United hasn’t had enough bad press of late, so on May 9th they will launch Basic Economy class on hundreds of domestic routes. That’s sure to lead to plenty of exciting news coverage for them next month when most passengers start experiencing them…
With a Basic Economy ticket United won’t allow full size carry-ons, won’t award elite qualifying miles, won’t allow seat assignments, won’t allow any changes to Basic Economy fares (after the 24 hour free cancellation period), and they will board Basic Economy passengers last. You are able to bring a personal item up to 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches. If a Basic Economy passengers tries bringing a larger carry-on item, the bag will be checked under and be hit with a $25 fee on top of the regular checked bag fee.
However if you or anyone on your reservation has a United Explorer or Club card or has elite status then you can all board early and each bring a free full size carry-on bag, even if you are on Basic Economy fares. You will also get a free checked bag, just as when traveling on a regular economy ticket. Elite members won’t get economy plus seats, upgrades, or elite qualifying miles.
The main “punishment” for cardholders on a Basic Economy fare is that they won’t be able to assign seats. Commenter “CtownBin” asked yesterday if he might be separated from his 3 year old if they buy $58 Basic Economy fares from Cleveland to Los Angeles.
Now 99% of people won’t want to sit next to a 3 year old and will be more than happy to trade seats so that you can sit together. Of course there’s still the 1% chance that you get 2 middle seats and that you are both seated next to crazy people who would rather spend a flight next to a 3 year old seated away from their parent, than trade for a middle seat.
My advice to raise that to 99.99% odds of sitting together was to bring a car seat for the 3 year old. Federal law requires that the carseat be placed in a window seat. Even if United were to give you say, 22F window and 25E middle, it will not be hard for you to trade either 22E for 25E or 25F for 22F. You won’t run into a situation of having to find someone to trade you their aisle for a middle with that strategy. I’d also highly reccomend a GoGoBabyz Travelmate, which we use to make it easy to push Rafi in an Evenflo Maestro travel carseat and Talia in a Cosco Scenara travel carseat.
While some people claim that all Basic Economy fares are just the previous lowest fares, I have not found that to always be the case. Before Basic Economy fares a one-way ticket between Cleveland and San Francisco on United would cost hundreds of dollars. Now it’s available for just $48.20, by far the lowest price I’ve ever seen.
The upcharge between Cleveland and San Francisco to go from basic economy to economy is $25 each way.
While the upcharge between LaGuardia to Chicago to go from basic economy to economy is $15 each way.
In researching the upcharge required to buy out of Basic Economy and into regular economy I quickly noticed the pricing logic pattern. Of course it’s subject to change, but it applied in all scenarios that I searched for.
Flights that were up to 1,199 miles in distance according to GCMap.com had a $15 upcharge, flights that were 1,201-1,874 miles in distance had a $20 upcharge, and flights that were 2,052 miles or more had a $25 upcharge.
Sample $15 routes:
Washington DC-Detroit: 383
Washington DC-Atlanta: 534
Chicago-Fort Lauderdale: 1185
Sample $20 routes:
Houston-Las Vegas: 1222
Houston-Los Angeles: 1379
Chicago-Los Angeles: 1744
Minneapolis-Los Angeles: 1535
Chicago-San Diego: 1722
Sample $25 routes:
Cleveland-Los Angeles: 2052
Cleveland-San Francisco: 2161
Baltimore-Los Angeles: 2329
Sample routes without basic economy:
Washington DC-Los Angeles
United Basic Economy still beats an airline like Spirit.
-United gives free snacks and drinks, has better seats, offers more legroom, has WiFi/TV/streaming entertainment, etc.
-If you have a United Explorer or Club card you still get free checked and carry-on bags.
-United has more frequent flights and interline partners to accommodate passangers in case of irregular operations, whereas on Spirit you can wait days for a new flight if yours is cancelled.
-United has far more valuable miles than Spirit does.
Will you fly on a Basic Economy fare or will you pay the upcharge? Hit the comments!