United's "lowest fare" not always available on united.com

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Wandering Aramean, Dec 26, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Every time you search for a fare on united.com you get something which looks like the following on the results, including the claim that you're getting "our lowest fares" for the particular type of ticket you are searching:
    [​IMG]

    Reality, however begs to differ with that view. If both single-connection and multi-connection itineraries are available United will not show the multi-connect option. And in many cases that extra connection can save you cash. It is $25 in the example shown above:
    [​IMG]

    I've seen other cases where the difference is greater.

    In short, if you're willing to connect on a trip, United is no longer a reliable pricing engine. Craptacular, indeed.
     
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  2. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    HNL-SFO one-way was pricing out at $991 for my dates on UA.com. So I booked an award ticket.

    Then I went to Expedia, which priced HNL-LAX-SAN-SFO at $306. I used multi-city and was able to book it on UA.com, but for now, I tend to double-check against OTAs before accepting UA's prices.
     
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  3. unavaca
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    unavaca Gold Member

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    Does UA's BRG apply in this case?
     
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  4. davef139

    davef139 Gold Member

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    I agree its a little misleading, but how is it routed differently?

    I would guess 99% of the people who come to book want the most direct, I tell people I went from Chicago to SFO, by way of IAD and get laughed at.
     
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  5. mht_flyer
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    mht_flyer Gold Member

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    Nice article thanks for bringing this to light. I will say though, depending on the destination, you can still see some multi-stops and 1-stops on the same search.

    And in your specific case, if I'm looking for a MHT-LAX (and I certainly do sometimes :) ), I'll try other websites first then come back to UA and do multi-stop and see if I can get it priced the way I want it.

    I've been pricing out and looking at options for JNB for the next couple months, and it will show me 2 connections on some flights. Of course in this specific example, it's all about connecting with another *A partner (LH or SA in this case).
     
  6. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    No, because it is not the exact same flights.

    I cannot find any all-UA metal itineraries where the website will show a multi-connection itinerary where the single connect exists. When OALs get involved things loosen up, but all-UA metal isn't showing for me anywhere. And I spent a bit of time looking. :(

    If you are advertising something as "our lowest fares" and "with stops" then shouldn't it actually be the lowest fare with stops??

    Maybe saving $50 per person on PIT-PSP is worth the extra 2 hours in transit to me and my family (yes. that's a real example, not a hypothetical). But I'd never know that the $50 cheaper fare is available from United because they are advertising the IAH or DEN single connection as the lowest fare with stops. It is the false advertising which really grates me on this one.
     
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  7. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Does the UA website tend to find broken fares when advantageous for 1-stop itineraries? Does the site look to be missing broken fares or circuitous but legal routings with cheaper fare buckets available?
     
  8. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    I often see differences of $100-300 for flying nonstop vs. a single connection, similar to desamo's example above. I'm not sure if I would care about a $20-50 difference for one vs. two connections, but I can say the majority of the people I know are more interested in saving money.
     
  9. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    In the MHT-LAX example above is is pricing as a circle trip, MHT-LAX, LAX-PHX and PHX-MHT. In the PIT-PSP example (screen shots not in this thread but they exist on the post I put on my blog) the fare is just PIT-PSP and return, so a multi-stop routing on a single fare component.
     
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  10. davef139

    davef139 Gold Member

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    Where would one draw the line on cheapest fare vs. travel time? On the MHT<>LAX I punched it in ITA and saw for $386 you can overnight in PHX. Yes its nice to know the absolute lowest fare you can obtain or all valid routings but you don't need to overload a customer with information.
     
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  11. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    I'm assuming that's a US codeshare given it's PHX? I don't believe an airline has an obligation to show fares operated by other airlines (maybe the alliance would disagree, but as a customer, it's not my priority). I certainly don't expect United to tell me about codeshares that involve an overnight. But I would hope that United would include its own flights that have an overnight.
     
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  12. davef139

    davef139 Gold Member

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    For that specific example, I am seeing Mainline UA into PHX from ORD and out of PHX to EWR on UA1070 and UA1265, with skywest dba UX for the short hop to LAX.
     
  13. Golfingboy
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    Golfingboy Gold Member

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    IMO, when a customer searches based on price, they should always give the absolute lowest fare available even if that requires multiple connections or overnighting. If a customer wants a more convenient schedule with a more direct routing with shorter layover then that is where the schedule option comes in play. However, if the customer picks the schedule option, UA still should advertise the lowest fare at the top in the green box so the customer can see what the price premiums are for a more convenient routing as we all have different levels of tolerances.

    Overnighting is on the extreme side of the scale, but there are indeed customers who are willing to endure that to save a couple of bucks, but I have seen plenty of double connects that requires the same amount of traveling time or only an hour more that costs $100 less. Adding one hour to my travel time with more connections when I am traveling alone to save $100 is something I am willing to endure. Imagine having a family of four traveling for vacation, it can add up and $400 can pay for a week of car rental or a few nights of hotel. Everybody has different preferences and tolerance levels, but UA still should make the lowest fare available and let the customers decide for themselves.

    In one situation, I can't leave earlier than 6pm, but UA.com won't give me any flight options, because everything after 6pm requires double connecting. I am pretty sure there might be some customers thinking "oh the earliest flight is at 1pm, looks like we will have to spend another night at the destination and burn another vacation day" when there are indeed options departing after 6pm.

    All of this is just bad form on UA's part.
     
  14. Phorever

    Phorever Silver Member

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    As a guy who earns status by segments....

    I wish they would only show me flights with 2+ stops.

    ;)
     
  15. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    My biggest complaint about double connects is they often involve very tight connections. An extra hour of total travel time is not an issue. Turning a 1.5 hour connection into two 30 minute connections is not okay.
     
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  16. Golfingboy
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    Golfingboy Gold Member

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    True, however sometimes some single connection itineraries require some backtracking or has a bit of a long layover where double connects offer a more direct routing (I.e. connecting in ORD and DEN rather than backtracking to IAD/EWR or flying south to IAH and back north).

    At least, the customer can decide if they are comfortable with the connection times before booking their flights and if they are not comfortable they can check the other options out.
     
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  17. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    I prefer overnighting to redeyes these days.
     
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  18. Golfingboy
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    Golfingboy Gold Member

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    Hotel beds > plane seat

    But in those cases I will swallow the fare difference if it is not $200-300+ since hotels aren't free. If the airfare difference is significant I would overnight and leave myself with such connection that allows me to grab dinner in the city or see some friends. A mini trip within a trip :p
     
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  19. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    This appears to be limited to domestic routes, from what I can see. Once you throw in international, the website pulls 3 different connections.

    Can't you still do a multi city? (by manually inputting the flights you want?) Thank goodness I get free ticketing.
    Guess I'll have to hit the call center more often now.
     
  20. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    Most people are probably not going to be FFers chasing status based on segments, and are just going to want to get from point A to point B. UA's thinking is probably that those people won't even consider an itinerary with more than one connection (I won't). If someone is going to be chasing status, they're probably going to be savvy enough to find what they want.
     
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  21. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    A little misleading certainly, although I wonder how common it was to have those 2+ connections taken to save some of the fare. If it's truly the case that no one is taking that savings, maybe not really an issue.

    (The title of this thread is similarly misleading - lowest fare is available on united.com, you just need to search for it using specific flights/multicity. It's just not always shown in the easy search.)
     
  22. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    If you do book this more than a couple of months in advance, you are almost bound to get a schedule change using which you can remove one of the connections though.
     
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  23. Golfingboy
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    Golfingboy Gold Member

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    I am not chasing status. Those options are the only ones that works for me (timing issues). Unfortunately, I am not based out of a city with multiple frequencies to all hubs, so I have to double connect even though it is not ideal.

    People may think they won't consider an itinerary with more than one connection, but in reality if a double connect option is available for a hundred dollars less, I am willing to bet the majority will take the the double connection.

    Anyway, the issue here is that they are claiming that they are giving us the lowest available fare, which is false.
     
  24. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    That's a bit like saying Vanilla Reload cards are available at my local CVS when they aren't actually on the gift card rack, but rather hidden behind some disposable underwear by some intrepid Vanilla churner. I know, it's a bit of a stretch because it's not CVS that's hiding the cards, but the net effect for me is the same... I need to know the search result to be able to find it.

    How do other airline sites handle this? Don't they all make similar promises?
     
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  25. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    Fare search is inherently a very challenging technical problem. No matter what site you use, I guarantee you there will be some trip that the website won't find you the optimal cheapest fare - it's just a matter of how frequently it will miss it. (For most sites, it will be difficult to find such an example.) Many websites do refer to what they found as the cheapest, as the cheapest available. There's no mal intent here - it's just an oversimplification of the problem and the answer (presumably you don't care about all the assumptions/heuristics it made, how much effort it spent on searching possibilities, or what things it didn't consider - just that say 99% of the time you can't beat its results).

    It just seems united added some really poor heuristic (no more than one connection?) that increases the frequency of this to a very noticeable extent.
     
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