34 Responses

  1. NB
    NB at |

    At last a thoughtful piece on this. I bought two returns, both of which I was intending to buy anyway but in Economy. I thought hard (but not that hard) and “justified” it to myself because UA has messed me around in the past and shown no remorse or flexibility. But I would certainly have felt very guilty flying on those fares.

    One thing that swings this in UA’s favor is that I do have a right to cancel within 24 hours if I make a mistake. UA made a mistake and cancelled within 24 hours – it seems fair enough. I certainly think it would be inequitable were any authorities to hold them to the tickets.

  2. DaninMCI
    DaninMCI at |


    I think that United will get away with cancelling these as they can claim that the majority of them got booked on a Danish website claiming to be buyers from Denmark which is dishonest.

    I agree with you about people abusing these sort of fares however I’ve bought many things in life at fire sale prices. I don’t think the issue would be the same if this would have been bookable from the USA site and you could find airfares from London for say $100 in any class. Heck Spirit tells me daily how I can fly across the country for $15, $25, $35 or whatever.

    1. Ron
      Ron at |

      Well, Seth conveniently omits the fact that he needed to misrepresent his home and/or billing address country in order to avail himself of this low fare.

  3. Michael
    Michael at |

    Great read. But I’m note sure if its an QPX / ITA mistake.
    Fact is, that all airlines were mispriced on ita when showing in DKK.
    But my thought was that maybe it was a GDS or ATPCO error, what do you think?

    Also you could mention the difference between , and . in N.A. vs. Europe, for example:
    10,000.00 US$
    in Europe the , and . are exchanged.
    10.000,00 €
    And the error (from what I think) got the , and . switched up.

  4. jamesb2147
    jamesb2147 at |

    So many thoughts.

    First, thank you. It’s nice to read something both sincere and reasonable. It’s difficult to write about one’s mistakes and hypocrisies, not least because it can be difficult to identify them. Forgive my abuse of a tired metaphor, but reading such writing is a breath of fresh air.

    Second, how does one get actively involved in a reasonable conversation about DoT rules? Submitting comments is fine and probably a necessary formality, but do they host any round-table discussions, for example, with the involved players? Are you ever involved in those discussions beyond submitting your own comments (if you do so)? You seem a tiny bit confused, but I could almost take your last paragraph and submit it as a concern to the DoT about their NPRM.

  5. Joey
    Joey at |

    I do wonder if some folks in Denmark have been using this glitch the past few months (or years) but somehow someone mistakenly found the fare and shared it with everyone on FT.
    I made one booking too (was going to fly coach as well.) I only got an email confirmation but never the eticket number. :/ Do you think I should still file a DOT complaint given my reservation never got ticketed?

  6. Tim
    Tim at |

    Easily the most well written and thoughtful blog post on the subject. Well done Seth.

    1. Joey
      Joey at |

      I agree! Thx Seth. I always appreciate reading your insight.

  7. AdamH
    AdamH at |

    Do you have the rest of the fare construction or is that it? My theory is that the ROE amount is to GBP which would be correct (and just so happens that it is two decimals off from the DKK:USD exchange rate). This would make sense as it is why the fares had to be exLON. My guess is the DKK rate comes in at the end and is essentially UA doing a dynamic currency conversion to make it friendly to buyers around the world in their local currency not a DKK fare itself.

  8. Travis
    Travis at |

    I had these same thoughts. I bought one. I booked one for a friend. I agree that booking more than one or two is asking for trouble.. booking some back to back, or booking one per week (I saw this on FT) is ridiculous. There’s a difference between taking one penny or 50 from the jar at the convenience store.

    If 10,000 tickets were issued, the cancellation will weed out 30%. If they re-instate, they’ll cut people who booked on partners, another 20% down. Then they’ll downgrade to Y, another 20% will ditch it and we’ll be down to a manageable 3,000 error Y tickets.

    Instead of $80M of revenue missed ($8k loss per ticket), it’ll be $3M ($1k loss).

    No idea what will actually happen, but interested.. and it’s my first error/mistake fare so it’s fun to watch.

  9. stvr
    stvr at |

    So are you going to file a DOT complaint in your name?

  10. Better By Design
    Better By Design at |

    Appreciate the introspection. Not enough people consider the morality of things like this – which is pretty understandable, as you mention, we as consumers are in an increasingly non-competitive domestic airline environment, and it’s extremely easy to try to grab whatever drops from the hands of giants and dance about cheering at their mistakes.

  11. WhoMe
    WhoMe at |


    Since you think UA will end up reinstating these tickets, do you think they’ll do it for all? Only those with US destinations? Partner flights? Only for people who complain formally to the DoT? Only those with a legit Danish CC billing address? Only ???

    I’ve had two for trips that we probably won’t take otherwise but it sure would be fun to take my family in first class.

    Thanks for the insight.


  12. Andrew C
    Andrew C at |

    Thanks for writing this – it’s so much better to go with some nuance than the three hardcore opinions that always seem to surface – sue-sue-sue, it’s my right; you’re all crooks; try-everything-let’s-move-on. But it’s certainly confusing to me why people keep bringing up the issue about buying from a foreign point of sale. This is normal and there are plenty of reasons to do it – it’s not fraud and there’s nothing about it that should per se indict someone’s actions!

  13. Ivan Y
    Ivan Y at |

    Very thoughtful article. I got on it very late and only booked one ticket (was trying to get multiple to do a MR for status before 3/1) and it sure looked on my ticket as if the GBP:DKK rate was messed up (see the example below for my LHR-IAH-LHR ticket). Another interesting aspect is that a separate 40 DKK booking charge actually came across in as 40 USD for everyone including me.

    Fare Breakdown
    Airfare: 4,717GBP
    Equivalent Airfare: 48DKK
    U.K. Air Passenger Duty: 2
    U.K. Passenger Service Charge: 1
    U.S. Customs User Fee: 37
    U.S. Immigration User Fee: 47
    U.S. APHIS User Fee: 33
    U.S. Federal Transportation Tax: 234
    September 11th Security Fee: 37
    International Surcharge: 4
    U.S. Passenger Facility Charge: 20
    Per Person Total: 463DKK
    eTicket Total: 463DKK

    The airfare you paid on this itinerary totals: 48 DKK
    The taxes, fees, and surcharges paid total: 415 DKK

  14. TopGunner
    TopGunner at |

    This is one of the few posts and comment thread that is rational on this topic. You actually used your brain to take in the information and analyze based on the rules/principals, not some preconceived bias.

    This was not a UA specific issue, it was showing on ITA for other airlines. UA just happened to have one of the systems that would carry the issue through to its customers. There is a reason UA hasn’t gone with the Danish website or billing address route as a basis for canceling, its not going to be a winner. However, just canceling while blaming some 3rd party will probably eliminate a lot of would be travelers, thus making a DOT forced honoring a little bit easier, if its only for those who complained.

    UA has this system because it is profitable to them most of the time, only that this time it favored the customer. DOT should continue to force honoring of mistakes, as you clearly articulated, customers have little to no power in these transactions and few alternatives. As a consumer you are always at their mercy, and their answer is usually buy insurance, well for this instance I think consumers should be able to reply tough, establish a smarter system or buy insurance for these situations.

    In fact, I think I will talk with some friends insurance about offering the mistake fare insurance for airline industry!

  15. DaveS
    DaveS at |

    I think you make the salient point that DOT is getting tired of being the “go to” people for schemers out to force an airline to give out J tickets for cheap to people who need to lie about their billing address to get them. The May 2014 memo outlines their thinking, and this most recent incident can only add fuel to the case for a rules change. DOT sees itself as protecting the public; not as enforcing FlyerTalk travel hacking swindles.

  16. Oliver2002
    Oliver2002 at |

    Its a clear error in calculation and most knowingly booked it. UA cancelled it within the 24h limit it normally allows the customer to cancel for free if they make a mistake.

  17. LTL
    LTL at |

    Two points.

    1. Unlike most mistakes, this one required an affirmative misrepresentation by the buyer (“I’m in Denmark”), for most people. (I assume some minuscule number of people were actually in Copenhagen trying to fly LHR-EWR.

    2. I notice that the DKK prices on, e.g., expedia.dk list one thousand like this: “1.000”, which in the U.S. is considered one, not one thousand. I wonder if that was the issue — the comma being a decimal?

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