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United considers a-la-carte pricing with new ‘bare fares’


United is considering a new type of fare that follows the recent trend of airlines charging for “amenities” that used to be free, such as Northwest’s charge for aisle and window seats.

These “bare fares” will have a low base price, with a-la-carte pricing for amenities like seat assignments, frequent flyer miles, and checked bags. “United officials were convinced that offering bare fares would enable the airline to offer customers a competitive fare while at the same time creating a revenue premium for United,” reports Travel Weekly (free registration required). The fares would be available in about a year, says Greg Taylor, United’s senior vice president of planning.

In addition to “bare fares,” United is considering a few other options to generate more revenue while, of course, “providing a better experience for our customers,” according to Taylor. These include itinerary changes for $25 or $50, one-day elite status (with priority check-in, security lines, and boarding), and one-day passes for Red Carpet lounges.

If United’s idea takes off, you can bet other airlines will institute similar policies. But it remains to be seen whether a-la-carte pricing will be good or bad for travelers.

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