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I read 2 interesting posts last night, both regarding Freedom of Information Act requests that people had submitted to the government (specifically the Department of Transportation) regarding the United mistake fare sale (where you had to book the fare in Danish Kroner)

(SEE ALSO: Mistake fare – roundtrip from Europe to US in FIRST class for ~$80)

(SEE ALSO: An update on United’s Denmark fare sale)

(SEE ALSO: US DOT not enforcing the “Great Dane” United mistake fare)

Freedom of Information Act

For a background on the Freedom of Information Act, the US government is required to disclose previously undisclosed information regarding anything that the government does.  I am not a lawyer by any means, so I may be misinterpreting it, but in this case, it means that the US DOT has to disclose information about their ruling in the recent United mistake fare.

The posts I read were:

Documents responsive to United Danish Kroner mistake fare FOIA request – by the Freequent Flyer

FOIA Request from U.S. DOT Arrives over United Danish Kroner Mistake Fare – Live and Let’s Fly

What’s in the FOIA documents

Specifically, the Freequent Flyer post included a link to the actual documents that he received (rather than a summary), though much of the information was redacted.  There’s some discussion about whether they OVER redacted, but I’ll leave that to the lawyers 🙂

A few things that I saw that were interesting:

  • United was definitely scouring the Internet for details on the mistake fare, and specifically was calling out blogs and sites referencing this as a “mistake”.  There were screenshots from the original FlyerTalk thread and an executive summary of selected comments from the thread, and The Points Guy among a few other blogs.  (I feel saddened that I did not make the cut 🙁 )
  • Much of the case that United made to the DOT was redacted per “Exemption 4” of the FOIA which redacts “trade secrets” of companies.  There were several emails between United and the DOT coordinating the official response.
  • Regarding a 2013 United fare, an internal United comment said that “Flyertalk picked up on it within 30 minutes; however we did not discover it for 50 minutes.  After discovery, it took just over 20 minutes to fix this issue; however over the entire duration of 70 minutes we lost $2.9M.” (I find it humorous that Flyertalk finds out about it before United does)

I think that this is a topic where the landscape is changing rapidly.  As it stands now, the DOT has updated its rules so that they will no longer force airlines to honor “mistake fares”, but I agree with Gary from View from the Wing that the era of mistake fares is not quite dead yet!

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