United Airlines Launches New Basic Economy Fares

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United Airlines is the latest airline to launch Basic Economy. We’ve written before on how American Airlines Basic Economy Fares Now Live and Delta also offers Basic Economy fares, so it’s no surprise that United has decided to play ball.

In their initial launch, United will offer Basic Economy on nonstop flights between Minneapolis/St. Paul and United’s seven U.S. hubs of Chicago O’Hare, Denver, Houston Bush International, Los AngelesNew York/NewarkSan Francisco and Washington Dulles.


Per United,

Customers choosing to purchase a Basic Economy fare will be seated in the main United Economy cabin.

  • Economy seating: Customers with Basic Economy reservations will be seated in the United Economy® cabin, which remains unchanged.
  • Checked baggage: Checked baggage policies remain the same as our standard United Economy fares, and baggage benefits for MileagePlus Premier members and primary cardmembers of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card still apply.
  • Inflight options: Onboard food, beverage and entertainment options remain unchanged.
  • Award miles: MileagePlus program members will still earn award miles.

Basic Economy fares have some important, additional restrictions compared to standard United Economy fares including: 

  • Seat assignments will be automatically assigned prior to boarding. Customers traveling together, including families, will not be able to sit together.
  • Carry-on bags limited to one personal item, unless the customer is a MileagePlus Premier member, or companion traveling on the same reservation, a primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member. Full-sized carry-on bags will not be allowed on board but will be allowed to be checked for the regular $25 checked baggage fee in the airport lobby.
  • No voluntary ticket changes. Refunds are allowed only as stated in the United 24-hour flexible booking policy.
  • MileagePlus program members will earn award miles; however they will not earn Premier qualifying credit (miles, segments, or dollars), or lifetime miles, and no contribution to the four segment minimum.
  • Customers will not be eligible for United Economy Plus or premium cabin upgrades.
  • Customers will board in the last boarding group (currently Group 5) unless a MileagePlus Premier member, or companion traveling on the same reservation, a primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member.

Bottom Line

Delta has had Basic Economy for a while now and American Airlines has just rolled it out, so it comes as no surprise that United has launched it.

What is surprising though is that they are going after Delta’s Minneapolis hub market. I think it’s an interesting move, but with all the restrictions on United’s new fares, it still makes more sense to fly on Delta than United out of Minneapolis.

The biggest negative for United frequent  fliers is that you won’t earn any Premier Qualifying Miles, Segments, Dollars towards your Premier status! If you’re an MileagePlus elite member you’ll want to stay clear of booking these Basic Economy fares!

What are your thoughts on United’s new Basic Economy fare? Will you be booking it to save some money, or do you plan on staying clear of them?

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. For details on current offers visit the card issuer’s site.

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