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. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Prepare yourself for more changes with United basic economy — and no, this time it isn’t good newsAs suggested over the summer, beginning Dec. 11, United will be adding an expanded version of its basic economy product to select transatlantic flights.

Currently, the airline offers a special “first bag charge/no changes allowed” booking category, that’s still eligible for full mileage accrual, seat assignments and more. Come Tuesday, that’ll be replaced by basic economy. It’s a big downgrade.

First, a bit of good news — as with the airline’s domestic and regional product, MileagePlus members will earn the following when purchasing transatlantic basic economy fares:

  • Full Premier Qualifying Dollars
  • 50% Premier Qualifying Miles
  • 0.5 Premier Qualifying Segments
  • Lifetime miles (based on mileage flown)
  • Segments toward the four-segment minimum for elite status

There’s a lot they won’t get, though. With these new fares, complimentary seat assignments will not be available — meaning you’ll likely end up with a middle seat — it won’t be possible to make changes to an itinerary, including via United’s same-day change policy, and you’ll need to pay for the first checked bag, unless you’re a United elite or Star Alliance Gold member.

However, this transatlantic basic economy product does come with some advantages over its domestic counterpart — according to United:

  • Customers will be allowed one full-sized carry-on bag and one personal item on board, and will be able to check a bag for an additional fee
  • Customers will be able to check in online and via the United mobile app
  • Customers will not necessarily board in the last boarding group

So, in a way, we can look at this as “basic economy light,” since you do still get several key benefits.

While these fares aren’t available just yet, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them replace the current “first bag charge/no changes allowed” fare, which you’ll find on selected routes. In some cases, they really do save you a ton, with fares that are legitimately competitive, such as $305 round-trip from Newark (EWR) to Paris (CDG).

In other cases, it’s not such a great deal — but still far cheaper than regular coach.

We’ll have to wait for the full launch before we can fully evaluate these new fares, though I’m hopeful they’ll at very least match (and ideally undercut) the discounted “first bag charge/no changes allowed” option available today.

With this latest introduction, United is saying “We are committed to providing more options for our customers so that they can choose the experience that best fits their needs.” In reality, United and other airlines clearly want customers to believe that basic economy offers customers a lower cost option, when in reality these restricted fares are priced identically to the fares we’d seen for full economy before.

While we could always see lower fares in the morning, your best bet is to book the discounted European option available today — if you want to jump on basic economy tomorrow, you’ll be able to take advantage of the airline’s 24-hour flexible booking option and make that change for free.

Know before you go.

News and deals straight to your inbox every day.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.