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United Basic Economy

United Basic Economy Fares Expand to Europe & Latin America

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In June of 2017, United rolled out their Basic Economy fares nationwide. These fares don't include overhead bin space, seat selection, or earn elite credit towards status. They are terrible fares, which have now replaced your normal economy fare, which included carry-on (for the same price). Last week, United rolled these dreaded fares out on both transatlantic and Latin American routes, though the transatlantic fares won't be nearly as bad.


United Airlines Basic Economy Fares to Latin America

  • No carry-on bag
  • Seat selection and upgrades are not available
  • Flight changes and refunds are not allowed
  • Will not earn elite credit


United Airlines Basic Economy Fares to Europe

  • Does not include free checked luggage
  • Flight changes and refunds are not allowed
  • Includes advanced seat assignment
  • Includes standard carry-on bag & one personal item
  • Will earn regular elite credit


United started offering the basic economy fare for customers to have more “choice”. The reality is the new basic economy fares are now the same price as the old economy fares which included carry-on. The whole basic economy concept is just a way to squeeze more money out of passengers. You now have to pay additional fees for what used to be included with a regular economy ticket.


United Basic Economy


The Google Flights Baggage Filter

In April of 2018, Google Flights rolled out a filter to remove Basic Economy fares from your domestic airfare searches. This is a great new tool that helps remove United Basic Economy fares. It will still include Delta and American Airlines Basic Economy fares as they include a carry on bag with the fare.

Where this gets tricky is international airfare. At this time, Google Flights does not have the baggage filter feature available for international flights. This means you will need to make sure you know what your fare includes on international routes, especially on United as their Basic Economy ticket includes different things depending on the destination.

Thrifty Tip #1: See our guide on how to use Google Flights to find cheap flights.

Thrifty Tip #2: Our Thrifty Traveler Premium deals will always be transparent on what the sale fares do and do not include. Make sure to read our guide on How Thrifty Traveler Premium Works.


United Basic Economy


Our Analysis

United expanding their Basic Economy fares to more routes seems like a questionable decision in its current state. Delta has always offered a free carry on bag with their Basic Economy fares & American Airlines just announced that they are adding a carry on bag back to their Basic Economy fares starting on September 5th.

This means United is now the only one of the three legacy domestic carriers that does not offer a free carry on bag with their Basic Economy fare (with the exception of transatlantic airfare). I can't imagine a situation where anybody would choose to fly United Basic Economy over Delta or American assuming the option for all three was available.

We have noticed the impact of these new United international Basic Economy fares mostly on routes to both Mexico and the Carribean. One example of this is Cancun, Mexico. This is a highly competitive route from many US destinations and United has been undercutting this with their Basic Economy fare.


United Basic Economy
United Basic Economy fare from MSP-CUN. You can upgrade out of this for $50/person.


Bottom Line

By continuing to ban carry-ons on basic economy fares for both domestic and Latin American international fares, United stands to lose business. There’s simply no reason to choose a United basic economy fare when American or Delta, with far more generous policies, are an option.

It will be interesting to see how United handles the news of American adding a carry on bag into their Basic Economy fares. Making your customer experience worse rarely ends well for companies of any size.


Lead photo courtesy of United Airlines

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

4 Responses

  • There’s no reason to EVER choose basic economy–on ANY airline. I would get the carry-on with my MilePlus Explorer card but I want to sit with my husband. And your seat is assigned at the airport and families will not be seated together. How ridiculous. And you know what happens next–the usual, “Oh will you switch with me so I can sit with my kid.”

    It’s cheap people who made this worse. If no one had purchased these seats domestically, they’d be long gone by now and maybe we’d get what we got before–and not at a increase. Always makes it worse for us.

  • I don’t like Basic Economy either, particularly the United approach, but yes there are sometimes reasons to buy it when the price differential is large enough, particularly on carriers other than United. Some people really do need to get the best possible price in order to be able to fly at all. Don’t begrudge them the decision.

  • Your analysis of the United basic economy transatlantic fares is unfortunately completely wrong and not borne out by facts. It’s like you put a headline on an old article and didn’t bother to do the research.

    Example: “You will now have to pay additional fees to bring your carry-on.” Dead wrong.

    Other travel blogs correctly noted that United’s transatlantic basic economy is more like economy light … and I say that as someone who has refused to fly United for years but just picked up an awesome r/t flight between Europe and California because I carefully read the fare rules and conditions and United press releases on the subject. DID get to choose my seats in both directions. DO get a free carry-on and personal item. DO NOT get a free checked bag.

    • You are absolutely right. The Latin America and Caribbean fares are in play which have been easy to verify. Star Alliance has had some large sales to Europe this week and have pulled their BE fares but we expect the BE fares to come back soon. We will edit the post. Appreciate the heads up.

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