United’s April Fool’s joke comes over a week late….

…. in the form of this sale. United clearly put some effort into this “Europe first class” sale, yet it’s beyond a complete joke. Seriously, click the link, I promise you’ll laugh. So let’s do the math here. You can fly from Washington Dulles to London Heathrow for a mere $4,012 each way in first class, plus tax. That comes out to about $8,228 roundtrip. As if that’s not ridiculous enough, take a look at the two major restrictions:

  • A 14 day advance purchase is required, except to London where a 42 day advance purchase is required
    Travel is valid daily
  • A 7 night minimum stay is required and a maximum stay of 12 months is permitted

I have to ask myself, who is United kidding. United, if someone’s going to pay $8,200+ for a paid first class ticket, are you really in a position to add a 42 (!!!!!!) day advanced purchase requirement, not to mention a seven night minimum stay? So if someone wants to take their spouse to London for the weekend, you’re going to turn down $16,400+?

No matter how hard I try, I can’t rationalize this. First of all, we’re in a recession. Who the hell is going to spend $8,200 on a leisure ticket? Second of all, why the hell would anyone fly United that could afford to pay for a premium cabin? Using random dates from Dulles to Heathrow, for example, I see that Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is available for $2,400 all-in, less than a third of what United charges. I’m sure the prices will only get cheaper as summer approaches.

I would be shocked if one person takes advantage of this “special offer.” Oh, what I would give to be a fly on the wall at United WHQ when “special offers” like this are discussed….

Comments

  1. Sometimes the customers you think would be crazy to pay at high prices, are exactly the customers you need and want to get. If someone is going to be jumping on a “deal” in “first class” to Europe, at an outrageous price point, don’t you want it to be on United. 🙂

    I realize this is a somewhat different example, since I think people realize fares are not related directly to the actual product offered, but I still think it is amusing and useful to consider.

    I know an immigrant family who opened up a suit and tailoring business in SF. His prices were always better than the established guys. His business struggled until he discovered that only if he raised prices _above_ the prices of the established guys did he do well. Suddenly he had something “unique” about his product. 🙂

    I think when it comes to airfare deals, I want UA to be a little two-faced. When I go to United.com I want to half the time see amazing great uber discount fares for me, and then half the time see the humorous expensive fares for those other “beautiful people”. I am even happy to share my plane with them, as long as they pay for most of the fuel. 🙂

  2. They also sent out a targeted domestic first class savings announcement. As low as 189 dollars, each way, plus taxes, from ORD to MSP! What a steal!

  3. Premium paying passengersare likely to fly Star carriers for their better product and service and their lower priced premium class tickets. The United C class sale to Asia over Easter is more of a true sale.

  4. “I would be shocked if one person takes advantage of this “special offer.” ”
    –There’s a sucker born every minute, even among the rich.

  5. I especially love the misspellings: “Washtington Dulles – Moscow”. How so United.

    maybe the prices are typos also.

  6. I think you mis-understand the united marketing process. You seem to think that the process is:

    1. Determine where you have seats to fill
    2. Set fares to sale prices to attract customers
    3. Advertise

    Clearly the process is:

    1. Determine where you have seats to fill
    2. Advertise whatever fares are being currently offered and pretend they’re a good deal

    I don’t think marketing has any input into fares/fare rules, I think they look at what revenue management has set the prices to be and decide which ones they want to try to market hoping that something works (and it probably wouldn’t take many purchases of first class seats to justify whatever expense went into this “sale”)

  7. I don’t think I have seen a UA sale advertised on their homepage in recent years that had any real deals.

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