United will not honor bookings 'gaming' its site for nearly free flights

Published On: Oct 15 2013 05:12:45 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 15 2013 05:22:00 PM CDT
HOUSTON -

A United Airlines glitch made a lot of dreams come true last month when some consumers scored round-trip airfares for as little as $5. But now the airline says customers are trying to game its website to trick United into selling nearly free flights again. This time United says it will not honor these latest bookings.

One viewer emailed Local 2 to tell us he bought a ticket Monday to Miami for just $5 on United.com. His credit card was charged, but then about an hour later he got an email from United letting him know he could not get that deal.

Google the words "United glitch" and you'll get several blogs with step-by-step instructions of how to purchase flights for next to nothing. One blogger wrote "I personally purchased nearly $14,000 worth of flights for under $300."

Unlike last month when United honored the low, low fares for dozens of travelers, the airline says this is no glitch. A United spokesman says these blogs are teaching consumers to game the system by attempting to cash in frequent flier miles they don't have.

One viewer received an email from United that showed his $5 fare while it said the airline was "processing his reservation." But once United employees realized the customer didn't have the 75,000 miles he claimed he did, they canceled his reservation.

"They're unhappy because a game or a trick did not work, but they can't seriously feel that the airline owes them anything," said University of Houston consumer attorney David Tiede.

He says consumers are fed up with airline fees and rising fares; but the law is not on the consumers' side in this case.

"There is no love lost right now between the consumers and many airlines," Tiede explained. "They feel that these tactics are perfectly fair because of how they perceive they've been treated by the airlines. But that doesn't make them legal or right."

United is not saying how many people tried to book tickets using imaginary miles, but a spokesman tells Local 2 United did not make a mistake and it has no intention of honoring tickets sold when customers made up information to get the low fares.