United Airlines passengers who bought tickets that were accidentally sold for free because of faulty reservations data will be able to use them for travel, the airline said Friday.
“United has reviewed the error that occurred yesterday and decided that, based on these specific circumstances, we will honor the tickets,” Mary Clark, a spokeswoman for the unit of Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc., said. The company isn’t disclosing how many of the tickets were sold.
The $0 fares were on the United.com website only for “a couple hours” at midday Thursday and weren’t distributed via channels such as travel agencies, spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said. United’s Shares reservation system didn’t cause the problem, McCarthy said, without giving further details.
The carrier had to close the booking engine on its United.com website “so we could correct the error,” McCarthy said.
Many of the tickets cost $5 or $10 in total, suggesting that United was collecting only a mandatory 9/11 security fee of $2.50 per leg, said Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of FareCompare.com, a ticket research firm based in Dallas. Taxes and fees typically add up to $22 or more a ticket, he said.
Robert Stokas, an attorney in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn, said he was on United’s website when the erroneous data was loaded and bought six tickets for a trip to Los Angeles next June for $60 total.
“I assumed it was a promotion or something,” said Stokas, 35. He said he is pleased that United will honor the tickets.
“They took the high road, said ‘We made a mistake,’” he said. “It may cost them some money on the front end, but it saves them potential litigation and bad press.”
The incident was at least the fourth public computer disruption at United since March 2012.