February 23, 2017
United Rolls Out Basic Economy Fares

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This week United Airlines is following the rest of the big three legacy carriers by introducing basic economy fares on certain routes. These fares are “no thrills” or “bare bones” tickets, meaning the consumer must pay for virtually everything associated with modern day commercial air travel. The push for basic fares in economy class, by the legacy carriers, is an attempt to compete with low-cost domestic carriers like Spirit and Frontier – which are not far from their doorsteps.


The discounted, yet restrictive, fares are now bookable for flights departing from April 18th onwards. Tickets will start from Minneapolis and slowly be available in other cities. United’s Basic Economy restrictions include:

  • Airline designated seat selection
  • 1 personal item carry-on (this means items that can fit under your seat, not full size carry-ons)
  • No ticket changes (even for a fee)
  • No possibility for upgrades
  • No Premier Qualifying Miles, Dollars, or Segments
  • Last group to board the plane

United Credit Card Holders, Premier Members, & Star Alliance Gold Members

Some of these restrictions WILL NOT affect the United MileagePlus Explorer© cards (both personal and business versions) and the United MileagePlus Club© cards (both the personal and business versions). Card members will continue to enjoy 1 free checked bag (2 checked bags for business), priority boarding, and a full sized carry on bag.

  • United premier members will maintain the same benefits as MileagePlus credit card holders when flying Basic Economy.
  • Partner Star Alliance Gold members will still have priority group 2 boarding and will still be able to bring full sized carry-ons on board (no free checked bag).

Final Thoughts

United’s lowest tier fare is currently averaging at about $15-$30 less than the regular economy ticket (out of Minneapolis.)  It’s uncertain whether or not these fares will decrease or stay roughly the same. If you’re a traveler who wants to travel with piece of mind (and a piece of baggage), and flexibility, regular economy is clearly the better option. Considering baggage checks can be at least $25 one-way, booking basic economy and paying to check your bag could end up costing more. If you’re trying to get United elite status, avoid these fares like the plague as you get NO elite credit for the flight! Finally, if you’re traveling light, or are a United MilagePlus cardholder, I’d say save some cash and go for it!