United Pledges to Always Offer Basic Economy Option Domestically
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
In February of this year, United first started selling basic economy. But, unlike American Airlines — which started selling basic economy on the same day — United has been incredibly aggressive about its basic economy rollout. Less than two months in, UA had already expanded to over 100 routes.
This morning, in United’s earnings conference call, UA President Scott Kirby confirmed that basic economy has now been rolled out to all domestic routes. This is drastically different than American Airlines, which has slowly introduced the new fare class to just 24 basic economy routes at this time.
In addition, Kirby says that United will always offer a basic economy option — even if there’s just one seat left for sale on the plane… and even if the price is $1,172 round-trip for 1.5-hour flight:
In an all-to-common refrain, Kirby claims that this “gives customers choice.” While that’s technically true, there’s a much bigger driver of basic economy’s introduction: increasing fares.
Our data shows that — while American and United claim basic economy allows them to compete with the low-cost-carriers — the airlines continue to charge more than the LCCs. Essentially, the new basic economy fare is what fliers used to pay for standard economy. Now, travelers have to pay more to get to carry-on bags, select a seat, earn elite miles, not board last and/or have a shot at an upgrade.
And, it has worked for United so far. The airline has made its basic economy fares so painful and ubiquitous that roughly 70% of passengers have chosen to pay more to get a standard fare. From the airline’s stance, this is even better than American Airlines’ performance getting only 50% of passengers to pay more for the same service they were getting prior to February.
Hopefully the other 30% have learned that you can use credit cards to alleviate much of the pain of basic economy fares. Just by having a United co-branded credit card — most of which waive the annual fee for the first year — you can board early, carry on a bag and check a bag for free, too.
Are you paying more to avoid basic economy?
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees