United Airlines Agrees to Honor Accidental $0 Tickets

The United Airlines ticket counter
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

By JOSHUA FREED, AP Airlines Writer

United Airlines said on Friday that it will honor the tickets it accidentally gave away for free.

The decision is good news for people who snapped up the tickets on Thursday after United listed airfares at $0. Many customers got tickets for $5 or $10, paying only the cost of the Sept. 11 security fee.

The mistake was an especially good deal for any passengers who bought tickets for travel within the next week. For instance, a Houston-to-Washington Dulles flight for next weekend would have cost $877, according toUnited's website on Friday.

Airlines have posted so-called mistake fares before. They generally decide on a case-by-case basis whether they'll honor the ticket. On Friday, United Continental Holdings Inc. said it was honoring the tickets "based on these specific circumstances." On Thursday, United said there was an error in filing the fares to its computer system.
United would not say how many tickets it accidentally gave away, or how much the mistake cost. The wrong fares were available on its website for a few hours on Thursday. It eventually shut down bookings on the website until it could fix the problem.

Some passengers bought their tickets for flights on Friday, and then immediately checked in online and printed their boarding passes, figuring that would give them their best chance of being able to use their ticket.

Mike Nehmer bought a ticket for him and his wife to fly from Houston to San Francisco on Friday. But he chickened out after a United agent told him that his ticket would be rejected at the gate. He ended up changing his ticket to December.

"I decided it wasn't in my best interest to show up and be denied at the gate," he said. "I have a pretty unhappy wife, too."

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How much house can I afford

Home buying 101, evaluating one of your most important financial decisions.

View Course »

How to Buy a Car

How to get the best deal and buy a car with confidence.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

Years ago when I worked in the consumer department for a major US airline, it was during the flush days when an airlines could afford their own advertising departments. The ad department make a major typo error on a fare which went to print in a major news paper. It wasn't "0" fare, but it was so low that the flying public jumped on it immediately. When our customers were advised it was an error...."it hit the fan." I remember speaking to a staff member of the advertising department ( I suspect it may have been the person responsible) and he growled at me "How can anyone really expect to get a fare like that?" I answered "Because your department put it in print, that's why." Now he really got mad.....so I expect he was the one who was going to get his butt kicked. I don't recall how the matter was settled, but I suspect that anyone who wished to purchase the fare in error on the day it appeared in print (before the ad was cancelled by the next day) was allowed to do so. However, an error on that scale is usually referred to the legal department for resolution and than implemented by the sales and consumer departments.

September 15 2013 at 2:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

they were one way tickets for obamys illegal immigrants he let "break" into america ~~> deport all illegal immigrants that obamy let "break" into america .

September 15 2013 at 7:30 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to yo.a.party.of.no.jobs's comment

put down the crack pipe

September 15 2013 at 8:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hope it is a bunch of middle class people that got the free tickets. Finally something given back to those who are getting their hard earned money sucked right out of their pockets by the state, and the fed. Sorry it had to be a capitalistic company that got hurt. Notice TSA got their cut despite the $0 fare. You still pay to get groped and photographed.

September 15 2013 at 4:53 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Sorry, meant to type UA, not US. Finger hit the S instead of the A. Mistakes happen, people. Okay, okay, alright, I will admit it. I am the idiot who set up the website that offered the $0 tickets for the airline. Geeeezz. Can't understand what the big deal is.

September 14 2013 at 10:55 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Sure, we all wish the free tickets would go to very deserving people. But I do give US props for at least doing the right thing and honoring the tickets that were purchased for zero bucks. It is a nice gesture. Let us just be happy for the people flying for free or next to free.

September 14 2013 at 10:52 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

It would be heartwarming to hear that they gave tickets for terminally ill people to see their family.
But, no...just a ranxom, completely random, mistake.

September 14 2013 at 10:18 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Larry's comment

Why don't you buy them a ticket????

September 15 2013 at 5:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Who do you think will really/eventually be paying for these 'free' tickets?

It won't be people flying on some other airline.

September 14 2013 at 4:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hope some of the people who got the low to free rates are grandparents who haven't seen the grandkids for awhile, someone who can now attend a love one's funeral, someone who has a seriously ill person in the hospital, someone who needs to escape from an abusive relationship, someone who wants to attend a best friend's wedding.
And anyone else who could not be with loved ones without this break.

September 14 2013 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply