When airlines mess up it can mean $5 airfare

Sometimes airlines make mistakes and lose your bags, other times they mess up and you get (almost) free tickets.

When airlines make mistakes it usually means missing bags, delays, or ( rarely ) catastrophe. And when it comes to issues like on-time performance, baggage handling, involuntary denied boardings, and customer complaints United Airlines comes in dead last among the top carriers in the United States. But, for once, a mishap by United had a few lucky customers smiling.

That's because last week United was offering round trip fares for as low as $5 roundtrip. An unheard of fall discount? Hardly. But for more than an hour astonished customers took to sites like Flyer Talk to share their findings.

One example: "Booked three DCA-HNL so far - $10, $10, $8." That's Washington, D.C. to Honolulu. Those tickets typically go for closer to $1,000 roundtrip.

Unreal.

So what happened?

As one analyst told Farecompare.com: “I suspect there was an internal, back-end filing glitch or test gone amok,” said Seaney. “These dirt-cheap prices appear to be related to the mistaken offering of free award redemption prices with the mandatory Sept. 11 security fee of $2.50 per wheels-up on an itinerary (with a maximum of $10 per trip).”

There was some question as to whether the tickets would honor the absurd fares. But United cleared up the matter when it tweeted: "We’ve reviewed the error that occurred yesterday and based on these specific circumstances, we will honor the tickets."

It's not clear how many tickets were purchased or how much the airline lost but honoring the tickets is a smart move for an airline that could use some good press.

Photo: Flickr/InSapphoWeTrust

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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