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No Economy Available?

So, I'm tracking I flight I want that will go through Dulles where my sister lives. It is a long story, but basically there is a return flight I want that is on United going from Athens to NYC to Dulles. This flight is for August. Looking at the seat chart there are only 8 seats taken out of all of economy yet United does not offer any economy seats for this flight. Anyone understand why that is? Is it just too early and they open them later? I don't recall ever running into this.

Posted by
1016 posts

To make sure I understand, you've been checking this flight for some period of time, economy seats have been available previously for sale, but now they are not? If this change occurred today, it could be that it's Friday, the day United starts their schedule updates for the week and it should resolve itself as the weekend progresses, though United's IT can be a bit creaky. If this isn't the case, what dates and flight numbers are you looking at in August?

Posted by
1190 posts

I am not sure looking at the seating chart is an accurate way of knowing how many seats have sold. In May, we are going on a group tour to Israel. We are 60 people and our seats will be assigned at check in. When I look at the seating chart not many economy seats are reserved. However, I know 60 more are sold so...can't really know for sure how full the flight is. I would probably just call the airline reservation number and ask why I cannot purchase an economy seat.

Posted by
1839 posts

I have been tracking the fare for only about two weeks and economy has not ever, in that time period, been available to chose.

We will take SMF to Dulles on to Barcelona. The problem is:

I want to fly Athens to Dulles on August 6 departing at 12:15 arriving in Dulles at 9:13 United 125/ United 4900

We then hope to spend the night there with my sister and continue from Dulles to SMF on the United 291 leaving 5:30-8:12 the next day.

The price is outrageous I'm sure due to the fact that they are not offering economy at this time. It shows economy "not available" as well as Business "not available". It shows the one leg I want is $4613! I have not seen this before when the plane appears empty.

Any thoughts?

Posted by
6869 posts

See if a travel agent can book it for you.
Remember you're having to pay dearly for that stopover in Dulles. It's like two trips instead of one with an approved stopover.

Posted by
1386 posts

As the previous poster said, you are trying to force a stopover in IAD. This seems to be a multi city trip.
Have you tried pricing it as a multi City?
Or, try pricing with the trip ending in IAD, and price the IAD-SMF as a separate ticket and let us know what shows.

Posted by
1016 posts

My guess--and it's just a guess--is that this has something to do with Married Segment Logic. You can price out your itinerary if you make your destination upon your return IAD instead of SMF, and it prices at about $1400 for your August 6th flight. You can also purchase a separate ticket for your flight the next day between IAD and SMF, and I am seeing a price of $570 for that. So, yes, there are clearly Economy seats available, but for whatever reason United's website is not seeing or offering the availability when you string everything together. It might be the overnight in IAD that's lousing things up, but I'm not sure. If it doesn't change in the near future, you might want to place a call to United and see if they can get this itinerary to ticket for you, or at least explain why they can't or won't. Or, you could go over to FlyerTalk (here's a link to their United Airlines Forum) and post your question with your desired itinerary and dates of travel. Those folks love to answer questions such as this.

Posted by
1386 posts

There seems to be something funky going on. You do seem to be right - I just searched on United.com for just the ATH-EWR flight (UA125) and even though the aircraft is empty (barely 30 seats seemed taken), UA is not showing any basic economy fares. It is only showing flexible economy.

My suggestion is to wait as it will eventually open up.

Just realize that the ticket you are trying to book involves an open jaw and an additional stopover so the price may be higher.

Posted by
1839 posts

Yes, that is correct, it is open jaw or multi city. I'm buying it all as one ticket using multi city.

Not to complicate the story more, but we are already booked home going through Toronto- Dad and I onto Sacramento and sister to Dulles. A United agent offered us the route I listed above Athen-Dulles- Sacto with an overnight but I wanted to talk to my family first. When I called the next day the flight had increased ( or it was higher and I never got that info?) and they said they would wave the change fee, but it was $2200 for the flight and we had already spent $1700 which I still find very high, so I wasn't about to pay more. If we can't get it, no big deal. But after thinking about the overnight in DC it would be much nicer for almost 92 year old dad. But $2200 per ticket for economy, just can't do it.

When I noticed they were not offering economy I figured that was why- but maybe it is the overnight layover? I find most long layovers are not desirable and cheaper, so I though it was just the economy thing messing it up.

Thanks for the tips!

Posted by
1190 posts

Keep us updated. (I am following this just to see how it all works out).

Posted by
3491 posts

If you can pay for an economy seat on the flight you are looking at, there are seats available especially this far in advance.

Most of the flights you can book through United for this trip are NOT United flights. They are code share with other airlines like Lufthansa. You can never pick seats at booking time for those flights and you have to do so either when you check in or when you receive the operating airline's 6 character booking code.

The other issue may be that it is way early to be booking flights and many airlines don't open availability more than six months before the flight.

Posted by
1839 posts

OK, here is an update. I called United (probably should have done that first instead of bothering everyone here) and they tell me that when the seats are "not available" they are sold out.

It does seem interesting to me that so many flights on my day of travel are sold out Athens to D.C. on Aug 6 for Economy. What IS available is Economy Flex at a much higher rate. I wonder if they are limiting the number of Economy and in place of Economy is now Economy Flex? It just seems very odd to me for 7 months out for most all United flights that day to be sold out of Economy and only show Economy Flex pricing.

BTW- I realize that some United flights can be a share partner. This flight is United Athens to Newark on a United flight. Also, no, you can not pay for an Economy seat on this flight, only a Flex. And, I heard about the Basic Economy, but that doesn't seem to apply for this problem. I don't see anything titled Basic Economy for this flight - only Economy/Economy Flex/ Business.

I still don't understand it, but I will continue to track it to see what happens over the next 7 months. I'm glad I already have my airfare purchased (Athens to Toronto ) even if it isn't idea now it seems we got a screaming deal for $1700! But, that is the most I've ever paid!

Posted by
3491 posts

United Basic Economy is not being sold yet. It will start only for flights to/from Minneapolis this quarter with a full roll out later this year if things go well. From what I understand from my United friends, it is only for domestic flights anyway.

As far as the availability of the economy seats, I am completely at a loss. The plane is empty, but you can't book a seat.

EDIT: OK, mystery solved. United does not sell economy seats on one way international flights, only the flexible economy which allows refunds etc.. You can get a round trip ticket for the route you want for under $1,000. If there is any way to book what you are doing as a round trip, it will save you a lot.

Posted by
1343 posts

Just conjecture on my part but I suspect that due to the combination on basically a one way ticket and the airports involved that United is only offering basically full fare flexiblle tickets. I'm guessing that the city pair of IAD - SMF is heavily traveled by lobbyists, lawyers and politicians. Therefore United sees people booking one way flights as relatively price insensitive. And sets prices accordingly. The late departure would be desirable for business type travelers leaving after a day of meetings etc. I also tried a search for round trip SMF-IAD depart 8/1 returning 8/7. That booking showed a discounted economy fare.

Posted by
2474 posts

Don't know if this info will help anyone. Around Thanksgiving during the period with the huge airfare discounts we found and booked a trip with United, Philadelphia to Dubrovnik and return from Ljubljana, for September. The return is through Zurich with Zurich to Dulles and Dulles to Philadelphia on actual United flights, ad we were able to select our free economy seats immediately. There were also improved options for sale. As the outbound flight swas United selling seats on our favorite Lufthansa from here to Frankfurt, we can not yet select seats for free because Lufthansa does not allow free seat selection prior to check-in. Sometime after, we discovered that for the two additional short flights -to Dubrovnik on Croatia Air and to Zurich from Slovenia on Adria, acceptable seats had been assigned. All of this is in economy.