Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.
Like 99.999999% of you (the other .000001% of you must count money in the back rooms of the airline fortresses), I hate Basic Economy fares. I don’t hate the concept of saving money by forgoing some traditionally included airline amenities, but I hate that instead it now costs more money to get basic things like seat assignments, elite qualifying miles, room for carry-on bags, etc. Basic Economy fares were not a way to reduce prices for some, it was a way to raise prices for most.
However, it doesn’t matter whether I like them or not, they are pervasive on most United routes, and I am sure they are spreading beyond there at any point. I cannot think of any realistic scenario where I will be a United Basic Economy buyer since I like to use my elite E+ seat perks, have the ability to change flights if I need to, appreciate earning elite qualifying miles, and certainly need advance seat assignments in most cases. This means I need strategies to avoid booking those fares virtually 100% of the time.
I already shared that using Chase Ultimate Reward points online at a fixed value to book travel is very easy if you want to avoid United Basic Economy fares since they display the cheapest regular economy tickets instead of Basic Economy prices….at least as of now, always double check the fine print. If you use United miles to book awards those tickets also do not have the Basic Economy rules.
When using real cash to book United flights of course avoiding Basic Economy is simply going to cost more, but that amount can be mitigated a bit if you use the Veteran’s Advantage Discount Code.
Via the Veteran’s Advantage program you can get up to 5% off many of your United flights by purchasing a membership to Veteran’s Advantage. You don’t have to have been a veteran yourself to qualify to purchase a membership – all of the following are eligible for membership.
- U.S. Veterans
- Active Duty military
- National Guard & Reservists
- All branches, all periods of service
- Next of kin: Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons or daughters.
The regular annual price for Veteran’s Advantage is $59.95, though they sometimes run specials on that price. For example, right now I believe you can get a $25 Amazon gift card for joining. There are a few little drawbacks to using Veteran’s Advantage and getting up to 5% off your base fare. You need to enter the code on the United website to book your flights, so you can’t book on other sites and sometimes can’t stack with other discounts and certificates. Your flights must originate and be ticketed in the U.S. or Canada to be eligible and are valid for travel to 50 States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and Caribbean on United or United Express flights.It does stack with the United.com Fare Club where you can earn $5 per ticket booked on United.com.
The Veteran’s Advantage discount does not apply to Basic Economy “N” fares, but what it does do is bring the lowest regular economy price back down closer to the cost of Basic Economy.
To use the Veteran’s Advantage discount, click on “all search options” on the main search screen. Then under the expanded search screen, in the promotions and certificates section enter your Unique Travel Discount Code (which is displayed as soon as you purchase your membership).
As an example, here are some upcoming flights from Houston – Boston. Neither fare shown is particularly cheap, but in the first example Basic Economy is $20 more one-way than a regular economy ticket.
In the next example I used my Veteran’s Advantage discount and the Basic Economy price stays the same at $333, but the regular Economy fare dropped to just $3 more at $336.
You won’t always see the code having that big of an impact, but it always helps and never hurts. You need to do the math to make sure you will get enough savings to warrant paying for the yearly membership, but in addition to the discount on United, there are many other discounts or specials with companies such as: Amtrak, JetBlue, CVS, Apple, and more.
Does your family use the Veteran’s Advantage Discount to narrow the price difference between United’s Basic Economy and regular economy fares?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.