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I noticed a new addition to United’s interactive award chart today.

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At the bottom of the page, United has added the sentence: “United reserves the right to refuse or cancel any awards redeemed for travel listed at an incorrect or erroneous mileage amount.”

What does it mean? Does United really have a right to cancel your awards?

I’m not totally sure what United is trying to accomplish with the new addition to the award chart.

Maybe it’s a belated addition to the chart to cover situations like the Four Mile Mistake Fare to Hong Kong that came up in July 2012.

In the Four-Mile-Mistake-Fare-to-Hong-Kong saga, United priced award tickets to Hong Kong properly on every screen of the award booking process until the final payment screen when it displayed a price of 4 miles.

United cancelled those tickets–though some people flew their tickets immediately before the cancellations that happened several days later–and the Department of Transportation backed United up.

Ostensibly the DOT backed United up because it had displayed the price correctly on every screen until the last one when the ludicrous price of 4 miles displayed, so that everyone who booked it must have known that the last price was a mistake when their award price dropped from 70k miles to 4.

But is United trying to claim it can now unilaterally cancel tickets in other circumstances?

For instance, imagine united.com was mis-pricing an award in your favor by 20,000 miles and you ticketed it. You don’t even realize the mistake and you book hotels and tours around the plane tickets. Months pass.

Does United think it can cancel that award? Would the DOT back United up? Does this sentence on the award chart strengthen United’s position in any way?

I won’t pretend to know the answers. In my opinion, when we get in on a mistake fare successfully, it is a bonus, and I never feel entitled to a company honoring a mistake fare.

I know others have different and sometimes strong opinions.

Why do you think United added this new language to its award chart?

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