United Provides More Details Of Basic Economy

by Michele McDonald

United's Economy seating.

United Airlines unveiled details of its new Basic Economy product at its Investors Day.

Among the key differences in the product is that purchasers will be limited to a single personal item that fits under the seat; customers will not be allowed to use the overhead bins. They will, however, still be allowed to pay to check a bag.

Basic Economy passengers will be assigned seats on the day of departure. Customers who book multiple seats will be asked at the time of booking to acknowledge that seating together is not guaranteed. 

Basic Economy passengers will be the last to board, in Group 5. They will not be eligible for Economy Plus or premium cabin upgrades.

No voluntary ticket changes are allowed, except as stated in the United 24-hour flexible booking policy.

The fares are not combinable with regular economy fares or partner carriers. Interline travel is not permitted.

MileagePlus program members will earn redeemable award miles, but they will not earn Premier qualifying credit (miles, segments or dollars), no lifetime miles and no contribution to the four-segment minimum to qualify for any Premier status.

There are some exceptions to the rules for United’s best customers. MileagePlus Premier members, Star Alliance Gold members and primary cardmembers of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card will be allowed the usual carry-on allowance of one bag and one personal item. They also can board with their usual boarding group.

United said Basic Economy will provide the option of paying the lowest fares to a destination while receiving the standard economy experience, including food, beverage, Wi-Fi and personal device entertainment.

It will have the added benefit of simplifying the boarding process, since fewer passengers will make use of the overhead bins.

Like Delta’s Basic Economy, which was first introduced in 2012, United’s version—and American’s, coming in early 2017—is designed to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers such as Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit. By heavily restricting the fares while offering the same onboard experience, they believe they can lure ULCC customers away without damaging their brands.

United’s Basic Economy will be offered for sale in select domestic Lower 48 markets beginning in early 2017 for travel in the second quarter. It will then expand to short-haul Latin American destinations. It will be bookable through all United channels, including travel agencies, united.com and the United app.  

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