United bundle offers are nothing new. Introduced in 2016, these are packages of various extras that you can add to your purchased fare. These may include items like Economy Plus seating, checked bags, United Club passes, etc. But look very, very closely before buying a bundle on a United Economy ticket. This isn’t news to seasoned travelers, but for infrequent or new United flyers, buyer beware. As I discovered, this can actually cost you more than buying these a la carte. Especially in Basic Economy
United Bundle Offers – A Bad Deal!
I recently purchased a United Economy ticket from Dallas to Chicago. Why? Because I really want to fly the 737-MAX 9, and that’s the most convenient routing to try it. (Don’t ask me why. I guess it’s because I’m irrationally obsessed with the MAX in the same vein as the 717.) Of course, flying to Chicago on a weekday in December returns some pretty low fares.
As I’ll explain later, it’s generally NOT a good idea to choose the “Economy Plus” option. It won’t save you money, and the booking code provides no benefit if crediting to a partner program.
When you purchase a ticket on United, you’ll usually see a buy-up offer for extras like this:
While I’ve seen these for years, I rarely gave them a second glance. Most involved some sort of checked bag offer, and none of my recent United flights warranted a bag.
In this case, though, the pricing jumped out and caught my attention. All of these bundle offers center around Economy Plus seating. And the price seemed awful high for a flight from DFW to Chicago. Though it’s $6 cheaper to buy out of Economy Minus here than when selecting the fare, it’s still not a good deal. That’s because Economy Plus seats on this flight, if purchased separately, run from $59 to $77. In other words, you save up to $15 by waiting until the seat selection screen.
I suppose if you REALLY want one of those $76 or $77 seats, buy the bundle and save a few bucks. (And if you bought an Economy Plus “fare” – really just an Economy fare with an $80 seat fee – you come out behind every time.)
As for the other offers, they’re not any better. If I wanted to buy Economy Plus, I’d pick a window, which goes for $66 on this flight. So if I picked the seat and paid for a checked bag, that’s a total of $96. Why pay $7 more than you have to by purchasing the bundle? For the last bundle offer, I guess it depends on how much you value priority boarding. If you’re in Economy Plus, you already get Group 3, so does Group 2 justify an upcharge? In my mind, no, but maybe it’s worth it to you.
The value propositions deteriorate further when buying a Basic Economy ticket. These United bundle offers popped up when I clicked the Basic Economy fare.
Meanwhile, here’s the seat assignment a la carte pricing for Basic Economy on this flight:
Seat assignments include preferred seats, so I guess if you really want that $41 preferred seat, you get a slight discount. (Most “preferred” seats on this flight go for $25 or $26. And frankly, I don’t see any value in a standard coach seat a few rows farther up to begin with.) But otherwise, you lose with every possible seat. Even when checking a bag, you’re still better off paying the $30 for the bag and $16 for a window in the back than buying the bundle. The only one that sort of constitutes a “deal” is the checked bag plus United Club pass. This results in a price of $47 for the pass, or a $12 discount off the standard price. Personally, I wouldn’t pay $47 for a United Club pass, but YMMV.
For that matter, if you value a seat assignment, why buy a Basic Economy fare on this routing to begin with? The buy-up to standard Economy Minus is only $17, which gives you access to all standard seat assignments. And then you can take a regular carry-on to boot.
Granted, these United bundle offers vary each time you buy a ticket, so maybe these provide real value on occasion. But based on my offers, why would you ever buy most of these? United’s price points just don’t make much sense at all. Now, throw in a cheeseburger, and you’ve got my attention…