United Airlines Launching Cheaper “Basic Economy” Fares

Image courtesy of Adam Fagen

Don’t mind not being able to pick your seats, boarding last, and carrying just a single personal item on board with you that fits under your seat? United Airlines thinks it has an option for you in its new, cheaper, “Basic Economy” fares.

Yes, that means you can only bring one laptop/purse/whathaveyou, total, and that overhead space will be off limits. The only exceptions are for Premier members, primary cardmembers of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold members, who are allowed to bring a full-size carry-on. If you want to check a bag, you’ll pay the same fees as Economy travelers.

A few other differences between Basic Economy and regular Economy, per United:

• Seating together is not guaranteed for groups, and you’ll board in the last group unless you’re a MileagePlus Premier member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member.

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

• MileagePlus program members will earn redeemable award miles; however they will not earn Premier qualifying credit (miles, segments, or dollars), no lifetime miles, and no contribution to four segment minimum.

• Customers will not be eligible for Economy Plus or premium cabin upgrades.

• No combinability with regular economy fares or partner carriers. Interline travel is not permitted.

United says it will start offering the fares in January 2017 for flights in March, though it’s still unclear how much cheaper the Basic Economy fares will be.

“Customers have told us that they want more choice and Basic Economy delivers just that,” the airline said in a statement. “By offering low fares while also offering the experience of traveling on our outstanding network, with a variety of onboard amenities and great customer service, we are giving our customers an additional travel option from what United offers today.”