United To Require Minimum Stays Starting In October

Sorry travelers, as expected, United Airlines will require minimum stays on all flights starting in October. Gone are the halcyon days of jetting away for a business meeting after breakfast with time to spare before returning for dinner. Most United fares will now require a three-night or weekend stay, but it “will depend on the destinations involved, the price of the ticket and the length of the flight.” And, yes, you will still be charged $15 to check your first bag.

“[Business travelers will] push back big time,” said Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation consultant. “It’s one thing to simply raise fares. It’s quite another to do it by imposing restrictions that appear to make it harder to conveniently fly.”

Major carriers scrapped most minimum-stay rules – put in place largely to discourage big-budget corporate travelers from snatching up the cheapest seats – at the start of the decade, although United and other airlines recently started bringing the overnight rules back piecemeal.

Friday’s changes are far more sweeping because they also apply to highly competitive routes where United goes head-to-head against lower-cost rivals such as Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways.

“What we did this week was almost across the board,” [United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski] said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about improving our profit as we combat these record high fuel prices.”

We previously suggested that travelers evade overnight requirements by buying back-to-back one-way fares, which can be cheaper than a round-trip ticket with a hotel stay.

In related news, United also raised the price of one-way tickets.

United Airlines to require minimum stays from Oct. [The Canadian Press]
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(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)