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How Basic Economy On United Can Save You Hundreds of Dollars On Air Fare

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    Jonathan Chum

What is Basic Economy on United?

Basic economy fares is the latest new trend in the airline industry. It may have different names based on the airline, but for the most part, they have the same target audience.

If you been flying for more than a decade, you may have realize that fares in economy class has been going up compared to over a decade ago.

Airlines have been raising fares on tickets and that has caused some travelers who use to fly on the cheap on domestic routes to stop flying as frequently.

Airlines such as United has a new fare option called Basic Economy which is available on select routes.

Standard United Economy fares remains the same.

This new fare class, Basic Economy on United targets customers who are price sensitive.

They are in the same cabin as economy such as inflight services and amenities, but with a few restrictions.

Basic Economy On United

Basic Economy On United

What Is The Difference Between Basic Economy And Economy On United?

  • Seat selection are not available: When you book a Basic Economy ticket on United, you will be assigned a seat prior to boarding. Once assigned, you cannot change seats after. If you want to select a seat, you maybe offered an opportunity as an upsell to purchase during booking and/or up until the time the check-in opens. However, you will not be able to purchase Economy Plus seating or get Economy Plus subscription benefits.
  • Upgrades are not available: If you are a MileagePlus member, you cannot use your earned or miles to upgrade.
  • Group and family seating is not available: If you are traveling as a group which includes as a family, you will not be able to sit together unless you choose the option to select seats at the time the tickets were purchased and seats on the flights are available.
  • Full size carry on bags are not allow: On select routes, you maybe permitted a full size carry on bag such as a trans-Atlantic flight. However, other flights such as domestic routes, Basic Economy ticket holders are not allowed to bring a full-size carry-on unless you are a MileagePlus premier member or a companion traveling on the same reservation.
  • One personal item is allowed: You are allowed on personal item such as a purse or laptop bag or other item that may not measure more than 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches. And they must fit within the seat in front of you. If you need to check a bag in on a Basic Economy ticket, you may do at the check-in counter or kiosk in the airport lobby. Mindful to check a bag in will incur an extra fee.
  • Flight changes and refunds not allowed: United does not allow flight changes or refunds for Basic Economy ticket holders. However, with COVID-19, tickets issued between March 3 and March 31, 2020, there are no change fees.
  • Certain MileagePlus and Premier member benefits are not available: If you are a MileagePlus member, you will be able to earn award miles based on the fare and your MileagePlus status.
  • Last to board: With Basic Economy on United, you'll be in the last boarding group. If you Mileage Plus Premier member or companion traveling on the same reservation, you may board earlier.

How Much Does It Cost To Check A Bag On United Basic Economy?

If you book a United Basic Economy fare and need to check a bag, the bag fees vary based on your itinerary. If you do not have status with United, here's one bag fee set you may expect.

  • Within the U.S. and Canada: 30forthefirstbag,30 for the first bag, 40 for the second bag, $150 for each additional bag
  • Between the U.S. and Europe: 60forthefirstbag,60 for the first bag, 100 for the second bag, $200 for each additional bag
  • Between the U.S. and Mexico: 30forthefirstbag,30 for the first bag, 55 for the second bag, $180 for each additional bag

You can calculate the bag fees for your specific here.

Will I Be Able To Choose A Seat When I Purchase A Basic Economy Ticket?

When you purchase a Basic Economy ticket, you would not receive a complimentary seat assignment that you sometimes have that option with an Economy ticket.

You may however be often to purchase seat assignments during booking and up until check-in opens.

You must purchase through United.com as some Online Travel Agents (OTA) may not offer this as an upsell.

This example Basic Economy United fare is offered on Step 3 of the checkout after your enter the traveler's information.

To choose your own seat, the fare starts at out $10 based on proximity to toilets and/or features of the seat.

As some seats do not recline, be sure to checkout a tool like Seat Guru to make sure your flight has the amenities like power outlets and WIFI and the seat you selected reclines or overhead cabin space.

What Routes Include United Basic Economy Fares?

United Airlines route map - Asia Pacific

Basic Economy fares on United has been rolled out to the following geographical regions:

  • U.S. Domestic Flights
  • Mexico and Central America
  • The Caribbean
  • Europe

There is no Basic Economy fares on United flights to the following regions:

  • Asia
  • South America
  • Australia

If you book fares to these 3 regions, they will be main cabin fare pricing which allows for seat assignment, ticket changes, and upgrades for elite United members.

If I'm Traveling With My Family, Can We Sit Together if I Purchase Basic Economy Tickets?

Family seating

Before Basic Economy fares were a trend, as a parent, you could choose to sit as a family for free or at least with your children.

United's stance is that they discourage customers from booking a Basic Economy fare which offers advance seat assignment. However, there are customers who are interested in this fare class and want to sit next to their love ones.

The airline may try to accommodate starting 72 hours before the flight departs.

With the narrow window of when the flight takes off, many seats have already been assigned by other passengers that you may not be able to sit together or you have to ask another fellow passenger to trade seats.

So there's an inherit risk of not getting a seating with your family. We provided below a few tips to help you get a seat with your child.

  • Purchase main cabin economy fare. While the airline is offering Basic Economy tickets, it's clear this fare class is not meant for you to have flexibility of having the right to choose seats and why it's discounted to begin with.
  • Purchase seat assignments when offered. You are still be able to purchase the Basic Economy ticket and during checkout, offered an up-sell to purchase seat assignments. Seat upgrades starts from $10.
  • Finally talking kindly to an agent. Ultimately, an agent at the checking or gate are human and have the power to move individuals around if they can find someone willing. That is not guaranteed if there are no available seats to begin with or unable to find passengers willing to trade up.

Check-in Process for Basic Economy on United

For trans-Atlantic flights, the check-in process with Basic Economy fare holders are the same as standard Economy tickets.

For all other Basic Economy tickets, you'll only be able to check in through United.com or United App. If you are checking in a bag, you need to do so at the check-in counter upon arriving at the airport or designated kiosk in the airport lobby.

Exceeding Carry-On Allowance on Basic Economy

A Carry-on Luggage Size

What if you exceed your carry on allowance on a Basic Economy fare on United? For trans-Atlantic flights, you have to check in your bags that are not your personal item or full-sized carry-on bag.

The charge is for the first checked bag is 60,secondis60, second is 100, and third is $200.

On all other flights that you have a Basic Economy ticket and plan to bring a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate, it will need to be checked which you pay the applicable fee which is dependent on the route, and the $25 gate handling charge which a ground staff will take your bag and load it under the plane.

It's very difficult for an airline to plan the needed space in overhead bins if they don't get all information for all passengers up front. If they can accommodate your bag in the cabin, then you may have their opportunity to do so.

Will I Get A Refund If I Cancel My Trip?

FAA regulations requires U.S. operated carriers to allow for a flexible 24 hour refund policy. While you may not be able to change your ticket, if you are still within the 24 hours windows since you booked, you may cancel for a full refund and if your flight doesn't depart within 1 week.

Make sure to read their 24-hour flexible booking policy on United.com

Do I Earn Points on a United Basic Economy Fare?

Yes, in short MileagePlus members will earn award miles for Basic Economy tickets. You will be able to earn Premier qualifying points (PQP) as well as lifetime miles.

If you are MileagePlus Premier status member, you will get same boarding priority as any other fare class, eligible for a full-size carry-on bag, and complimentary checked bag allowance that you would receive with Premier status.

You will not however to be able to choose or select a seat in Economy Plus or in the front cabin.

You would need to purchase an upgrade during the time of booking.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line

The purpose of Basic Economy on United is to cater to flyers who don't want to pay the full amount on standard Economy as prices for this fare class has gone up.

This fare class is especially appetizing if you are looking for a quick weekend get away where you may only spend a few days in your destination with just the clothes on your back or in your personal allowance.

So if you are looking to spend time a crazy time in Las Vegas for 24 hours or spend 48 hours in a National Park going hiking, this fare class is for you.