17. Even though United has a policy and is on record as saying they will honor mistakes like this (no matter how big), here is what they are saying as of Monday night:

    Hi Everyone, over the weekend, we discovered a united.com programming error that allowed customers to obtain Mileage Plus travel awards to and from Hong Kong for as little as four miles roundtrip per person, substantially below published levels, which we disclose to customers. We have since corrected the error and will be in contact with customers who have tickets issued at the incorrect award amounts. Customers will be given the choice to redeem at the correct mileage amount or re-deposit their award with all fees waived. We regret any inconvenience this has caused you, and appreciate your understanding.

    Shannon Kelly
    Director, Customer Insights
    United Airlines

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