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]
PREVIOUSLY: Airlines Revive Hated Minimum Stay Fares
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)


Edit Your Comment

  1. scerwup says:

    While I do understand the airlines are really hard hit by fuel costs, doesn’t it just seem that they will be losing quite a bit of business by forcing people to do this?

  2. timmus says:

    Oh, hell, no way, you’ve got to be kidding me. A few years ago when I was doing survey jobs I would fly from Oklahoma to Texas in the morning, survey around lunchtime, and fly home to be back with the family. What the hell are they smoking? The airlines are becoming masters at alienating their customers.

  3. humphrmi says:

    @scerwup: Yes they will. Business is already cutting back on travel, and this will give them no incentive to start flying again.

  4. MissPeacock says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but I don’t understand the point of this. I’m going to have to fly back either way; why does it matter to the airline if I fly back on the same day or in three days? Are they getting some kind of kick-back from hotels and rental car agencies?

  5. Nev-in-NYC says:

    @scerwup: That entirely depends on if the other airlines jump on the bandwagon and decide to get the customers from all angles. If that happens I think there will be a huge increase in the use of other modes of transportation like trains and maybe even fractional ownerships in jets…

    But it’s truly insane and ridiculous that they would being to shoot themselves in the foot like this. The average airline consumer will take a lot of punishment and inconvenience but this will likely be the straw that breaks the camel’s back!

  6. InThrees says:

    It matters because they can make more money from a class of traveler that simply HAS to fly regularly. (business folk, for the most part.)

    They can’t take a bus to the big sales meeting or convention on the other side of the country, as that is financially ridiculous. (lost time vs savings)

    So this is the Airline’s blatant slap in the face for the class of customer they deal with most, basically, right?

  7. pianos101 says:

    I don’t think we should start again with the back-to-back/hidden city ticketing. Although on the surface it appears to be a neat “trick” to evade this stayover rules, all airlines prohibit this per their contracts of carriage. Whether or not we agree with these rules doesn’t matter; the fact is that these rules are there and if you are caught doing this, just don’t use the excuse “The Consumerist told me it was ok!”
    There’s a fairly lengthy discussion going about this over here: [www.airliners.net]

    Other than that, does anybody think that the CO/UA partnership ISN’T that great? I do, especially after things like this that UA does. Unfortunately CO is probably going to have to bow down to UA’s level…

  8. Aresef says:

    I swore off United after the bag-check news, so this doesn’t bother me one bit.

  9. I never understood the purpose of the Saturday stayover.

    IF the idea is to get business travelers to pay a premium price to avoid the Sat stayover…. well IF the penality is severe enough, companies will just work their employees over the weekend. Back in the day when I had to travel my work week was Thru thru Sunday (Four 10 hour days). Sure solved that Sat stayover without costing the business extra bucks.

  10. Fredex says:

    What ever happened to the idea that you made money by serving your customers’ needs? This is disservice.

  11. What the article doesn’t mention is that this is already effective due to the fact that it takes three days to get through all the airport security checkpoints.

  12. humphrmi says:


    They can’t take a bus to the big sales meeting or convention on the other side of the country, as that is financially ridiculous. (lost time vs savings)

    Yes and no. They (businesses that need face time in other locations) can start using video conferencing technology more. They can cut back on sales meetings. They can cut back on the number of employees they’re sending to conventions.

    Two years ago, businesses would put an employee on a plane at the mere suggestion that his or her presence was needed somewhere else. Today, that trip is going to be scrutinized more and fewer people will fly.

    Again, this won’t give business any incentive to increase travel budgets.

  13. @humphrmi:

    Absolutely correct.

    Travel budgets are getting cut as we speak.

  14. kepler11 says:

    this story has been pretty shoddily reported, and some of the commenters above are reflecting the misunderstanding that’s going on.

    What is most likely the correct story is that United is putting back minimum stay restrictions on many of the cheapest of fares where there was previously no requirement.

    Of course there will still be tickets where you can come back the same day. Those will continue to be the expensive tickets.

    For those who don’t understand, the Saturday night stay rule has been one of the most successful ways for airlines to get business travelers to buy expensive weekday tickets, while still allowing leisure travelers to afford weekend travel. This is because many business people will not tolerate being away from home on the weekend, and because companies will pay for this, airlines want that revenue.

    They put up these “price fences” so that business with money will pay for the expensive ticket, while the leisure traveler can buy a cheaper ticket for the weekend. Otherwise an airline would have to charge a uniform price, and the business traveler would get away with a cheaper ticket, while the leisure traveler would have to pay more.

    Don’t automatically gripe about it and think the airline is trying to screw you. This is how tickets used to be anyway. And how often does a Saturday night stay requirement actually affect you and prevent you from traveling as you wanted? In fact, for your personal travel, it allows the airlines to offer low fares for you on the weekend.

  15. LJKelley says:

    I think some of you don’t totally get it. You can still fly whenever but at a premium cost (and the thought is that big business can afford it) while saving the cheap seats for people actually taking holidays.

    While i’m a fan of one price per route per class, if they are gonna keep with the current model they should be taking in more money and who best to foot the bill. People can cancel a vacation, but business travel is sometimes a must (you can’t finalize a sale over videochat).

  16. evslin says:

    @Aresef: I swore off United after the bag-check news, so this doesn’t bother me one bit.

    Yes, let’s just hope the other airlines don’t follow suit with this tomfoolery.

  17. Leohat says:

    For bulk air fares to Hawaii there has always been a 2 night minimum stay. For Fly/Drives with Published rates, it is a minimum 7 night stay.

    That said, I’m putting United Airlines on my ’09 dead pool list. They be a hurt’n company.

    [disclaimer: I work for a travel agency]

    /airline ticketing rules are written by psychotic, mongoliod, crap flinging baboons.

  18. timmus says:

    What is most likely the correct story is that United is putting back minimum stay restrictions on many of the cheapest of fares where there was previously no requirement.

    Sure doesn’t sound like it to me. The source article says “Starting Oct. 6, most United fares will require a one-to three-night or weekend-night minimum stay.” “Most fares” does not sound like a handful of coach fares.

  19. ibanix says:

    This, of course, will not apply to 1st or Business Class… which is what they will force businesses who must fly into using.

    Seriously, does this actually surprise anyone? The soaring cost of fuel is destroying the airlines. They have no where else to get profit margin. If you have a better idea, let’s hear it.

  20. Nev-in-NYC says:

    Still fascinated by the hidden city ticketing…

  21. humphrmi says:

    @ibanix: I think the point that some are trying to make is that the airlines need to optimize their profit, not kill it. Stayover length has no impact on costs and only encourages businesses to find other ways to save money.

    There is the concept of Elasticity of Demand going into play here and I’m not sure that the airlines understand that.

  22. TechnoDestructo says:

    People can cancel a vacation, but business travel is sometimes a must (you can’t finalize a sale over videochat).

    Why not?

    Maybe if travel gets pricey enough, people will rethink that.

  23. TechnoDestructo says:


    Holy shit, look what the third Google result was for “hidden-city ticketing”:


    It’s a form letter to be sent from American Airlines to those caught using hidden-city ticketing.

  24. rbcat says:


    all airlines prohibit this [hidden-city ticketing] per their contracts of carriage.

    Southwest doesn’t (PDF; see page 5).

    With respect to all of our fares, Southwest Airlines does not prohibit or penalize what is commonly known as “hidden city” ticketing, nor does it prohibit or penalize what is commonly known as “back to back” ticketing. “Hidden city” and “back to back” reservations and tickets are authorized for travel on Southwest Airlines.

  25. Major-General says:

    @pianos101: I agree. I’m flying UA next week, and CO in September. I prefer CO, but money and schedule sometimes wins out.

  26. ffmariners says:

    good article

  27. geoffhazel says:

    the airlines are going to fight hidden city ticketing and back-to-back ticketing. Their computers are good at picking these up and in some cases you could lose all your frequent flier miles.

  28. DH405 says:

    Looking at the airlines’ policy on “hidden city” ticketing is just appalling. They act like you’re a criminal for finding the best way to get where you want to go. It’s THEIR fault for having a deceptive and confusing pricing scheme.

    If I’m offered 4 tires for the price of 2 even though I just want three, I’m gonna buy the 4. Then I’m gonna ditch the remaining two. Unethical? Eat me.

    Also appalling is the fact that people actually use airliners.net. $5/mo to use an online forum? Yeah, right. I think this explains why there are so many fools on that forum who are apt to defend the airlines. They’re either astroturfers or they’re just idiots who would PAY TO USE A FORUM. Wow.

  29. DH405 says:

    @geoffhazel: Oh noes! My worthless, fast-expiring, super-restricted miles! How ever would I do without?

  30. LUV2CattleCall says:

    In what other industry do you find press releases bragging about price increases? I’m convinced that the only reason they make a huge deal is to price-signal the other airlines to follow the leader.

    Lucky me…I usually go by my middle name, and my FF accts are on my middle name. Looks like I may have to make every other reservation with my first name, in order to evade the Almighty computer overloads they airlines have working for them.

    Wasn’t the whole reason UA got rid of this minimum stay crap because Southwest was KILLING them? Looks like it’s a good time short some shares of United!


    Hey now…they have to have some way to fund all the complete self-centered dicks they call mods! The only good forum there anymore is tech/ops…where people seem to love to help “noobs” learn more about the industry.

    For those not familiar with a.net, replace “Are they taking it seriously?” with “Is Northwest getting rid of the DC-9” and you’re more or less set!

  31. LUV2CattleCall says:


    When the hell did companies start posting their form letters online?

  32. bdgbill says:


  33. chiieddy says:

    I wonder if they’re going to make an exception for the Boston to NY to BOS to DC or NY to DC commuter routes (add Philly in there too). You know, the routes where you can hop the ACELA for not much more than flying…

  34. winnabago says:

    Economists call this price discrimination

  35. TangDrinker says:

    @SMSDHubbard: Seriously. I had no idea this was verboten. We live in Charlotte. If I fly from, say, Hartford CT to Charlotte, it costs $400. If I fly to Greensboro, NC, it costs $200. Where does the second flight layover? Charlotte. I’ve hopped off many times, and have encouraged family members to do so, too. Haven’t been penalized yet, but I’ll take this into consideration the next time we do this.

  36. Groovymarlin says:

    @bdgbill: too true. Everything the airlines do seems directed towards alienating customers and making it more and more unpleasant and inconvenient to fly. I’ve given up on flying completely, but I’m only a leisure traveler. I think when some companies start re-thinking things like video conferencing, then the airline industry will really collapse. Regulation is going to have to come back, or something.

    The bright side of this is, maybe it will help Amtrak. :)

  37. chrisdag says:

    @Groovymarlin: The bright side of this is, maybe it will help Amtrak. :)

    … timely article in NYT on this exact topic – Amtrak is getting busier but can’t pull cars from underused routes due to political issues:

  38. pianos101 says:

    @wesmills: You are correct. I meant to put that in my comment but it slipped my mind. Yet another reason why WN is becoming less of a “secondary” LCC and more or a first-rate “legacy”carrier.

  39. timmus says:

    Also appalling is the fact that people actually use airliners.net. $5/mo to use an online forum? Yeah, right. I think this explains why there are so many fools on that forum

    May I introduce you to MetaFilter?

  40. pianos101 says:

    @SMSDHubbard: If you bothered to read my post above, I said, “Whether or not we agree with these rules doesn’t matter…” I do not work for the airlines and I think that saturday night stays, etc. are ridiculous. However, until some act of god changes the airlines contracts of carriage we have to play by their rules, lest we deal with the consequences. (and, by the way, airlines are a business anyway. Fuel doubled in the past year; shouldn’t the part of my plane ticket associated for fuel double, too?).

    As for you dumb comment about paying to join a.net: if you don’t like it keep it to yourself. Although I don’t work for the airlines, airlines keep my company in business and without them, I wouldn’t have a job (I’m an engineer for Boeing). A.net is MY forum about topics that I care about and where I go to talk to other people who know a lot about both the airline and the aerospace industry. So relax.

  41. weakdome says:

    Maybe Amtrak would be a better option if they didn’t cost more for a 4-hr train ride from boston to NYC than a 30minute plane ticket costs for the same.
    Friggin ripoff. I don’t care if you get to “sit down and relax”. I want to get there, cheap.

  42. Nev-in-NYC says:

    The arguments against hidden city ticketing still seem a bit misguided. The airlines are claiming that they need to charge extra for checked baggage because it increases weight and decreases fuel efficiency. One would think that having fewer passengers on a leg of a flight would decrease the weight and improve fuel efficiency or at the least provide sufficient seats to cover the inevitable overbooking of the flight.

    Not to mention the fact that it seems a bit strange from a contracts point of view that they would penalize customers for not fully availing themselves of the benefit of the bargain. This would be akin to a pizzeria getting upset because you didn’t finish the whole pie despite paying the same amount as if you had. That being said, they’re a private business and can ban anyone they want from flying but still don’t see the unethical nature of it. It’s taking advantage of the system, just as reinstating minimum stays is taking advantage of the system. Guess that’s the golden rule, the one with the gold (or in this case the leverage) gets to make the rules.

    I believe the best way around this that I’ve seen so far is to book hidden city tickets under your middle name and regular ones under your first name or vice versa.

  43. dragonfire1481 says:

    Tell me, how does repeatedly making your business LESS ACCESSIBLE to customers help to raise profits?? Where is the logic here??

  44. BlackFlag55 says:

    Something has radically altered the business of business.

    Airplanes are airplanes. Not much major has changed since commercial air flight was introduced. An aluminum tube, filled with people, powered by props or jets and directed by avionics. It’s still pretty much the same physical factors it was in the beginning. But the business of air travel has degraded until it’s Dante-esque circles of hell. Why?

    Delta used to call you before your flight and ask how you wanted your steak done on your flight. Continental used to be a SUPERIOR airline. Braniff was just a freaking hoot to fly. Call for a reservation and a pleasant helpful human being answered the phone. Pleasant men and women greeted you at the airport, at the ticket counter and you weren’t probed for a bomb-squad anal exam just for parking your car. Sky Caps handled your luggage right from the curb, and you could walk unmolested from one end of the airport to the other.

    What we need to be asking is … what the hell happened? And don’t say Bush, because the corruption of flight service and everything associated with it began about the time GW was in high school.

    Travel used to be a joy, an adventure that was fun. Even business travel. Many of you have no experience of that, and that’s a damned shame. Used to be people respected travel and dressed for it, like it was an important occasion instead of just a cattle car to endure. Used to be the industry made a TON OF EFFING MONEY when it was fun and exciting. Airline stocks were gems in your portfolio. If they could make beaucoup bucks while providing outrageously great service, WTF, people? What changed? If Delta could make fantastic profits Back Then even with a human being calling you in advnace to see about your steak …. what changed? In pure scalar factors, more customers just means more employees to keep following the Game Plan that made them great. But something shattered all that, along with every other airline.

    What we need to be asking is … how the hell do we get back to a sensible industry run by sensible people with sensible customers in a sensible environment. I mean, dayum … this is not just Not Fun anymore, it’s toxic and untenable.

  45. charliux says:

    Yeah, ok. You want your $200 LAX-JFK ticket and also want your steak medium well?

  46. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    What happened? They lowered prices. By a ton. You may want to go back, but the rest of us will take our cheap fares.

  47. pianos101 says:

    @BlackFlag55: Your answer is a simple one: deregulation. Before deregulation the ONLY thing airlines had to compete against one another WAS service. Since prices and routes were fixed by the government, airlines can only make money by attracting customers to their airlines. How’d that do that? By calling you before your flight asking how you want your steak cooked.

    After deregulation prices were also left to competition; this meant that the airline with the lowest price would now win the customer, not the airline with the best service. As a result of this cost/competition downspiral service decreased; it HAD to (unfortunately). Gradually services and amenities were taken away and we are all left with crappy airlines that could barely make a buck WITHOUT the factor of high fuel prices. Costs these days are through the roof (labor, expenses, etc) and since airlines have to keep costs way down (because the have to compete on price, not just service) we the consumers are the ones who get screwed.

    @charliux: Right. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. $200 transcons are GONE regardless of the steak dinner, anyway. It just can’t exist anymore and I don’t want to hear people complaining about it. Nickel and diming, yes; complain about that. But don’t complain about high airfares.

  48. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    Isn’t requiring minimum stays really just a sneaky way to charge a ton of money for business travelers that don’t want to stay on a Saturday? Obviously if you absolutely insist on leaving Friday morning and coming back Friday night, the airline will find a way for you to do it. But that $300 ticket a year ago might now cost you $1200. And for a lot of businesses paying an extra $900 is cheaper than keeping an exec in a big city like NYC for the weekend just to satisfy the minimum stay.

  49. Tmoney02 says:

    Maybe Amtrak would be a better option if they didn’t cost more for a 4-hr train ride from boston to NYC than a 30minute plane ticket costs for the same.

    Hmmm have you actually timed yourself going point to point. Because I guarantee it doesn’t take you just a “half hour” to fly boston to nyc. Apparently your forgetting the long wait to be strip searched followed by an hour plus of just waiting around to board.

  50. ianmac47 says:

    How would this stop someone from booking the cheapest two one way tickets on different airlines?

  51. ianmac47 says:


    Boston to NYC is about 40 mins of airtime; that doesn’t cover the time to taxi, security, and getting to the airport.

    What is pathetic is that a $12 Greyhound ticket between Port Authority and South Station takes about the same amount of time as the $60 Amtrak ticket, or 4hrs and 15mins, or that some Amtrak trips between the two cities take 6hours and 40 minutes. Amtrak’s failure is the $90 Acela trip only shaves 30 minutes off of metroliner service.

  52. ElizabethD says:

    I have long believed that many of these “essential” one-day business trips were a self-perpetuating bunch of hooey. Remember that United TV commercial (I think it was United) where the CEO hands out airline tickets to all his reps and sends them off to meet with clients around the country?

    The worlds of commerce, government, and education are very ably connected through computer networks and video links these days. While business trips can be fun in some ways (yes, I said fun), are they really necessary? Might they be scheduled less frequently? Probably, in many cases.

    The Luddite in me likes the notion of a less hectic, more localized business model. Plus, I’m an Amtrak gal all the way. Just wish there were more sets of tracks linking more cities.

  53. pianos101 says:

    @Tmoney02: I have. When i went to BU i used to fly home to NY on the DL shuttle. For an 11:30 flight I’d leave my room at 10, get to the gate at around 11, land about 12:45 and be home around 1:30, with no traffic. That’s about 3 hours. Just the Amtrak portion from boston to new rochelle is 3.5 hours (no accela) and that doesn’t count getting to the train or getting from the train home. And, not to mention, that flying is more fun. And, i can’t use the miles I accrue on amtrak for a free ticket to hawaii; I can on DL…

  54. pianos101 says:

    whoops my math was wrong… door-to-door was about 3.5, but i don’t like sitting in one place for so long (e.g., a train ride) so i always enjoyed the “running” to catch a flight mentality anyway.

  55. kepler11 says:

    Ok, another brief lesson for you all, since the topic of hidden city ticketing has come up.

    First of all, anyone who discovers hidden city ticketing and wants to use it to outmaneuver the airline into getting where they want to go, had better read up real good and understand every aspect of it, before they try it. Because if you screw up the scheme, you will be out a ticket, and out cash for a new ticket to get home. You may learn an expensive lesson otherwise.

    What is hidden city ticketing? And why do some airlines prohibit using it as a “loophole”?

    Airlines do not price tickets based on the number of flights you take. They price the fares based on where you’re flying to and from. This allows them to compete in markets that they otherwise have no non-stop service to or from. For example, Southwest flies from Phoenix to Baltimore nonstop (say), and American wants to be able to offer a competing fare to gain some of those potential passengers, but doesn’t have non-stop service. So it creates a competitive price for this route, sending you through Dallas DFW.

    Now, it may be that flying from Dallas to Baltimore alone is even more expensive than the ticket above. This could be because there are lots of people in Dallas wanting to go to Baltimore, and are willing to pay it. While the price for PHX-DFW-BWI is less expensive because it isn’t a really popular route. So it’s less expensive, while containing more of the exact same segments. That is the strange thing that results from airlines competing for markets.

    Really, the airline doesn’t care that you have to connect through DFW. It views this ticket as a contract for transportation from PHX-BWI, and its connection point is not really important.

    NOW, some people living in Dallas will see this, and ask, why should I pay more for a ticket when I can get a cheaper ticket that begins in a different city and goes through Dallas?

    So they will buy the PHX-DFW-BWI ticket, plan to not use the first segment and get to BWI for cheaper. This is where they are screwed, because if they fail to take that first flight, the rest of their itinerary will be canceled by the airline (it knows what you’re trying to do). And you will be made to pay a walkup full fare to get home from BWI.

    Or, the airline may make a schedule change to the ticket, and maybe it has to go through Chicago instead. What will the person do? The ticket was a contract from PHX-BWI, there was no guarantee about DFW. And they are screwed for trying to game the system.

    So learn how it works, and mostly, stay away from hidden city gimmicks, unless you know what you’re doing.

    By the way, this is not the same as throwaway ticketing, where sometimes a roundtrip ticket (purchased in advance) is cheaper than a one way ticket. People use the outbound segment of the roundtrip, and throwaway the return. That is not against many airlines’ rules, and perfectly fine.


    We play by the rules the airlines set up, because it’s a voluntary agreement to fly with them, and for them to fly us. If you find it’s not working for you, then by all means come up with an alternative that you like. But the successful people will learn the rules, maximize them to their advantage and move on with life.

  56. pianos101 says:

    @kepler11: Actually you’re not quite correct. Throwaway ticketing IS “illegal” on most carriers. I think the only one it might be is on WN, but that’s because their fares are “one-way” only anyway, just like B6. DL, for one, explicitly prohibits throwaway ticketing: [www.delta.com]

    No one says you can’t try, just buyer beware!

  57. Nev-in-NYC says:

    @pianos101: Actually just for the sake of clarity, neither throwaway ticketing nor hidden-city ticketing are “illegal.” They may be “prohibited” but “illegal” implies that the activity is contrary to an actual law promulgated by a government body. Here the activity is prohibited by the rules of a private carrier, so illegal is not the proper term.

    Sorry, busy studying for the bar exam and in a warped mindset demanding precision…

  58. pianos101 says:

    @Nev-in-NYC: and…. that’s why “illegal” is in quotes. ;) Since most people (not like us Consumerists) don’t really know what an airline’s contract of carriage is i thought it’d be easier to say “illegal” and put it quotes because it’s not *atually* illegal. But i’m sure the airlines would like to make it illegal (with no quotes). :)

  59. surreal says:

    maybe i’m way off base, but can someone explain to me why the airlines are hit so hard by fuel prices? if maintaining an adequate profit margin relies so heavily on the price of fuel, why haven’t they been protected with futures contracts all along?

  60. JustThatGuy3 says:


    Some have had futures contracts in place, but many have been in such financial straits that they either (a) couldn’t afford the premiums or (b) weren’t viewed as viable counterparties, and hence couldn’t participate in the options or futures markets.

  61. @pianos101: I used to work for DL, and I can agree that throwaway ticketing isn’t approved of, although in my experience nothing is really done about it unless you do it on a regular basis (particularly when you do it with tickets associated with a skymiles account, because then it’s clearly the same person and not just an unanticipated change of plans). One thing most people don’t realize, though, is that once you’ve flown part of a ticket you are generally unable to use the remainder of the ticket’s value for anything other than a flight between those two cities, and you can’t use it towards a ticket for someone else. It was rare to talk to a person who thought they could force me to give them a refund on half a nonrefundable ticket, but I did end up talking to a lot of people who were surprised (and angry) to discover themselves severely restricted on trying to use the remainder of the ‘throwaway’ ticket.

    @kepler11: You’re absolutely right. What most people don’t realize is that most airlines have an automated system that will cancel all the flights on any ticket where the passenger doesn’t show up for any part of it. Unless you can provide an extremely good reason as to why you showed up for your flight in a different city than you purchased your ticket for (and trust me, most airline employees have heard it and won’t be easily fooled) you’ll have to pay full fare to get your seat back. And that’s only if there are seats left on that flight. There are definitely ways to work the system to your advantage, but I was always surprised by the sheer number of people who seriously overestimated their own ability to do so. So you’re absolutely right – do your research before you try something like this, or else don’t bother.

  62. scoosdad says:

    @wesmills: Well one good reason I can think of that Southwest doesn’t care if you use hidden city ticketing is their open seating policy. They don’t have a list of who is supposed to be in a given seat.

    If someone got off the plane a stop early, how would they know who that was unless they checked all the passengers still on the plane individually against the total list? That would be time consuming and chaos to their schedule.

    Other airlines who have a roster of passengers in specific seats, it’s relatively easy for them to spot a newly empty seat on the last leg of the flight and figure out who got off early.

  63. fhic says:

    Dear UAL,

    Please just die already. These continual half-hearted suicide attempt just alienate those of us who used to love you.

  64. @scoosdad: Actually, the only way any airline notices when a passenger doesn’t show up for a particular leg of a flight is when that passenger either doesn’t check in at all for a flight or doesn’t have their boarding pass scanned as part of the process of boarding the flight. Even on flights where you make a stop but keep your same assigned seat you have to take your boarding pass with you to reboard the flight when it’s ready to take off again, so there’s really never a situation where passengers board a flight without first scanning their boarding pass. This applies to Southwest as much as any other airline. By the time any flight takes off everyone involved, from gate agents to flight attendants, will either know or at least have access to information about which passengers boarded the flight and which ones did not. In the event of an emergency having an accurate passenger manifesto is essential, and there are a lot of other reasons why airlines would find them useful, most notably keeping track of suspicious behavior that goes beyond just abusing the system so they can alert the proper authorities.

    Probably Southwest doesn’t mind hidden city ticketing because their fare system isn’t really such that passengers have a lot to gain from doing it anyway. They figure the possible costs are outweighed by gains in customer satisfaction, which isn’t really true for traditional carriers.

  65. Ein2015 says:

    Epic fail.

  66. suzapalooza says:

    We flew United this past weekend with mixed results.

    When we boarded in KC, we found that our bag was 53 lbs., but the agent made no mention of it being overweight. I certainly didn’t draw attention to the weight displayed on the scale; thought maybe their scale was off and they knew.

    On our return flight the same bag, same contents, weighed in again at 53 lbs. But the Portland agent said it would cost an extra $100. WTF? Why did the same bag cost more on the way home? She said “Well, we fire people for not charging the fee, so I have to have $100 from you.” Uh, no. My daughter and I opened up the bag, removed a pair of jeans, and it made the cut. $100 my a** (no pun intended)

    The capper on the trip was them leaving my mom’s wheelchair in Denver so that we had to wait an additional 4 hours in Portland for it arrive on the next flight out. (the airport chairs have a tall bar attached that prevents them from being removed from the terminal so we were stuck) They did provide $7 meal vouchers for each of us – oh boy! We could almost buy one appetizer at the airport restaurant. If you see a wheelchair left behind at the gate don’t you get a little worried that someone may need it at the end of the trip?

  67. Snarkysnake says:

    Actually , the right way to do back to back flying (home for dinner and maybe the kid’s ball game) is to book the outbound (same day) on another carrier. If there’s competition,the fare will be close (or identical). My wife does this all the time. BTW- Fuck you,United. You will not be able to devise a system that we can’t beat. That will make it even more satisfying when you finally go out of business.

  68. DH405 says:

    @pianos101: Okay. They can increase their fares to make up for fuel costs, sure. But if they feel they can make money flying me A-B-C, then they can make even more flying my A-B. If they can’t make money, they shouldn’t sell the ticket.

    If I don’t follow thru the 2nd leg I’ve PAID for, then they can sell my seat or put someone else in it who might be on standby.

    Also, how about checking in for the next flight and then turning around and leaving? That would keep them from knowing you didn’t fly. The great thing about that is that it’ll still leave someone bumped or waiting for the next flight in standby while an empty seat flies on to the destination.

  69. pianos101 says:

    @SMSDHubbard: I know I know. I don’t disagree with you all. I’m just playing devil’s advocate… But still in the end airlines are private entities and until the government forces them to do otherwise they can do whatever they want (even if we scream really loud).

    And if you check-in but don’t board, they’ll know too. As The Boyg mentioned, some airlines might not care that much unless that actually catch you with your FF number or something, but even if you “check-in” and don’t board the plane they know you’re not there. They know everything…

  70. t325 says:

    @pianos101: So if I want to do throwaway ticketing on Delta (or any other airline) without risking getting in trouble with it, couldn’t I just check in for the return trip online and not actually show up?

  71. B says:

    @MissPeacock: By requiring the Saturday night stay, it gets more business travelers flying on Sundays, which is when vacationers typically return as well. This prevents the airline from having to fly half-empty planes on Saturday, thus keeping down the costs per customer for the airline. And for the people who choose that one way Saturday ticket, they’ll end up paying more than they used to.

  72. pianos101 says:

    @t325: The Boyg might know more, since he/she used to work for DL. But in either case:

    Checking-in and not boarding is the SAME THING as not showing up at all. Checking-in and not boarding still cancels the current leg of that ticket (and any other legs as well). The “final count” is done after boarding and who’s boarding passes are scanned. Although this list is compared to who actually checked-in, actually boarding is what counts.

  73. TechnoDestructo says:


    This is a common problem to people working in organizations that have to deal with people who are not a part of that organization:

    They expect people who have little or no stake in the success of their organization, and who have no way of knowing how things work internally, to both know and care about that organization’s problems. They probably expect this because every person they work with knows and cares about these things and DAMMIT WHY DON’T YOU?

    When people in charge make decisions while thinking like this, things will happen that probably seem perfectly reasonable to them but are like WTF to everyone else.

  74. t325 says:

    @pianos101: True, I didn’t think of that.

    Although it may not be SOP elsewhere, but when I flew Continental out of STL, they didn’t even scan boarding passes. They just collected them. Perhaps they scan them later, to speed things up. But it seems like a huge mess waiting to happen. The plane was going to Cleveland, and someone got on the plane thinking it was going to Newark. Luckily, she realized it before the plane took off, so she was able to get back into the terminal and go to the right gate, but I’d imagine that if her boarding pass was scanned, the computer would’ve thrown up a nice, big error. Or maybe the gate agents should pay closer attention to this stuff. Or maybe passengers need to pay closer attention and learn to read the big ass sign above the gate that said “Flight #### to Cleveland”

    And when I flew AA out of Madison, WI, they just ripped them up in half and gave you the stub, like they do at the movies. Another huge mess waiting to happen.

  75. pianos101 says:

    @t325: Yeah i’ve had that too. But rest assured, they cross-check (no pun intended ;)) the list before the plane leaves. That’s how they are able to page specific people to tell them to hurry up (another reason that checkin-in and not boarding would be difficult). Just in case something happens to the plane (god forbid) wouldn’t you want to make sure you’re searching for the right number of people (based on boarding, not checking in?)…

  76. FLConsumer says:

    Here’s a novel idea — Why don’t the airlines just raise rates to something sustainable and drop this shell game bullshit? It’s how business in the rest of the market works. I’ve raised my rates because of increased costs. Client grumbling was minimal and my profit margins are increasing. The race to the bottom is always a bad, unsustainable business strategy.

  77. coren says:

    @MissPeacock: The goal isn’t to force people to stay weekends at all – most people who are not traveling for business won’t have problems meeting these requirements anyway. This is a way to milk the people flying business back and forth in rapid succession – either by hitting them with the higher round trips that violate their 3day/weekend stay rules, or by getting them with their newly raised one way fares. And the thing is, most customers won’t foot that bill anyway – in the end it’s their employer that will, an employer with substantially deeper pockets than the average traveler.

  78. kepler11 says:

    I’m tired of this “why don’t they just raise fares” silliness. Don’t you understand the pressures of pricing?

    Why doesn’t McDonalds become a buffet and charge one price so I don’t have to pay for each individual thing? Why doesn’t the gas station have an all you can pump policy, so that we don’t have to see how many individual gallons we’re using, and being nickel and dimed?

    Do you see why it’s silly to keep asking “why don’t they just raise fares”?

    If you don’t like *seeing* the extra charges, then don’t use those services, or just cover your eyes when the bill comes. That’ll be just like them raising the fare. In the meantime, I, who don’t use all those extra service, will still get a cheaper ticket compared to you.

  79. pianos101 says:

    @FLConsumer: As kepler11 said, this is easier said than done. Go to kayak.com and search for fares between two cities that are served by many carriers (legacies and LCC’s). You’ll see that the lowest price fares are listed at the top. Well, if one carrier combines all the fees into their fare price, they’ll be at the bottom of the list (and cause more of a “sticker shock” reaction). Airlines, obviously, want to be at the top of the list. And, when you pay a lesser fare, then shell out some more money at the airport, it doesn’t *feel* like you’re paying a higher price ticket because the cost is spread out over different times (until the credit card bill comes…).

  80. BlackFlag55 says:

    Just to keep the conversation going … so, the answer is that when the maximum amount an airline could charge (regulation) is set by the government, this = massive profits and superior customer service? But when companies were freed to set their own prices profitability fell into consistent red.

    I’m trying to wrap my head around that. Government mandated pricing = a time of great profits, whereas freed to pursue their own best interests airlines screwed themselves into bankruptcy?


  81. LUV2CattleCall says:


    Uhh…did it every cross your mind that, even without adjusting for inflation, airfares have fallen?

    As for your theory that airplanes haven’t changed…fly up front in a NW DC-9, then in an A321…. Also, one caries 50% mpre pax and both use the same amount of fuel.

  82. pianos101 says:

    @BlackFlag55: Basically it seems that way… Re-regulation definitely opens up a WHOLE other can of worms that would never get through the halls of congress and the airline lobbies, but there are definite benefits to partial re-regulation…


  83. RandomHookup says:

    One approach I saw used by business travelers who went to the same city for weeks on end:

    Book a one way flight to your destination city for Monday. Book a round trip flight for Thursday or Friday, returning to your non-home city on Monday (giving you a Saturday stayover in your home city). Rinse, repeat.