How to Not Miss $50 First Class Seats or Other Travel Deals

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Starting before I woke up this morning Flyertalk, miles and points blogs, and Twitter caught fire with talk about $50 – $100 international first class fares and Denmark.  You may have seen it.  I hope you saw it.  It’s over now, but you can read more about it here if you are curiousUpdate: United has made a statement that tickets will be voided and not honored.  Some folks (not me) will be filing DOT complaints, so keep the popcorn coming cause this one isn’t over yet…

When my husband is out of town and I’m doing the single parent thing in the morning to get my kid to school, I don’t have the luxury of writing posts early in the day.  That means I didn’t write about this deal before it died, but instead I want to now write about how to make sure you don’t miss out on similar offers in the future.

1.  Follow some miles and points people on Twitter or Facebook.

I don’t care if you think social media and selfies are leading to the downfall of society (even though you may be right), it is also contributing to the real-time sharing of amazing travel deals.  Even if you don’t use social media at all for your “real life”, use it for travel deals, and follow some key people who can keep you in the loop.  I didn’t have time to write a post about this first class deal this morning, but I was sure to re-tweet the information from someone else who had.  If you are new to Twitter, here is a post on some people I recommend following.  At the very least, follow at least five or so different miles and points bloggers that you like, and that will get you started in the right direction.  You can find me @mommy_points.

There are also various miles and points private threads, forums, and informal groups of friends that share these sort of deals with each other, so it pays to network outside of just social media sites, too.

2.  Check social media regularly, including before you go to bed and when you wake up.

Okay, this is where it might cross into the world of crazy-town, and if you are someone who doesn’t check your phone last thing before bed and first thing in the morning then good for you.  I’m a little envious and don’t ruin your life change your routine to emphasize your smart phone just because I said to, but know that you will miss out on some key travel deals if you only check-in during normal business hours.  I’ve missed plenty of deals because I go to bed too early or get up too late, which I’m okay with, but I always kick myself when I miss them just because I didn’t spend 10 seconds glancing at Twitter.

If a deal is big enough, it will be easy to spot on social media because everyone in the miles and points world will start sharing it.  Normally deals will be on Twitter before they are in actual blog posts (since blog posts take more time to write than a Tweet), so you don’t need to stalk the blogs all day long, just keep an eye on social media.

3.  Have a list of places you want to go and dates you can travel. 

When there is a “sale” like $100 first class international tickets, you can bet it will be a time limited opportunity. It may last minutes, or at best a couple of hours.  The closer you are to normal working hours in the location that the deal originated, the shorter the period of time the deal usually lives.  This means you never know how much time you have left to make a decision, but it usually isn’t very long.  You have to be decisive and move quickly if you want in on the deal.  If you have a partner who normally likes to think travel plans over for a long period of time before acting, that won’t align well with jumping on limited time deals.  I recommend explaining to them how these limited time situations work and ask them to trust you if you ever have to book something faster than they usually like.  My family has gotten used to the process and learned to “just say yes”, but they used to move too slowly to snag killer deals.

To move this quickly, you need to have a written or mental list of everywhere you would like to go in the next 12 months, as well as travel dates that would work.  Then just use that list to book now and ask questions later if a deal matches up with where you want to go.  You can typically cancel your airline tickets within 24 hours of reservation for tickets more than 7 days out, so there is usually an out if you change  your mind later in the day and decide you don’t want to go anymore.  However, you can’t decide you wanted in after the deal is dead.  You also can’t decide to add friends or family to the reservation after the deal is dead, so if the price is low enough, or you can refund it later in the day, I say book for too many as opposed to too few.

4.  Know that it may not work out. 

Some deals ultimately are not honored because they were mistakes rather than deals.  It truly isn’t always possible to know a mistake from a deal at first, though sometimes you might have a gut feeling on which is which.  Even mistakes are honored sometimes, so you can’t possibly get in on the deal if you don’t try.  However, sometimes the mistakes are not honored and the reservations are either cancelled, or you have to fight like heck to have yours honored.  I’m not much of a fighter over things like that, so I recommend not counting on something to be honored until it is.  Sometimes you will be very pleasantly surprised.  Airline tickets that go through the United States are typically honored because of regulations (though that may change in the future and there are caveats), but hotel reservations, or airline tickets where there aren’t those regulations are more in jeopardy of being cancelled in the event it was an error and not a sale.

Usually you will know within a week or two if something will be honored, so during that time I wouldn’t book any other non-refundable portions of the trip.  Some people have learned to book these sort of “sales” for immediate departure before they can be cancelled, but I imagine most families probably won’t have that as a viable option.

5.  Don’t do something you aren’t comfortable with.

Some of the sales are really legit sales.  Some are mistakes where the price has been fat fingered, currency conversions are off, or some other factor is causing a trip to price for less than it normally does.  Again, you can’t always tell which his which as I have seen true sales offering $1 flights between the US and Europe (with taxes added on top of the $1 fare).  Earlier this morning I could buy a tickets for my family of three from London to Houston in United BusinessFirst one-way for 1,013 DKK if I told the United site my billing country was Denmark.  For those not familiar with Danish Krone, that is the equivalent of about $153 USD for three one-way business class tickets from London to Houston.  Lots of people jumped at the chance to buy tickets for that price.  Some others said that would be “wrong” or “fraudulent” and sat on the sidelines.

United BusinessFirst for $50

United BusinessFirst for $50

I’m not saying either group is right, but I am saying just do what you are comfortable with.  If a website displays a price and you want to book it, go for it.  If a website displays a price and you have a gut feeling that price is too low and you don’t feel comfortable booking it, then that’s okay too.  Some of this will be in the grey area, and where that grey turns to white or black will be different from person to person.  If you manipulate browsers, open up duplicate frequent flyer accounts, etc. it is possible the airline may shut down your accounts.

Who all got in on this round of sales?

 

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Comments

  1. Was in the booking process, and darn near had it booked when it all shut down. I missed out by literally minutes. A little bummed by that, but I’m also pretty full on trips this year so it’s hard to complain too much.

  2. A bit off topic but from what I’ve read I’ve only come across one person who actually had a successful booking and when he checked is credit card it booked as $906 US dollars instead of the 906 Denmark dollars. Which is a BIG difference.

  3. Good Afternoon,

    I was able to book 2 J class tickets from Heathrow to Newark, and 1 J class ticket from Heathrow to ORD. United usually sends out 2 emails per purchase. 1 is a purchase confirmation, and the other is an eticket. I received the purchase confirmation, but not the eticket, however, when I look into my account, it does say ticketed and confirmed.

    You mention that it can take up to two weeks to cancel, but how will they do it? Will I be notified, or will it just be deleted from my account? At what point is it safe to say that the tickets are real, and I can start booking non-refundable hotels/airline tickets to complete the journey?

    Thank you.

    • same exact situation for me, processing email says call if you don’t receive 2nd email within 3 hrs. I am suspecting this won’t get honored. Any ideas on Jason’s questions?

  4. Lucky!! Good for them. Hope they get it.

    I was midway through my booking when things started to get updated. Missed it by “that” much.

    • Fraudulent may be a bit strong. It wouldn’t surprise me if they aren’t honored. I am sure United will do whatever they can not to. We shall see.

      • For those whose credit card billing address is not in Denmark, I don’t see how the purchases aren’t fraudulent. Granted, I don’t think anyone is going to be prosecuted over this “fraud,” but United could close people’s MP accounts as punishment.

  5. For the fun of it, I priced out 5 one-way tickets LHR to SFO on January 2, had all names in and seats selected, about to put in payment info but decided to drop it! LOL it was fun and crazy at the same time.. If my travel schedule isn’t already full for the year, I probably would have gone through the whole purchase. Some day .. 🙂

  6. I bought one from LHR to CVG. On UA metal in F for $57 in Oct. I have not received a “ticketed” email and I am not holding my breath that it will be honored.

    I have a trip planned to Paris in Oct. I thought I could just take the train to London and catch the 3:20 pm flight.

    I am traveling on an airline employee companion pass, so if this doesn’t work, it’s not a big deal to me.

    However, I am kicking myself for not booking the 3 LHR-CVG tickets I had sitting there for Dec 23. A few days in London at Christmas time would have been nice for the family.

  7. If you are a resident of Denmark then they might honor your mistake fare ticket, but if you changed your mailing address to a Danish one to take advantage of this mistake fare, United would in my opidnion be justified in closing your Mileageplus Account and press charges for fraud. And rightly so! You know it’s wrong, you know it’s a mistake, and you are even fudging with the address to get it to work.

  8. I got two tix LHR-EWR $50 USD each for Nov 29th aka thanksgiving in the UK!

    I ALWAYS tell people to follow you specifically on twitter. This is the first deal in a while that you didn’t have it first! I follow all “usual suspects” about 6 bloggers and time and time again it seems like mommypoints has the best deals first!

  9. Interesting twist for those that say fraudulent…what if you didn’t put Denmark as your credit card billing address but instead chose to pay via Western Union or similar?

    I’m just saying, there is grey area even with things like this. It will be interesting to see how it develops.

    Lauren, if it is an early morning thing, I’m unlikely to be first thanks to morning routines. View From the Wing gets up the earliest, so he is the best source for these things. Some of the West Coast bloggers are best for the late night things. If you follow 6 or so you are probably covered. 😉

    • Right is right and wrong is wrong. Stop with the moral relativism, please!!

      In order to take advantage of this “deal”, it required being untruthful. It has nothing at all to do with what or what not makes me “comfortable”. There are deals to be had where you need not lie in order to participate. This wasn’t one of them.

      • How about United not allowing AwardWallet to let its members track their United miles because it wants to “protect” its customers? Would that be considered wrong? How about United ceasing to make payments to its employees’ pension fund after they were promised one? Should that be considered wrong?

        • Oh please. Stop trying to rationalize with unrelated factors.

          Is it ok for a store employee to rob your house or apartment because you once got more change than deserved from a store cashier but didn’t return it??

          • No, it’s not ok. That’s a terrible analogy dude. I personally don’t need rationalizing. If the cheap fare is available I don’t need to try to convince myself why it’s justifiable. I won’t feel a bit guilty about it. If you believe is wrong and won’t do it, more power to you, but keep that to yourself. Nobody here needs a lecture on what’s right or wrong. I think it’s highly hypocritical to ask regular people to blindly play by the “rules” when large corporations spend billions to avoid paying taxes, bribe foreign officials and avoid following those same rules. Last year United was pricing out at 4 miles for first class, and those got ticketed. Yet against DOT regulations, they went ahead and said they wouldn’t honor them, and that was the end of it, just because they could.

      • Ron, you seem to be very ignorant of the facts. This deal certainly didn’t require being untruthful. There’s no need to lie, no need at all. Airlines choose to price their tickets differently for sale in different markets, and the people who bought these tickets took them up on it. Now, one could certainly make an argument for moral absolutism, that the price of a good or service should be identical in every market, but to do so one would need to argue against the laws of supply and demand, and it would only work in an extreme right wing command economy.

        • Tanya, I disagree with Ron, but I also don’t think this was a “sale” to the Danish market. This was a good ol’ fashion IT/algebra screw up. Let’s not try to rationalize it in a different way to justify booking it. If you’re ok with booking, great, if not, that’s great too. But any reasonable person knows this wasn’t a sale. This was mistake fare to the Nth power.

        • Tanya, seriously?

          What rational person with any travel experience would construe this as a sale fare and not an IT mistake?

          To take advantage of this “deal”, one had to lie, by misrepresenting your country, on the website, as Denmark instead of the United States in order to take advantage of the erroneous currency conversion.

          Far different than some mistake fares where no misrepresentation is required in order to snag the deal.

          I suspect that you know this just as well as I do.

  10. LHR-IAH for 2 the Sunday after Thanksgiving for ~$100! Was looking for award tix then anyway so if this sticks I’ll save a lot of miles!

  11. I booked mine a little differently. Made it so it was basically 1.5 trips. Booked a flight from LHR to the states and then a round trip from a different US city to FRA using the multi city all in first class with the FRA portion being on the A380 with Lufthansa. Ended up costing me $200 apiece per ticket. Now all I have to do is get to London for the first leg and it will be two different European trips. First in May and second in September. I really hope this holds up but if it doesn’t it was a lot of fun and excitement booking it.

  12. Hi all, quick question, I was able to have my reservation confirmed, but could not purchase it online, do you think is worth while to send the money through western union (as one of the options stated on the united.com website) or they will just cancel it?

  13. No I did not put Denmark as country in my billing address because I always think the system needs to verify the CC# matches the billing address. That said, I booked 2 NCL-EWR for 608DKK. Earlier,I checked online thru Manage Reservation and it says ticketed.

  14. Sure, the one morning I don’t check my Twitter feed!
    I hope everyone who booked is able to fly, but I have a feeling this won’t get honored.
    As for whether this is morally wrong, I disagree. Would I kick and scream if they don’t honor it? No. Let’s be honest. We all know that this is a mistake fare. Any reasonable person knows a first class seat doesn’t cost $50. But is it morally wrong? Airlines in general do not find it’s morally wrong to charge a $200 cancellation fee even when your flight is still 3 months away, or devaluate their charts without warning. How about charging the same fuel surcharges when the price of fuel has dropped more than half? When an employee fat-fingers a number by mistake, that’s on them. If it’s available and bookable, all bets are off. I have no sympathy for any of the airlines, especially United.

    • I agree with you 100 percent!

      What some call fraud, I call arbitrage.

      The airlines also don’t care if they bump you from a flight and leave you stranded. Why should I care if they can’t get their conversion rate right?

      I won’t scream bloody murder if these tickets are cancelled, but I certainly don’t think what I did was wrong.

  15. Snagged two tickets LHR-IAH without issue. Received the “confirmation” email from United, but no follow-up. Ticket numbers show in the reservation on my MP account. Some bloggers have told me that UA will be reaching out in the next couple days to those who purchased (hopefully not to inform of cancellation). Good luck!

  16. Summer, have you flown the United Business Class that’s in it a 2-4-2 configuration? (It’s a Boeing 777-200 with three cabins.) If this goes through I need to decide how to seat my family of three. I doubt a business flier would want to be in the same row as us and our then-18 month old daughter, but being 2 on 1 instead of 1 on 1 would be nice! I know sometimes the seats that are next to each other feel more private though.

  17. Update: United has made a statement that tickets will be voided and not honored. Some folks (not me) will be filing DOT complaints, so keep the popcorn coming cause this one isn’t over yet…

  18. Nice post. I like the idea about having a tentative idea about travels and date possibilities in mind … like with the school year calendar. I can do without more social media 🙂

    Have been following the UA fiasco at a distance, and find it amazing that the FF community can be aggrieved at what is perceived as unfair treatment by Delta (I tend to agree), but many of those same folks will try to exploit an extreme and obvious IT glitch … no sane person can think those fares were anything but erroneous. We all can argue about where the line is on gaming the system, but those transcontinental first class fares weren’t – quite obviously – within the system … that before even considering the Danish billing addressing. Reflects badly on us all, and a sad incident for the hobbyists who think of this as an adventurous endeavor to travel a little more affordably and comfortably.

  19. I made this comment on another blogger’s post regarding the fallout, and I’ll make it again here. It looks like people are conflating two different things. One thing is to hate United and hate them for their practices and feel vindication about snagging an amazing deal. The other is to lie to yourself about what is the truth. In other words, if you do not live in Denmark and the transaction requires you to say that you do in order to process the transaction, then just because you hate United or want to get in on the deal it still doesn’t make it right to say that you do live in Denmark, when, in fact your don’t. So you’re still lying about where you live in order to proceed and get the deal. So those are two separate issues, at least for me. In other words, feeling anger and vindication at United doesn’t make the lying go away. Naturally, for some people this would constitute a tiny lie, and for others it’s unethical. I think that’s why some folks, like me, wouldn’t pull the trigger. I’m totally okay with having not snagged this deal, and naturally would be totally okay if I had, as long as it didn’t cross my own personal ethical line. Again, that line will be located in different places for every individual, and this would be a great question to pose to a college philosophy class. I wonder what most students would answer and how they would rationalize their decisions. Deals like these come and go and there’s always a next time.

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