United’s Adding Basic Economy to International Flights

Dec 10, 2018

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.

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.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • 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 up to 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 in the U.S., 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 $80 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 PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • 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
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
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.