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United makes basic economy slightly less restrictive

Aug. 25, 2020
4 min read
United Dreamliner Polaris Premium Plus Economy Cabins Zach Griff - 35
United makes basic economy slightly less restrictive
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Each of the three major U.S. airlines offers a basic economy fare. With this pricing strategy, the mainline carriers have more closely matched the fares of low-cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit by stripping out many of the inclusions you’d typically get with a regular economy ticket.

United's offering is the most restrictive of any U.S. airline. Of the many restrictions, seat assignments aren't included in your purchase. Historically, they could be purchased anytime before check-in or you'd get one assigned for free during check-in. But this policy has always excluded extra-legroom Economy Plus seating.

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Well, the carrier has made a (small) positive update. Beginning Wednesday, Aug. 26, basic economy customers will be able to purchase an Economy Plus seat at check-in, an airline spokesperson confirmed to TPG. This means that those who'd like a little extra legroom can pay for the privilege 24 hours before their flight.

United Economy Plus on the Boeing 757 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

While United Premier elites can typically assign Economy Plus seating for free, those who purchase basic economy fares can't partake in that benefit. Sadly, that's not changing with today's policy update. (Likewise, Economy Plus subscriptions can't be applied to basic economy bookings.)

As before, customers can purchase regular coach and preferred seats anytime after booking. Economy Plus seats can't be purchased until check-in though. If you choose not to purchase a seat, you'll be auto-assigned one during the check-in process.

While this is definitely good news for those who'd like to purchase a little more space, note that once travel demand picks up again (and elites take to the air), there will likely be very few extra legroom seats left when check-in opens. Most times, it's typically just a few scattered middle seats available. But if you can score an aisle or window, it could definitely make sense to upgrade.

Related: How to use credit cards to defeat Basic Economy

Unfortunately, United's basic economy fares still have a bunch of other restrictions. You can't take a full-sized carry-on bag, or even pay for the privilege, unless they have United elite status, are Star Alliance Gold members, are United MileagePlus cardholders or are flying on a transatlantic route.

Additionally, you can't typically make ticket changes at any price, and you’ll earn reduced credit toward elite status and award miles. However, due to the coronavirus, United has a change-fee waiver that includes basic economy tickets. For tickets issued between March 3 and Aug. 31, 2020, there are no change fees.

Related: Comparing basic economy fares across U.S. airlines

To avoid some of the basic economy restrictions, you’ll want to make sure that you have a co-branded United card. United Explorer Card members receive a free checked bag and priority boarding, while those with the United Infinite Club Card receive a second free checked bag, priority check-in, security and baggage handling.

United Economy Plus seats on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Your other alternative is to fly with American Airlines or Delta. Both of those carriers allow you to bring a full-sized carry-on bag on a basic economy ticket.

Either way, if you choose to fly on a United basic economy fare, at least you'll now have the option to purchase an Economy Plus seat at check-in.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff / The Points Guy)

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases