A human error allowed customers to book airline tickets Thursday for only the expense of airport and security fees. It took about two hours before the problem was discovered and fixed, reports indicate. Before the glitch was discovered, several lucky travelers purchased tickets for anywhere from $5 to $10 each. United Airlines has announced that it will honor the free tickets that sold as a result of the mistake.
“We’ve reviewed the error that occurred yesterday and based on these specific circumstances, we will honor the tickets,” the company tweeted Friday. Many experts said honoring the fares is a smart move on behalf of the airline.
A software consultant from the Washington, D.C. area named Andy Farrimond caught the mistake and found free airfares while booking a business related flight to Minneapolis, according to several media reports, including one from CNN. Farrimond told his co-workers about the rates then he and those fellow workers spent the next hour scheduling some personal trips.
Farrimond said personally booked four trips with his wife, including trips to Honolulu, San Francisco and Los Angeles. His fellow workers booked flights to vacation destinations such as Las Vegas. He said international trips were not available for free, but domestic reservations were widely available at no charge. According to United, they have determined the rates were not part of a computer glitch, but were the result of human error.
Reports indicate that those who caught the free flight postings were purchasing 12 to 15 tickets at a time for popular destinations, such as Las Vegas, Hawaii, San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C.
United has declined to say how many free tickets were issued. The error occurred when a group of fares were being filed resulting in the lucky customers paying a 9-11 security fee at $2.50 per flight, which resulted in the $5 to $10 fee. United completely stopped reservations online and by phone after catching the error, but restored service by the middle of Thursday afternoon.
The government does not require airlines to honor fares from mistakes, and many airlines cancel the tickets if there has been a mistake. Some airlines will offer consolation vouchers to customers as a consolation prize after cancellations from such mistakes. After all the attention the rates got, many experts believe United made the right choice in honoring the fares and making customers happy.