United Is Taking a Second Look at Those Terrible Basic Economy Fares

Travelers, you may return to the overhead compartment

September 13, 2017 9:00 am

You may remember “basic economy” fares — those ultra-low-price tickets from major U.S. carriers that were probably (though only probably) super-cheap but didn’t, say, let you use the overhead compartment, change your travel dates, or accrue points. Each of the three big American airlines — American, United, and Delta — debuted some version of the fares. Now, a week after American announced plans to possibly expand these seats to its international routes, the brand that went after basic-economy most aggressively, United, is pulling back. Soon, it’ll only offer basic economy on a subset of its domestic fares. 

Why the change? Of all the airlines, United’s basic economy fares developed a reputation as the most restrictive. While on Delta, for example, basic economy passengers could neither earn points nor select seats in advance, United’s basic economy passengers couldn’t even bring a carry-on bag. Perhaps the ridiculousness of using an overhead compartment was too much for flyers — who, after all, might only be saving $20 on a ticket. 

Our opinion: Usually you get what you pay for. The best way to save on flights is, as it has always been, to book early. And instead of flying to earn points, be smart about your credit card choice


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