United hides cheap flights from passengers affected by coronavirus

Last updated: Mar 15, 2020

Update: United only applies a change waiver to flights in the same fare class but we still can’t explain why there’s a price discrepancy for the same economy (T) ticket. Either way, you’re paying more than what would pay for a new flight on the same date - even if you match the fare classes.

We book a lot of travel. While most airlines have graciously offered change fee waivers in light of the coronavirus pandemic, our team couldn’t help but notice United Airlines taking part in some blatant anti-consumer behavior. Some flight changes that qualify for a change fee waiver seem to be marked up compared to current market rates.

In other words, when passengers want to change their flight and apply the value of their existing ticket towards a new flight, they will not be shown or sold the cheapest fares available to the public on United’s website.

For example, we looked up this flight from PPT to SFO, it’s $780 for a one-way economy (T) ticket:

Now, when we try to change an existing flight booking on United.com, the exact same economy (T) ticket costs $821:

Even worse, there’s an economy (G) ticket on the same flight that costs $228:

United could have shown customers the lower fare but intentionally chose not to because the fare class (G) is lower than the original economy (T) ticket. While this may not be intentionally deceitful, there is still something to be said about its “book now & have no change fees later” ad campaign, which doesn’t disclose the nuance of their new travel waiver policy.

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