United Airlines recently announced a Basic Economy option for revenue customers. This comes as no surprise, seeing as air travel continues to become less luxury and more commodity. Here I outline some of the major changes, and my take on their impact:


Seat Assignments

Policy: Automated seat assignments will be given at check-in, and passengers acknowledge at the point of a multi-seat purchase that seating together is not guaranteed.

Reaction: While it’s great to offer lower fares, I foresee this policy being a big headache. I’ve been approached many times to move people around, although as a flight attendant I can’t change seat assignments. By all means if passengers want to play musical chairs they’re welcome, but I’m worried this may create more issues and delays in the future.


Cardholder Benefits

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.

Policy: Customers will board in the last boarding group (currently Group 5) unless a Mileage Plus Premier member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member.

Reaction: My hope here is that these policies will be communicated clearly to customers. With countless rules from different airlines, sometimes my passengers have trouble keeping up with details. Also with Basic Economy fare, customers cannot receive upgraded seats. I could see this creating backlash based on a lack of understanding, although it can be beneficial to those looking for a good deal over benefits.


Baggage Policy

Policy: Carry-on bags are limited to one personal item, unless the customer is a MileagePlus Premier member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member.

Reaction: This policy has received the most negative attention. Although initially I was against the idea, I’ve started to see it’s advantages. When boarding a full flight, 99% of the time larger carry-on items end up having to be checked. I cannot deny that some smaller items will still be stowed in overhead bins, or that bags will still have to be checked at the gate, but I do think this could pave way for progress.



Overall I think the Basic Economy policies will fix more problems than create them. Although there are less allowances when booking these cheaper fares, it can be well worth it for a better price. I see a potentially rocky road ahead, but if the changes are communicated clearly, ALL passengers can benefit from United’s Basic Economy.



What are your thoughts on United’s new Basic Economy? I may be optimistic for the airline, and am curious to hear other’s reactions to it’s new policies!


All policies drawn directly from United’s Basic Economy page. This post is published based on the opinions of it’s author, and does not indicate affiliation or sponsorship from United Airlines.