Travel

United Airlines Website Loophole Grants Travelers Unlimited Miles, Virtually Free Tickets

10/17/2013 02:30pm ET
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 17: With its Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets grounded, a Boeing 757 jet is parked near a United Airlines hanger before a new day of service as United Airlines carries on with its fleet of 777s at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on January 17, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded all U.S.-registered Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets for the repair of batteries believed to be linked to a fire risk following a number of related 787 aircraft incidents this month. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

If you were one of the lucky travelers who believed they purchased tickets on United's website for next to nothing Monday, the airline has some bad news for you.

United will not honor those reservations because the extremely low prices resulted from users' "knowing manipulation of United.com," United spokesman Charlie Hobart told The Huffington Post. As such, he says, United isn't on the hook.

On Monday, Mashable reported visitors to United.com were able to "trick" the site into thinking they had more frequent flier miles than they actually did. By booking a reservation in two different tabs of a browser, customers could game a loophole and redeem unlimited miles.

The loophole allowed customers to purchase tickets at insane prices, with a roundtrip fare from Newark, N.J., to Dublin, for example, coming to just $49.40, the cost of taxes.

International Business Times succeeded in reserving a last-minute roundtrip flight from Newark to London's Heathrow Airport, normally priced at about $1,278, for virtually no cost.

After an incident last month resulted in substantially reduced fares through United.com, the airline decided to honor the tickets, many of which had been sold for between $5 and $10 each. A Wall Street Journal article at the time argued United's decision to eat the cost of those tickets was a smart move, though the airline could have challenged their validity if it wanted to.

However, last month's tickets were sold for next to nothing because of human error; specifically, "incorrectly entered information," Hobart said. This time around, the airline is pointing its finger back at the passengers.

Many have chosen to make noise about the recent verdict via a Change.org petition addressed to United CEO Jeff Smisek. Titled "United Airlines, Inc.: Honor the Tickets," the petition states:

United Airlines Inc. is accusing their customers of 'intentional manipulation' of their website in order to achieve these discounted rates. In reality all one had to do in order to have 'intentionally manipulated' their website was have two tabs open when searching for tickets, or simply press the refresh button on the window they were currently on. Both of these are common practice for anyone looking for tickets for a flight...

Suggest a correction