United Airlines Basic Economy Tickets: What You Need to Know


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For budget-conscious travelers, United Airlines offers a Basic Economy fare option that comes with a lower price tag than regular economy tickets. However, there are some trade-offs to consider when choosing this fare class. From restricted seat selection to potential charges for carry-on bags and checked luggage, travelers must weigh the pros and cons of Basic Economy. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the features and benefits of United’s Basic Economy fare and help you determine if it’s worth the savings.

What Are Basic Economy Fares?

Basic Economy is the most affordable fare class offered by United Airlines. It is designed for travellers who are willing to give up some of the benefits of standard economy tickets in exchange for a lower fare. Basic Economy fares are available on most United Airlines flights and have several restrictions.

What You’ll Lose by Booking Basic Economy?

When you book a Basic Economy ticket with United Airlines, you’ll save money, but you’ll also lose some important benefits that come with standard Economy fares. Here are the main things you’ll miss out on:

  • Boarding: Basic Economy passengers will be the last group to board the plane, after all, other passengers, including those with elite status and those in higher fare classes. If the overhead bin space is full, you may have to check your carry-on bag at the gate.
  • Seat selection: United Airlines will assign you a seat for free at check-in, but you won’t be able to choose your seat in advance. If you want to select a specific seat, you must pay an additional fee.
  • Economy Plus seat: Basic Economy passengers are not eligible to purchase Economy Plus seats, which offer more legroom and other perks like priority boarding. If you want more space, you’ll need to upgrade to a higher fare class.
  • Personal item: You’re allowed to bring one personal item on board, like a backpack or a purse, but you won’t be allowed to bring a full-sized carry-on bag.
  • Carry-on bag fee: If you want to bring a full-sized carry-on bag, you’ll need to pay an additional fee. This fee varies depending on your destination and whether you pay in advance or at the airport.
  • Checked bag fee: You’ll also need to pay a fee if you want to check a bag. Again, the fee varies depending on your destination and whether you pay in advance or at the airport.
  • Ticket changes: Basic Economy tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable, meaning you can’t make any changes to your travel dates or destination. If you need to make a change, you’ll need to purchase a new ticket.
  • Refund: Basic Economy tickets are also non-refundable, so if you need to cancel your trip, you won’t be able to get a refund.
  • Mileage earning: Basic Economy tickets earn fewer miles than standard Economy tickets, so if you’re a frequent flyer looking to earn elite status, this may not be the best option for you.
  • Status earning: Finally, Basic Economy tickets also earn fewer Premier qualifying miles and Premier qualifying segments than higher fare classes, which means you may not be able to achieve or maintain elite status with United Airlines if you fly in Basic Economy too often.

What You’ll Gain by Booking Basic Economy?

While Basic Economy may not be the best option for everyone, there are some advantages to booking this fare class with United Airlines. Here are a few things you’ll gain:

  • Price: The biggest advantage of the Basic Economy is the price. These fares are often significantly cheaper than standard Economy fares, making them a great option for budget-conscious travellers.
  • Personal item: You’re allowed to bring one personal item on board for free, which is more than some airlines allow for their lowest fare class.
  • Carry-on bag fee: While you’ll need to pay a fee to bring a full-sized carry-on bag, this fee is often still cheaper than upgrading to a higher fare class.
  • Checked bag fee: Similarly, the fee for checking a bag is often still cheaper than upgrading to a higher fare class.
  • In-flight experience: Once you’re on board the plane, there’s no difference between Basic Economy and standard Economy. You’ll still receive the same snacks and drinks, and have access to the same in-flight entertainment.
  • Point earning: While Basic Economy tickets earn fewer miles and status credits than higher fare classes, you’ll still earn some points. This is especially useful

What is the impact on Award Miles?

Basic Economy fares on United Airlines earn award miles based on the ticket price and fare class purchased. This means that Basic Economy fares earn the least amount of award miles compared to other fare classes. Specifically, Basic Economy fares earn 5 award miles per dollar spent, whereas regular Economy fares earn 7 award miles per dollar spent.

Furthermore, Basic Economy fares are not eligible for any Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS) which are necessary to achieve elite status with United Airlines. This means that if you book a Basic Economy fare, you will not earn any PQMs or PQSs, which can impact your ability to achieve higher status with the airline.

It’s important to note that while Basic Economy fares do earn award miles, they do not earn any Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs) which are also necessary to achieve elite status with United Airlines. PQDs are based on the dollar amount spent on United Airlines tickets and are a requirement for achieving higher elite status levels with the airline.

Is Basic Economy Worth it?

Whether United Airlines Basic Economy is worth it depends on your travel preferences and needs. Basic Economy can be a good choice for budget-conscious travelers who are willing to sacrifice some amenities and flexibility in exchange for a lower fare. However, for travelers who prioritize amenities such as seat selection, overhead bin space, and the ability to make changes to their ticket, Basic Economy may not be the best option.

It’s also important to consider the additional fees that may come with Basic Economy, such as checked baggage fees and seat selection fees. If a traveler is planning to check a bag or wants to choose their seat in advance, the extra fees can add up and make Basic Economy less cost-effective.

Additionally, the impact on award miles is another factor to consider. Basic Economy fares typically earn fewer award miles than standard Economy fares, which may be a drawback for frequent flyers who prioritize earning miles for elite status or future travel.

United Basic Economy Vs American & Delta?

United Basic Economy fares are similar to American and Delta’s basic economy fares in that they offer a lower price point for air travel with fewer amenities and fewer options for customization. However, there are some differences in the details of each airline’s basic economy offering.

For example, American Basic Economy and Delta Basic Economy fares include seat selection at the time of booking for a fee, whereas United Basic Economy fares do not include seat selection until check-in, and it is only for a random seat assignment.

Additionally, American and Delta Basic Economy fares allow passengers to bring a personal item and a carry-on bag for free, whereas United Basic Economy fares only allow for a personal item that must fit under the seat in front of you.

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Overall, United’s Basic Economy fare can be a good deal for travelers who don’t mind sacrificing some of the perks that come with a standard economy ticket. The savings can be significant, especially if you’re flying on a budget. However, if you value flexibility and the ability to select your own seat or bring along more than just a personal item, you may be better off opting for a standard economy ticket or even an upgrade to Economy Plus. Consider your travel needs and budget carefully before booking your next flight on United Airlines.

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