Via View From the Wing, United Airlines will begin selling their new “Basic Economy” fare in January 2017, for travel beginning around April 2017. This new fare will come with a whole list of restrictions, including NO large carry-ons, seat selection, or elite qualifying miles.
I love it when airlines lower their prices, but not at the expense of basics like my carry-on bag or choice of seat. That said, this could be a good deal for folks who just want the cheapest price.
I’ll explain what you can expect with this new Basic Economy fare. And how to decide if it’s a good deal for you.
What Is United Airlines “Basic Economy”?
Basic Economy is United Airlines’ answer to budget competitors like Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines. These low-cost airlines sell “unbundled” fares, and you’ll pay extra for just about everything else.
This can be a cheap option to get where you’re going, as long as you’re aware of the restrictions.
United Airlines Basic Economy comes with a lot of new rules:
- You have no say over where you or your travel companions sit (your seat will be assigned at check-in)
- You can NOT bring a large carry-on bag. You’re only allowed 1 personal item (unless you have a United Airlines credit card, or have United Airlines or Star Alliance elite status)
- You will earn redeemable miles for flying, and nothing else (no elite qualifying miles, segments, or dollars, no lifetime miles, etc.)
- You will NOT be eligible for upgrades
- You’ll board in the last boarding group (unless you have a United Airlines credit card, or have United Airlines or Star Alliance elite status)
- Flight changes aren’t allowed (even for a fee) – you’ll have to buy a whole new ticket
- You can NOT combine Basic Economy fares with regular coach fares or flights on partner airlines
Note: Checked baggage policies and fees for Basic Economy are the same as for regular United Airlines coach tickets.
These fares could be a good option for solo travelers who aren’t picky about where they sit and who travel light. Or if you’re going on a day or overnight trip without a lot of baggage.
But for many others, these fares aren’t worth it.
Why Consider Basic Economy Fares?
If your main concern is getting the absolute cheapest price for a ticket, you’ll probably like United Airlines’ new fare option.
The added restrictions aren’t ideal. But if you’re traveling light anyway, and don’t care if you’re in a middle seat (on short flights, it shouldn’t matter much), Basic Economy fares could save you money.
This new budget fare could also be useful for quick emergency trips!
One of the biggest complaints budget airlines get is poor service and reliability (like delayed or cancelled flights), NOT charging for extras. Folks who choose to fly with Spirit Airlines know they’ll have to pay extra for everything.
Having the choice to pay the same low price as a budget airline while flying a more reliable, customer-friendly airline like United Airlines is a good thing!
3. Flying Solo
If you’re not traveling with your family, partner, or a group, Basic Economy fares might make sense. It’s far easier to find a single window or aisle seat on a full airplane than it is to find a block of seats together.
That said, if you’re traveling with folks you want to sit with (or have small children), these fares are NOT a good option for you. Because there’s no guarantee you’ll be seated together.
4. Elite Status
Folks who care mostly about the lowest price probably aren’t concerned about earning elite qualifying miles, dollars, or segments.
But if you’re trying to earn United Airlines elite status, these fares won’t earn you anything toward that goal (though you will earn redeemable miles, like any other fare).
Do the Math Before You Buy!
I don’t know how much lower United Airlines will price their Basic Economy fares compared to regular coach tickets. But as View From the Wing pointed out, other airlines have made similar additions of creating a coach fare below standard coach. And sometimes the price isn’t low enough to make sense.
For example, if the Basic Economy fare costs $80 less than a regular coach ticket, it’s probably a good deal. But if it’s only $12 less, it could be worth purchasing a regular coach ticket so you can bring a carry-on and choose your own seat.
Note: If you have a co-branded United Airlines credit card, like the Chase United Explorer, you can bring a carry-on. And you’ll have priority boarding, so you won’t have to board in the last group!
Remember, you can use United Airlines miles to fly on United Airlines and pay only taxes and fees! And there aren’t a ton of restrictions like there are with Basic Economy. Here are some ways to earn United Airlines miles.
United Airlines will start selling cheaper Basic Economy fares in 2017. These fares have a lot of restrictions, including no large carry-on bags, seat selection, or elite qualifying miles.
These tickets could be a good deal for folks who are only interested in the lowest fare possible. But if you can’t travel light, or sitting with your group is important, it’s NOT a good option.
If you plan to fly United Airlines Basic Economy, it’s a good idea to have a United Airlines co-branded credit card like the Chase United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, because you’ll still get priority boarding and a full-size carry-on.
What do you think of United Airlines’ new fare option?