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United Puts an End to Erroneous Fares

A United 737 MAX 9 on the ground in Houston. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Peter Weiland)

Mistake fares are one of the most exciting things people can stumble upon when looking up flights online. The prospect of finding that first or business class ticket for what can be pennies on the dollar. This exciting prospect has led to communities all over the web that share this information. Today, however, United decided to put a stop to that. The Chicago-based carrier made updates to their contracts of carriage that gives United airlines the ability to not honor a fare that was booked for a lower fare.

The new section is as follows in Rule 4, subsection F of United’s contract of carriage:

“UA does not intend to file tickets priced at a zero or close to zero fare. If an erroneous fare or a fare that is reasonably apparent as erroneous is inadvertently published for sale and a ticket is issued at the erroneous fare before it has been corrected, UA reserves the right to cancel the ticket purchase and refund all amounts paid by the purchaser or, at the purchaser’s option, to reissue the ticket for the correct fare. In this event, UA will also reimburse any reasonable, actual, and verifiable out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the purchaser in reliance upon the ticket purchase. The purchaser must provide receipts or other evidence of such actual costs incurred in support of any reimbursement request.”

What is an Error Fare?

An error fare is a ticket that is being sold well below what it should be due to a mistake that was made by the online system that lists fares. By shopping error fares, passengers save insane amounts of money. With this update to their CoC United has made a statement in saying that they will cancel your ticket if you’re booked with one of these mistake fares.

Additionally, United is attempting to combat travelers booking tickets on already delayed flights and submitting a claim for reimbursement. This is noted in what United calls “improper reservations” in Rule 5 Subsection H, “Reservations made for flights that are or likely will be delayed with the intention of making a claim against or receiving a benefit from United concerning the flight delay.”

Effects on Passengers

Right now, unless the traveler is an avid “travel hacker”, this should nott affect a family trip or quick weekend away, but if it works out in United’s favor expect to see other U.S. carriers like American, Delta and Southwest follow suit without delay.

As it stands now, it is understandable for a business to want to protect themselves from people trying to game the system,  but if United or any other airline makes a mistake with fare prices, it is under the impression that the ticket should be honored. Time will tell if United truly tries to combat error fares on a large scale.

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