This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.
Like most of you, I missed out on the $5 United flights that happened earlier this week. This is why you should never, ever leave the computer, ever. What the heck was I doing trying to get healthier at workout class during the exact time of this once-in-a-longtime-opportunity?! I knew getting out of my computer chair was a bad decision! Kidding…kind of.
The short story of what happened was that many US routes on United were pricing at a base fare of $0 and you only had to pay the September 11th taxes of $5 – $10 for the flight. This meant people were booking things like Washington Dulles – Honolulu for a whopping $10 round trip! This glitch didn’t require any real “tricks” it get it to work, it just required that you were searching for flights on United during the magic time that this “oops” happened on 9/12. It lasted somewhere around 20 minutes (I’ve read a little shorter and a little longer), and at the time no one knew if United would honor these tickets. So, you were booking without knowing what the end result would be, but you probably knew that the opportunity would be very short-lived. You just didn’t know how long the “oops” would last until it was over.
In a move that surprised some, United has announced that they will honor the tickets booked for $5 – $10, so anyone who got in on it is a big winner! Way to go United! Of course, being the travel obsessed person that I am, I replay what I would have done had I known this was happening before it ended, and had the option of getting in on it myself. I would like to think that I would get in on it for a flight or two for my family (one of which would have to be to Hawaii given how badly I want to go back), and I think I probably would have tried to book probably one other trip. I don’t think I would have tried to book 20 trips for many reasons (I don’t need that many, don’t want that many, don’t want to really tick off United, etc), but I also don’t think I would have totally passed on the chance to get a trip or two out of the situation. I would have booked quickly and not gone through the normal steps of double-checking with Josh about dates and destinations. I would have just taken my best guesses as to what would work.
I also would have simultaneously called my parents on speaker phone while I was booking my own trips so they wouldn’t miss out. Heck, I probably would have taken my best guesses and booked something for them. If there was still time with the deal was live I would have then quickly texted/messaged some other friends that I know would benefit, and would have likely tweeted a semi-cryptic tweet about the deal linking folks back to the original source…aka the Flyertalk thread. Something like, “If you like really good deals, you really should check out this thread now.” The deal wouldn’t have lasted long enough for a full blown post, nor do I think that would have been the best course of action anyway. Now if the deal lived longer than a few minutes that may or may not be a different situation…hard to say.
I think I know how I would handle this sort of situation, but you never know for sure how you would act until you are actually in it. There is some value to thinking through things like this in advance so you will know what to do in the event of an “actual deal emergency”. My best advice in situations like that is act very quickly, and enjoy the adrenaline rush. Whatever you want to do, do it fast because you probably are dealing in minutes, at best. There is something to be said for passing on what is very likely a mistake, and there is something to be said for throwing your hat in the ring and seeing how it plays out. Just don’t get your hat bent out of shape if a future situation doesn’t play out as well in the customer’s favor as this one did.
What would you have done if you had a few minutes to book domestic United flights for $5? Where would you go? Who would you call/book for? If you were actually able to get in on the deal, what did you do?