Saving $150 in airfare by searching better


As circumstances would have it I need to fly from San Diego to Miami in early June. This is a work trip but I’m doing my best to keep costs down and also avoid a redeye flight and there are not a ton of combinations which made that viable. Searching the usual suspects last night I mostly found fares in the $400+ range with long layovers. That’s not so great but it would get the job done, I suppose.

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That $422 fare without the ridiculous layover arrives at a reasonable hour (I might be able to catch the end of the Sunday evening portion of the event) and the $20 premium over the longer layovers was no big deal. I was resigned to paying it and trying to scrimp elsewhere in the budget. I made it to the United website (after an aborted effort to use the new, beta site which refused to take my bookings) and started into the process where I noticed that the rate quoted was a mix of S and T fares. It was pricing as an end-on-end ticket. Even more strange is that the $331 fare shown is a W fare, a bucket “higher” than the S and T fares I was getting. Something didn’t smell right.

united-high-fare-san-mia-married
Yes, I could pay this higher fare, but the mixed fare classes were a hint that something wonky was going on

And so I dug a bit deeper and tried to force the W fare on the connection I wanted. It came in as a $429 Q fare so the S+T was actually less expensive. Maybe I was stuck with that price. And then I remembered how United has a history of doing badly when it comes to pricing married segments on connecting flights. And so I changed my search method. Rather than searching for San Diego to Miami I searched San Diego to Houston and Houston to Miami. And I saved just over $150 for my efforts.

united-low-fare-san-mia-unmarried
Hey, look…this version is $150+ less expensive, and it only took me a couple extra minutes to find with an advanced search.

The final price paid was better than any of the fares I could find online in the generic searches and it was actually at the times I wanted to fly. I even managed to snag my preferred bulkhead window seat on both flights. I’m calling that a nice win.

Moral of the story: If you have an itinerary with a connection on United Airlines it probably pays to search more than once. You never know how much you might save.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

15 Comments

  1. “Look”? Your images are too little and there is no enlargement if clicked, think about it

  2. What other airlines permit this, Delta for ex. does not allow you to break published routes into multi-city itineraries?

  3. Also, do you have a link to another page where you describe how to “force” a different fare? I’m interested in that.

    1. On the advanced search page of the United site you can specify fare buckets. I use that. It doesn’t make a fare show up if such doesn’t exist but it can help in situations like this some times.

  4. Have you tried cleverlayover.com? It sorta looks at things creatively for you by breaking trips up into segments.

    1. Just checked this itinerary on that site. Prices at the higher fare so not so useful for finding these, I think.

      Also, the only cheaper options it found were 60+ hours for a transcon. That’s too much, even for me.

  5. On United.com, did you search for “Multiple Destinations” and then enter Line 1: SAN -> IAH, and Line 2: IAH-> MIA?

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