United to Discount Its Luxury 'Travel Options'

How many ways can airlines separate consumers from their money?

It used to be that the price of a ticket was all-inclusive. Today, the ticket price is just the beginning. Next come the fees and surcharges for services that once were part of the basic fare. And then there are the add-on fees for extra-cost items that actually add value to a trip.

United has gone furthest in developing this latter type of service, going so far as to brand, as Travel Options, a portfolio of extra services, including Economy Plus, Red Carpet Club airport lounge memberships, Door-to-Door Baggage service, Premier Line, and Award Accelerator.

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In the long term, United's move may turn out to be a smart one. But their timing couldn't be worse. Selling extra-cost luxuries amid a global economic meltdown is like peddling snowcones during a blizzard.

But United's bad timing is creating an opportunity for travelers curious about the upgraded services, but reluctant to pay the full prices. The airline, obviously facing a demand shortfall, is discounting three Travel Options services, as follows:

  • Through December 18, travelers can save 30 percent when upgrading to roomier Economy Plus seats. With the discount, you'll pay an extra $9 to $149 each way, for up to five more inches of legroom.
  • Through January 15, United is offering its Door-to-Door Baggage service for $99 per bag, each way—a 45 percent discount. The service uses FedEx to ship suitcases overnight from your home or office to a destination within the 48 contiguous United States.
  • And also through January 15, United flyers can purchase a one-time pass to a Red Carpet Club airport lounge for $40, a 20 percent discount off the normal rate.

Are these services worth the extra costs? Maybe. What's almost certain is that there will never be a better time to find out.

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