You may or may not have heard about United Airlines’ plans to launch their new ‘Basic Economy’ earlier last year. United CEO Oscar Munoz said of the new scheme that in addition to offering more lavish perks to higher spending business travelers, United needed to "get the basics right for the price-sensitive customer as well." "We will not only be more flexible when it comes to price," Munoz says, "we'll also be more efficient operationally by forgoing pre-assigned seating, priority boarding and upgrading the option for last-minute changes."
American Airlines have followed suite while Delta Air Lines already has its own version of the basic economy fare, but without the carry-on restrictions.
United Basic Economy is now available on select routes and in addition to standard United Economy® fares. Created for customers who may be more price-sensitive, these lower-priced fares provide most of the same inflight services and amenities that are available with standard Economy — such as food and beverages, United Wi-Fi and inflight entertainment. But what about the things that aren’t included? What restrictions should you be aware of before booking?
- Seat selection and upgrades are not available
Your seat is automatically assigned to you prior to boarding and you cannot change it once it has been assigned.
You also won’t be eligible to purchase Economy Plus® or use complimentary, earned or mileage upgrades.
- Group and family seating is not available
Basic Economy is definitely not recommended for groups who want to stick together, even families will not be able to sit together.
- Full-sized carry-on bags are not permitted
You won’t be allowed a full-sized carry-on bag unless you're a MileagePlus Premier Member (or companion traveling on the same reservation), or if you are the primary card member of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card or a Star Alliance™ Gold member.
Everyone else who brings a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate will be required to check their bag and pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling charge.
- One personal item is allowed
You are allowed one small personal item that fits under the seat in front of you, such as a shoulder bag, purse, laptop bag or other item that is 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm) or less.
- Flight changes and refunds are not allowed
Ticket changes are not allowed with Basic Economy, including advance and same-day changes. Refunds are not allowed except as stated in the United 24-hour flexible booking policy.
- Certain MileagePlus and Premier member benefits are not available
If you're a MileagePlus member, you will still earn award miles based on the fare and your MileagePlus status. However, MileagePlus members will not earn Premier qualifying credit or lifetime miles or toward the four-segment minimum, and they won't receive some benefits.
So ultimately there are many economical savings and advantages but you do lose a certain aspect of both control and convenience.
And what about the restrictions with American Airlines Basic Economy?
American Airlines will start selling Basic Economy in late February on select routes. A ticket gets you a seat in the Main Cabin, with restrictions and regulations including:
- 1 item that fits under the seat (no access to overhead bins)
- Seats assigned at check-in
- Fees to choose a specific seat
- Not eligible for upgrades
- No flight changes or refunds
- Board in last group
- Each person can board with 1 item such as a purse or small handbag that fits under the seat. You won't have access to overhead bins.
- All other items must be checked at ticket counters. If you take them to the gate you'll pay an extra $25 gate service fee per item plus the applicable bag fee.
- Under the seat items can't be larger than: 18 x 14 x 8 inches, 45 x 35 x 20 cm
- You can choose a specific seat within 48 hours of departure, but a fee will apply. Otherwise, seats will be automatically assigned for free when you check in.
- AAdvantage® elite status members and eligible Citi® / AAdvantage® or AAdvantage® AviatorTM Mastercard® cardmembers are exempt from certain restrictions.
Still confused? We’ve broken down the differences between all three carriers for you below: