How We Are Sort of Avoiding United Basic Economy Fares

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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.

Veterans Advantage Discount

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 Fare Club where you can earn $5 per ticket booked on

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).

United Veterans Advantage

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.

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  1. Good post, but I want to point out that if you really hate these unbundled “basic economy” fares, the best thing you can do is fly an airline that doesn’t offer them – period. Yes, I’m thinking of Alaska and Southwest. The airlines execs are giving us these fares because they think we want them or will pay more to avoid them. The only way to prove them wrong is to fly another airline, otherwise they will spread and become even more ubiquitous than they are today.

  2. I just went to the Veteran’s Advantage website, and the top banner says “Exclusive Military Discounts, Benefits & Rewards for Active Duty Military, Veterans and Their Families”. They might not verify that you meet this criteria when you join, but it sounds to me that the spirit of their program isn’t for people that don’t meet this description to be getting the discount. I hope you’ll update your post to clarify this – thanks 🙂

    • Tim, Sorry if it seemed I was advocating rule stretching here as that isn’t the intent. I do outline exactly who is eligible. I don’t at all advocate going for it if you don’t qualify – it’s just that it doesn’t have to be only the veteran as the program name may imply. Also anyone who served + their kids, their siblings, their parents, etc.

  3. I’ve been booking hidden city tickets ending in Canada. No basic economy, generally cheaper to begin with. A small way to get back at them.

  4. I always thought you were one of the better bloggers as far as standards and ethics go – but to see a post like this just sickens me

    • I feel you are jumping to conclusions. How can you say pointing out a valid benefit to those eligible who may not be aware of it is sickening. She is not advocating taking advantage of it if you are not eligible. I am not eligible but I do have some extended family members who are and I will bear this in mind next time they ask my travel advice…

      • Thanks, yeah I am honestly also confused. I outline exactly who is eligible and don’t state or imply anyone else should take advantage. Glad it made sense to you and glad it may be useful to some of your family members.

    • I’m genuinely confused. Nowhere do I intend or imply folks who aren’t eligible should do this. However, lots of folks are eligible since it is not intended just for veterans but also those related. Truly sorry if I have somehow offended, but genuinely confused as to how that was misconstrued.

  5. Also confused by the above comments.

    My husband is a vet, and even with that discount or travel vouchers our family would still pay more on United than we would on Southwest. We’ve moved our spend to Southwest for the rest of the year and are giving the vouchers to other family members.

    • Solid plan if Southwest matches your travel patterns for sure! Their destinations keep getting better and better!

  6. Why would anyone book one of the insult fares when you can get the same price on Jetblue with more legroom, free snacks and friendlier service? I hope they take such a hit that they end of apologizing for them, probably late after they take the billion dollar stock value hit!

    • …forgot also free seat selection (chance to get in front of wing for no extra charge). regular points, free internet.. Also Alaska and SW don’t similarly punish you for buying a low fare, Alaska has the best customer service by far, and SW also has free internet and adds free bag check. United is going the opposite direction, which is to offer less as their value proposition? What idiot would do that, Monty Python?

  7. I’ve never understood who would actually buy these basic economy fare’s in the first place? The savings just isn’t enough for me to switch and lose the perks that come with a regular economy fare. As an example, Austin to Fort Lauderdale in November one way, basic economy is $201 and regular economy is $216. $15 savings???

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