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What to Know Now That United Is Selling Basic Economy Fares

February 21 2017
4 min read
What to Know Now That United Is Selling Basic Economy Fares
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We knew United's Basic Economy fares were coming, and now they have officially arrived. Do not be fooled into thinking that means you can now save a few bucks on your airfare when you don't need things like carry-on bags or advanced seat assignments. No, it means you now get less than you did yesterday unless you pay more than you were paying.

For now the Basic Economy fares are popping up on some routes from Minneapolis, because they are apparently better rule followers than some of the rest of us, they are used to the rules from low cost airlines like Spirit, and United flights from there connect to the other hubs. In my test searches I am seeing the Basic Economy fares about $20 - $40 cheaper per direction than the regular Economy fares. Or, more accurately, regular Economy fares where you can get advanced seat assignments next to your three year old cost $20 - $40 more per person each way.

That really adds up for a round trip journey when you are purchasing for a whole family. Frankly it sets up a recipe for logistical disaster when families understandably book the cheapest ticket but still need seat assignments with their young kids. United won't be the first airline to tackle that challenge, but it will still be a challenge all the same.

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As you can probably guess, Minneapolis is just the starting point for these fares and they are expected to spread quickly to the rest of United's domestic and Caribbean routes, and may spread across the entire network from there.

As you can see, the Basic Economy fare is very clearly outlined, and in fact on the next screen the pop-up defaults to the Basic Economy fare not being selected, even if you selected it on the first screen.

On the third party sites that I checked, like Orbitz, United's Basic Economy fares are also being sold and labeled as such, though again it is unrealistic to assume that some people won't just book the cheapest fare regardless of the pop-up warnings and information.

I wrote about United's Basic Economy rules in more depth here, but since the fares are now live and for sale, here is a refresher of what you do and don't get when you purchase Basic Economy according to United.

  1. Seats are assigned prior to boarding, and customers traveling together, including families, will not be able to sit together. You will also not be eligible to purchase Economy Plus seating or premium cabin upgrades, or receive Economy Plus subscription benefits. With standard Economy, customers traveling together can choose seats together if open seats are available.
  2. You're allowed a small personal item that fits under the seat in front of you, such as a shoulder bag, purse, laptop bag or other small item, 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm) or less. Mobility aids and other assistive devices are also permitted. You're not allowed a full-sized carry-on bag unless you’re a MileagePlus Premier member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card or Star Alliance™ Gold member. If you bring a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate, your bag will be subject to the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling charge.
  3. Ticket changes are not allowed. This includes advanced changes and same-day changes, even for Premier members. Fares are nonrefundable.

Do you plan to book these new Basic Economy fares from United? What would the price differential have to be for you to forgo things like earning miles, having assigned seats, etc?