I’m not up to date on the whole airline industry, but here’s something that I don’t understand:

Starting Oct. 6, most United fares will require a one- to three-night or weekend-night minimum stay, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said.

The new rules, which apply to nearly every ticket, are bound to be unpopular with business travelers who prefer to catch a flight out early in the morning so they can make it back home in time for dinner.

Major carriers scrapped most minimum-stay rules — put in place largely to discourage big-budget corporate travelers from snatching up the cheapest seats — years ago, although a number of airlines have been tightening up restrictions and tacking on fees in recent months as the price of fuel has soared.

Does this mean what I think it means? Cause I think it means that the airline is trying to dictate your travel schedule. But that doesn’t make any sense. There’s no way that I’m going to stay somewhere longer than a couple of days because the airline won’t sell me a ticket home. I’d buy two one-ways with two different airlines first. I’d certainly never buy United. Even apart from the hotel costs, it’s not worth it to me to stay some place that I don’t want to stay.

I also don’t understand how this would do anything except alienate business travelers, who are often the most lucrative set. I mean I guess it would mean fewer people trying to get flights at prime times since they won’t try to game the clock to leave Thursday and be home Friday, but wouldn’t an easier way to do that to be to just raise the costs of morning and evening flights?

The only logical reason I can think of this policy is to make pricing a lot more complicated. Allow people to think that they’ve purchased tickets for $X and then to apply a surcharge for breaking some inane and pointless policy about minimum stays.

The more logical thing is that this is about something other than what I think it’s about and that I am a fool for misunderstanding. So can anyone tell me what the heck is going on here?

Category: Market

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6 Responses to Say What?

  1. Webmaster says:

    The idea is to try to hide a shrinkage in the number of flights.

    If they mandate a certain number of days’ stay, people will naturally group up at certain days; they can then fly fuller planes on those days, and cut the flights in between without most people noticing.

  2. bobvis says:

    This is actually pretty smart.

    It isn’t really a minimum-stay rule. It is a minimum-stay rule to get the *cheapest* available flights. We consultants made it a habit to buy one-way tickets to our clients and then book round-trips back home so that we could take advantage of the low fairs they give you for staying over a weekend. Airlines figured that if you stayed over the weekend, you must be not really be a business traveler. In reality, we were just pretending.

    So, this will be a way to charge price-insensitive business travelers more, which has been the goal of airlines since the practice was invented.

  3. Peter says:

    Two one-ways are likely to be substantially more expensive than the cheapest round-trip.

  4. Becky says:

    I didn’t quite get this either — if I were a business traveler, I would just fly on a different airline instead of paying more with two different sets of tickets.

  5. bobvis says:

    That’s a risk any airline takes with any kind of change to its way of pricing fares. Anyone who changes their policy generally hopes that others will quickly follow their path.

  6. bobvis says:

    By the way, remember that the whole point of this is to hit the business customers who are the least price-conscious.

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