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Evenings seem to be a hot time for developments on the United 4 Miles China-gate 2012 affair. As I was waiting to pick up supper, I saw some Facebook posts that United had started to cancel the 4 mile award tickets to China. Sure enough, when I got home and checked my reservation it has disappeared into thin air. Gone. I guess easy come, easy go.
What is interesting about the cancellation is that United had previously posted on Flyertalk and Milepoint that they “…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.”
I received no contact from United from the moment I made my reservation, until the moment they cancelled it. I’m honestly somewhat relieved the tickets were cancelled as it was all getting to be a bit much. That said, I’m not sure United could have possibly handled the situation much worse from a customer service standpoint. I’m not a big supporter of cancelling a confirmed reservation without some sort of contact from the airline. Sure, I know what is going on as I am a miles and points forum junkie and have seen their “official” posts on those sites, but I shouldn’t have to find out what is happening with my reservation on an internet message board.
On the flip side, I do give United kudos for the following statement (again made on Flyertalk and Milepoint):
Hi Everyone, I want to provide you with a further update on our Hong Kong award programming error from this past weekend. Specifically here’s how we are proceeding with these reservations:
- For those customers who had sufficient mileage in their account for the correct award amount, the correct amount of miles were deducted at the time of redemption. Any customers who do not intend to use the published number of miles for their ticket may cancel their reservation without paying a fee and we will refund all miles, taxes and fees.
- For those customers who did not have sufficient mileage in their account for the correct award amount, the correct amount of miles could not be deducted at the time of redemption. These tickets have been canceled for non-payment and all taxes and fees have been refunded.
- For those customers who have already begun travel, or are ticketed to begin travel on or before July 21, we will not cancel these tickets and will allow travel to be completed in full. This is intended as an accommodation to those customers whose travel is already underway or the departure date to begin travel is imminent.
We hope you’ll agree this was a unique circumstance. Unlike other widely reported “mistake fares,” the number of miles required for these awards – the correct purchase price – was clearly disclosed to customers throughout the MileagePlus award redemption process and is also available on our MileagePlus travel award chart.
We are in the process of communicating with affected customers at this time. Once again, we appreciate your understanding.
Director, Customer Insights
I am very glad to hear they are honoring the reservations for those folks that are already in the air, as well as for those who have imminent travel. Those folks really lucked out, and truly going to China roundtrip in first class for 4 miles! I guess it pays to be able to be extremely spontaneous with travel plans when these mistakes pop up. Of course, that level of spontaneity is not at all the reality of a family with a young kiddo. I’m sure that this is not the last you will hear of this debacle as many are now filling formal DoT complaints. Personally, I think that is a valid exercise only to find out the true limits of the new regulations. As far as I am concerned, this saga is over. Truthfully, part of me is a little relieved as it has been a bit consuming over the last five days. Some of it has been consuming in a fun way, but some of it has also turned kind of negative with battle lines being drawn and people with very strong opinions one way or another.
Congrats to those who truly did score a basically free trip from this “oops moment” brought to you by United’s IT team. Enjoy it, take pictures, and hopefully you will pay United back with loyalty and business over time. At least I know I would! For the rest of us, at least we can move on to obsessing about the “next great thing”.