NEW YORK - United Airlines said Friday it will start requiring minimum stays for nearly all domestic coach seats beginning in October. It also is raising its cheapest fares by as much as $90 one-way.
The second-largest U.S. carrier said the moves are among a number of changes, including flight and job cutbacks, it is making to combat record high fuel prices.
The Chicago-based airline has been among the industry’s most aggressive in pushing fares and fees higher in recent months, and those efforts have often been matched by other carriers. The industry is scrambling to raise revenue in a fight to forestall what is projected to be a record multibillion industrywide loss this year.
Starting Oct. 6, most of United’s economy-class fares will require a one- to three-night or weekend-night minimum stay, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said. The policy does not apply to fliers in other classes.
The new rules are bound to be unpopular with business travelers who prefer to catch a flight out early in the morning so they can be back home in time for dinner.
“They’ll push back big time,” said Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation consultant. “It’s one thing to simply raise fares. It’s quite another to do it by imposing restrictions that appear to make it harder to conveniently fly.”
Major carriers scrapped most minimum-stay rules — put in place largely to discourage big-budget corporate travelers from snatching up the cheapest seats — at the start of the decade, although United and other airlines recently started bringing the rules back piecemeal. Friday’s changes are far more sweeping because they also apply to highly competitive routes where United goes head-to-head against lower-cost rivals such as Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways.