With holiday shipping deadlines tightening by the day, United Airlines has decided it could take a little stress off the shoulders of gift-givers by offering a gift that doesn't need expedited shipping – one-way fares starting at $49. The airline is also giving its rewards members a good deal by offering awards trips starting at 4,900 miles.
However, there are two “buts” that consumers need to pay attention to, and they’re big ones. First, travelers need to understand that these fares “start at” $49 and don’t account for taxes and fees. Secondly, the window on this deal closes at midnight on December 14.
United’s hubs – Newark, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Denver, Washington D.C., and San Francisco – get the bulk of the best prices, but even small markets like Lincoln, Nebraska, and Huntsville, Alabama, have hard-to-beat fares.
Flights starting at $49
When ConsumerAffairs jumped into United’s reservation system for this deal, here’s what we found for flights using January 12, 2022, as the day of departure.
For $49 each way: routes include Cincinnati to Washington D.C. and Nashville to Chicago.
For $69 one way: routes include Boise to Los Angeles and Atlanta to Houston.
If you’re willing to pay more but still get a good deal: United has $139 one-way fares from places like Ft. Myers to San Francisco and Washington D.C. to Phoenix.
Can travelers expect more deals to come soon?
It’s too early to know if these kinds of deals will continue to be offered, but others may follow suit now that United has thrown down the $49 gauntlet.
“When it comes to domestic and short-haul international routes, we're living in a ridiculously competitive fare environment, which can only be good news for travelers,” Willis Orlando at Scott’s Cheap Flights told ConsumerAffairs. “What's even better is that we can expect to see other full-service airlines respond to these cut-rate fares with bargain fares of their own.”
Orlando cited a recent example from Alaska Airlines, which offered flights to Hawaii from certain West Coast cities for $123 roundtrip. That prompted American, Delta, and Hawaiian Airlines to react with deals of their own to Hawaii. The bottom line is this: If you’re looking for a good deal on airfare, watch airline sites like a hawk and be prepared to move quickly.
“We'd expect to see much of the same with these highly in-demand domestic routes this week,” Orlando said. “So if you're a Delta or American loyalist, standby, your deal is probably on the way within days if not hours.”