Don’t Get Baited Into Booking United Basic Economy Fares, Especially As An Elite Member!


Quite some time ago United Airlines has joined the bandwagon of airlines who offer a very trimmed down version of Economy Class fares that are even more basic than the name BASIC ECONOMY promises.

That United chose to call their new fare ‘Basic Economy’ is actually very suitable and once you have a look what this product entails you certainly know why.

We had a look at these fares early on as soon as they came out (see here) so as far the fundamental parts are concerned there is nothing new to add, however I think it’s important to refresh people’s minds to not get baited into booking these fares for just a few dollars savings or you can find yourself in situations I witnessed yesterday morning in Las Vegas.

  1. A young woman showed up with a normal sized carry on bag that she wasn’t allowed to bring on board. Instead she had to purchase a checked bag at the gate under plenty of crying and screaming going on.
  2. A United Platinum Elite booked Basic Economy and was upset he couldn’t be put on the upgrade list even though Basic Economy doesn’t allow complimentary Premier Upgrades.

What did United put into the rules for these fares? You can have a look at their website (access here).

While Basic Economy fares have some important, additional restrictions compared to our standard economy fares, customers will enjoy the same United Economy® cabin experience and services, including dining options, Wi-Fi and inflight entertainment.

The difference on my Las Vegas to Los Angeles was a mere $6 so why would I give up all these benefits for that little savings? It doesn’t make any sense once you think about it but it preys on the instinct of people to always grab the cheapest product.


As a frequent flyer I’d never consider to book such a fare especially when holding United Airlines Mileage Plus status that entitles me in the very least to Economy Plus seating and maybe even an upgrade if I’m lucky (as it happened in my case this time as well). If you need to collect frequent flier miles this should be no alternative for you either unless as mentioned above for very short segments.

I can’t imagine where you could fly with just a personal item and no baggage or carry on whatsoever unless it’s a same day return trip (and even then I’m always careful and have clothes to change for one day with me – got stranded way too often especially in the U.S.). That being said United is generous here that they allow frequent fliers to circumvent the baggage and boarding rule. Lufthansa and BA make no such exception for their members and Star Alliance Gold.