United offers discounts to younger travelers, and the deal just got better
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
For about three years, United Airlines has offered discounts to travelers between the ages of 18 and 22, but now, the airline has extended the offer to include 23-year-olds.
As a recent college graduate and United Airlines Premier 1K member, I've used this discount to save thousands of dollars on United flights. Even those who aren't frequent United travelers can save with this discount.
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Discounts start at 5% off a normal ticket, but they can be much higher on certain routes and dates. This is particularly true on close-in bookings. I have found discounts of more than 60% in some cases. These discounted fares are valid on any route that originates in the U.S. and flies within North America; they may also include codeshare flights on Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Brussels, Air Canada, ANA or Air New Zealand with a UA flight number.
For example, a close-in departure on a flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) costs $244.60; however, with the young traveler discount, the flight is just $92.51 — a 62% discount.
Today, we'll go through the ins and outs of the United Airlines young traveler discount.
How to book this discount on United flights
There are four easy steps to follow to find and book fares with this discount, according to United:
1. Download or open the United app.
2. Log into your MileagePlus account. If you don't have one, you can sign up for free and should include your date of birth in the registration process.
3. Select “Book” on the bottom navigation bar.
4. Select "Discounted travel (ages 18-23)." That way, the discount will automatically appear when you search for flights.
After following these steps, you will be taken to a new screen where you can search for flights. You'll notice that you can only book a flight for one traveler, yourself.
The discount will automatically apply to eligible flights. It will be clear that you are looking at discounted flights if you can see the word “Discounted” in green text below the flight price.
About United's age discount
There are several important terms to know about United's age discount:
- Travelers must be between 18 and 23 years old. As your date of birth is pulled from your MileagePlus account, you have to be a MileagePlus member and put your date of birth on file.
- One passenger is allowed per confirmation number. When using the discount, you can only book one person on a single confirmation number, even if your traveling companion is between the ages of 18 and 23. Those passengers need to make their own reservations. Historically, this has been challenging as United only allows complimentary Premier upgrades and other Premier benefits to be shared with a companion when they're on the same confirmation number as the Premier member. (The only exception to this is with Economy Plus seating; you can call United to have your companion seated in Economy Plus if you're a Premier member with your companion on a separate confirmation number.)
- This discount is only valid for economy and basic economy fares. It's a bummer that there isn't a discount on Premium Plus and business class bookings. However, normal economy tickets purchased with this discount are still eligible for upgrades (paid, mileage, PlusPoints, instant or complimentary), based on availability.
- Premier members get all their benefits. United allows Premier members to receive all their normal benefits; however, you might be a bit lower on the upgrade waitlist when traveling on a ticket booked using the young traveler discount. In my experience, when traveling on the young traveler discount, I am one of the last Premier 1K members to be upgraded before Premier Platinum members.
- Basic economy fares are eligible for the discount as well. Basic economy fares have several restrictions, including seat assignments at check-in, no seat changes or upgrades, no flight changes, no full-size carry-on bags and reduced MileagePlus Premier qualifying credit.
There is a minimum 5% discount on United or United Express-operated flights within North America originating in the United States. All published, non-contracted economy class fares are eligible.
On international flights from the U.S., United offers "varying discounts." Here's what I found the discounts to be on some international routes on flights originating from the U.S. All fares are standard economy on United unless otherwise noted:
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Heathrow Airport (LHR) round-trip: 1% discount, $772 discounted fare, $780 public fare.
- Dulles International Airport (IAD) to São Paulo/Guarulhos Airport (GRU) round-trip (one-stop each direction): 17% discount, $1,382 discounted fare, $1,666 public fare.
- Denver International Airport (DEN) to Puerto Vallarta's Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR): 4% discount, $614 discounted fare, $638 public fare.
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Sydney Airport (SYD): 12% discount, $2,525 discounted fare, $2,870 public fare.
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Vienna Airport (VIE) (Austrian Airlines codeshare flight): 10% discount, $1,301 discounted fare, $1,441 public fare.
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL) (Air Canada codeshare flight): no discount.
Related: How to get maximum value from the United MileagePlus program
Sweet spots to maximize your United discount
As mentioned, last-minute flights tend to have steeper discounts. My earlier example — the flight from San Francisco to Seattle leaving four days later — shows more than a 60% discount; the same flight two weeks later only shows a 5% discount.
Flights where the origin and/or destination is not a hub often show steeper discounts than hub-to-hub flights. For example, flights between Newark (EWR) and Chicago O'Hare (ORD), two United hubs, tend to be less discounted than flights between non-hub cities such as Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), John Wayne Airport (SNA) and Redmond Municipal Airport (RDM).
Five days in advance, flights between EWR and ORD are showing about a 7% discount; flights from SNA to ORD are showing about a 53% discount.
As a recent college graduate, I am always looking for the best ways to save on my next trip, and this United discounted fare is a great way to do it, particularly if you have a last-minute travel need. Now, travelers up to age 23 can enjoy these discounts.
Search around for yourself to find the best discount for your travel needs. Volatile prices might take a few different searches throughout the week to find the best price — but once you find a deal, it will be worth it.