Reader Sean emails to let me know that United’s website appears to be pricing out award tickets originating in China for 4 miles plus taxes.
I’ve checked this with tickets originating in Shanghai and in Beijing (though I haven’t checked other cities), and for business and economy awards, and the result is the same. Here’s for a Beijing-Hong Kong roundtrip in business:
I love that for $1035 I could save my 4 miles.
You’ll see that it shows the correct mileage price initially and then the mistaken cost in the ‘total’.
I haven’t tried to ticket this, though Sean reports that he was successful and had only 4 miles deducted. It remains to be seen whether this will be honored or not. My guess is that it will not be, but some may find this useful — even though pricing out this way appears to require starting the award off in China.
Update: Indeed it appears to show 4 miles for awards originating in the U.S. to China as well. And it appears to show 4 miles for standard awards as well as saver awards.
Update 1:56pm Eastern: Still seems to be working. Connect from the U.S. to anywhere you want via Hong Kong and it is pricing. Some reports of success first class to Vietnam and even to Australia.
If you have enough miles for ‘regular’ mileage price in your account, it will deduct the full miles but send you a receipt showing the lower 4 mile per person price.
If you do not have enough miles for the ‘regular’ redemption cost, it will send you a receipt showing the 4 mile per person price, and no miles will be deducted from your account at this time.
Update 2:23pm Eastern: It does not appear over, despite comments suggesting otherwise. Remember that the United website is glitchy. It hangs. It gives errors. The key is that you have to connect in Hong Kong or have Hong Kong as your destination at this point, regardless of where you’re originating.
And if you have problems with the United website, clear out and start over. My advice to minimize glitches is to be logged in when you start your search and to already have your credit card on file in your account. Ideally to even have the passengers loaded into your profile.
Update 2:34pm Eastern: Will these be honored?
Lucky thinks new DOT rules requiring airlines to honor tickets as they are sold will mean United has to honor these.
I disagree, at least it is not obvious to me that an airline saying that the number of miles required for a promotional ‘free’ ticket counts as raising the ‘price’ of that ticket at least as far as DOT regulations are concerned. But then I am not a transportation lawyer.
As of this moment, no one knows whether United will honor these tickets or not. Let’s just hold our collective breaths for the next 48 hours to see. If I had to bet money, I would bet against. But stranger things have happened.
If United doesn’t honor these then everyone will certainly get a full refund. You can normally cancel awards for a full refund with no fee for 24 hours. If United doesn’t honor them at 4 miles per person then I have to imagine that anyone that has a 4 mile per person e-ticket receipt but more miles than that deducted from their account will be able to get a full refund even after the 24 hour period.
Update 2:54pm Eastern: It appears that United has shut down the ability to see reward flights to/from Hong Kong, meaning that this is likely dead.