United Gives It Away (By Mistake)

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A computer glitch at United Airlines Thursday led to a yet undisclosed number of passengers gaining access to tickets sold to them for as little as zero dollars, plus fees, and it appears the company has decided to honor those prices. At the root of the problem for United were airfares accidentally filed at $0. When the airline became aware of the error it briefly stopped accepting reservations. Service returned by roughly 2:45 p.m. Central time. One passenger contacted by NBC news said she was able to book a flight from Houston to Washington for $5.

Previous incidents involving fare errors have sometimes been sourced back to mistakes in data entry. A United spokesperson said that the airline didn't yet know how many tickets were sold at greatly reduced prices. The airline's past experience with ticketing errors includes a 2008 incident in which the carrier failed to add fuel surcharges to ticket prices, reducing some fares by more than $125. That was also a single-day event and the company honored those tickets, too. So far, the company is not blaming the latest glitch on its online systems and suspects that the problem was more likely related to data entry.