United.com Now Displays Roundtrip Ticket Pricing

Filed Under: United

No, United hasn’t suddenly changed their fares, or even changed how their fares are structured on the back-end. However, they have changed how they display their fares through united.com.

Specifically, up until recently when you did a search for a roundtrip cash booking on united.com, you’d get the pricing for each direction of the trip as you searched. In other words, United would first show you the outbound segment, and the price displayed would only be for that segment. After you selected an outbound you’d be presented the pricing for the return. Only after selecting your preferred outbound and return would you see the total roundtrip price.

That has now changed. United.com now shows roundtrip per person fares when doing online searches. In other words, take the below trip between Tampa and Newark. Even though the first page only shows you the outbound flights, the pricing shown is for the roundtrip (and yes, let’s not even talk about how United still can’t figure out their basic economy pricing… unbelievable).

After you select the outbound you’ll be presented with the return options. The cheapest fare should be the same as you saw on the first page (well, other than how horrible united.com is, as it’s glitching and showing a flexible fare of $901 rather than $379 — what the heck?). Some flights may be more expensive, and that can drive up the price even further.

United is matching both American and Delta here, as both airlines show roundtrip pricing on revenue tickets at all stages of the booking process.

Which we all have different preferences as to how we like airlines to display fares, I imagine airlines have reasons they want to display roundtrip pricing.

Personally I prefer one-way pricing. That’s because in the event that one direction is significantly more expensive than the other (which you’d clearly see when pricing is displayed on a per direction basis), I’d be more likely to search with another airline for the more expensive direction. However, that’s also precisely why I imagine airlines prefer to display roundtrip pricing — people see less of a breakdown of the airfare, and that’s probably a good thing for the airlines.

You can circumvent the roundtrip pricing by searching for one-way tickets instead. In a vast majority of cases, domestic airfare is priced on a per-direction basis nowadays, meaning the fare won’t be lower if booking a roundtrip rather than two one-ways.

If you are a frequent user of united.com, this change is something to be aware of. Award pricing continues to be on a per direction basis, though for revenue tickets, don’t be shocked if the fare you initially see is now twice as much as before.

Do you prefer airlines displaying roundtrip pricing, or do you prefer to see the cost of each segment individually?

  1. You’re reasoning for preferring one-way pricing doesn’t make any sense. The one-way prices United used to show are based on a round-trip fare; if you tried to book one of the segments only as a one-way, you’d most assuredly *not* get the same low price you see when searching it as round-trip.

    I always HATED the each way pricing (a better way of referring to it), and as a relatively captive UA frequent flier (due to SFO/ status), I’m thrilled it’s gone.

  2. @ Patrick W — That’s true for international flights, though for domestic flights a vast majority of fares are on a one-way basis.

  3. @Lucky while I agree that for you and travel hackers the one way pricing makes sense…I think for consumers this is better. The Average flier who maybe flies once every year the forward clear pricing is better. I feel like infrequent fliers prefer the round trip…you should listen to my mom when she books on Southwest and gets so frustrated when she at first thinks it’s only 49 round trip.

  4. @lucky: in my experience, on United specifically, a lot of flights price much, much higher as one-way than as round trip. I’m talking about all those direct flights they have from Newark, especially when other carriers have no direct service (examples: EWR to Milwaukee, San Antonio, Kansas City, Omaha, Madison, Columbus, Memphis — just to mention a few where I noticed this). Throwaway ticketing can get around these one-way restrictions sometimes. I’m not sure if it’s specifically a Newark thing, and whether this is not the case from SFO or other UA hubs.
    Yes, for flights between big hubs (LGA/EWR to Chicago, Houston etc) one-ways are half the round trip price. And, if you don’t insist on direct flights and are ok with connecting through the big hubs on your way to those cities I mention, then one-ways are also reasonable.
    Sometimes you can book a one-way like EWR-ORD-MKE and then within 24 hours do a confirmed standby to the direct flight, and save tons of money that way.

  5. @Lucky – well you’re probably about that; I’m fortunate enough that I usually fly overseas for holidays (but not fortunate enough fly business and/or not worry the price!) My international::domestic flying ratio is probably at least 5::1, if not 10::1!

  6. Who on Earth still uses clunky and slow airlines websites when you have Google Flights? And yes, Google Flights shows the total pricing at each step of the way, as it should (well, not quite, as they still don’t allow you to specify the number of bags and whether you want a premium seat and/or a meal and then give you a truly total price — hopefully they will add this soon).

  7. Whatever way, I have to look it up twice, as two one ways and one round trip, to compare prices.

  8. @lucky,

    I do a lot of domestic flying on United and one way prices have *always* been higher than the each way price (as nicely defined by Patrick W). As a result I often book RT or multi-dest tickets when I only need one way because the one way prices higher than RT/multi-dest.

  9. I prefer this roundtrip pricing. Before, United would often discount the outbound business class fares to trick you into selecting them, then the return would be way higher to compensate (as well as economy returns). The “each way” fares were always based on round trip anyway. If they based it on true one-way fares I would definitely prefer that. But this way you’re at least seeing what it will actually cost.

    American’s site has also been glitching super bad with pricing too. I’m not sure why they all have such a hard time putting out straight forward fares.

  10. Absolutely correct! When you check “One Way,” you encounter HIGHER pricing than while looking at round trip (or, “each way”) pricing.

    That said, what I absolutely HATE is when United, or any airline, pair up the outbound and inbound flights. Generally the timing of the OUTbound flight is fine, but it offers truly unacceptable times for the Inbound flight. Drives me crazy . . . .

  11. Yuck…I mainly fly United domestically and I frequently fly mixed class itineraries (i.e. Y in one direction, domestic F in the other) and this seems way less transparent for that case. Additionally, unless you have a huge amount of flexibility, the ’roundtrip’ price when selecting the outbound leg is almost certainly going to be wrong, as that’s making the assumption that you choose the cheapest inbound leg.

    On United, on many domestic routes, one way legs are the same as booking RT. I’ll frequently book one ways on the ends of international trips on other airlines, and unless you’re looking at a premium trans-con they’ve always priced normally for me. Can’t say if that’s true for smaller outstations, but it’s certainly true for hub-hub

  12. Lucky, believe it or not, one-way pricing will almost ALWAYS be WAAAY more expensive then roundtrip fares, which still baffles me why on all your articles you only mention one-way fares. Us normal people dont shell out thousands just for one-ways.

  13. I prefer round-trip price display. I used to see that my outbound may be dirt-cheap due to some promotion but then find that the return price for my target dates are just ridiculous. This saves me time.

  14. I book with Delta a lot, and I often find a huge disparity between round-trip and one way pricing. More than once I’ve even seen the exact same price for a one way trip as a round trip on the same route domestically through smaller airports like Lexington, Tulsa, etc. (These prohibitively high one one trips can be a great use of Skymiles, I’ve founds some great deal on one way trips with miles where cash is literally the same price as a round-trip.)

  15. I’m developing a strong dislike for the new system… it calculates the return on the cheapest option. Period.

    If you do an advanced search, for example, and try to search for a GPU-upgradable fare, then it will display the cheapest possible price for using a GPU on your outgoing, and the cheapest economy (non-GPU) fare for the return.

    So if you want to use two GPU’s, then you will never see the proper return price for the flights you select.

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