Air Travel with United Airlines’ Basic Economy Class, How’s it Different from Others?

05 Apr 2022
3 min read

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Imagine you visit a restaurant. The ambiance is pleasant, and the place appears inviting. You walk in and order from the menu, which appears to be reasonably priced. You place your order and wait with bated breath.
When your food arrives, the waiter informs you that silverware is not included in the price of your meal and that ordering a knife and fork at the last minute will cost you an additional $5 plus a $5 table-side processing fee. To add fuel to fire, you and your family can't sit at the same table. They charge extra money for that too!
If this happened to you, you would be furious, and no restaurant would be so foolish as to provide such poor service.
Yet, this is not dissimilar to how some people who fly United customers feel when they select basic economy but are unaware of the difference between a basic economy and an economy ticket.
Basic Economy" and “Economy" are two suspiciously similar-sounding United Airlines tickets. You'd be forgiven if you didn't realize they are dissimilar, but there are a few key differences to be aware of before booking a flight with United. #TWN


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United Airlines offers two types of economy tickets: Basic Economy and Economy. The Basic Economy fare is less expensive, but there may be limitations on seat assignment, boarding, carry-on baggage, upgrades, changes, refunds, elite earning, and elite benefits. This article will highlight the key differences between a United Economy and a Basic Economy ticket that you should be aware of before booking a flight with United.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Overview

Basic Economy Standard Economy
Cheaper than Standard Economy by $20 – $30 each way. More expensive than Basic Economy.
Only one personal item is allowed. (17 x 10 x 9) No restrictions on the number of personal items allowed. Yet, luggage must fit under the seat!
About 25 liters maximum hand luggage. (Only 1 bag allowed) About 70 liters maximum hand luggage (2 bags allowed)
No Carry On Permitted! Only one Carry On is allowed. (22 x 14 x 9)
Last boarding group. Boarding group 3-5
Choosing your preferred seating costs extra money. Choice of preferred seats is included.
No refunds or flight changes. Refunds available on qualifying tickets
Economy Plus is not available. The option of upgrading to Economy Plus seats with extra legroom is available in Standard Economy.
Unable to check-in online or via the app unless you pay to bring a checked bag! The option to check-in online or via the app is available with Standard Economy.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Difference

Remember the restaurant example I mentioned at the start? Your primary purpose for going to the restaurant was to eat. Any additional activity (such as eating with their utensils) is considered outside of the basic need to eat.

Now take the case of United Airlines. The baggage allowance is one of the most noticeable differences between the economy and the basic economy. You won't be able to bring any more carry-on luggage in the overhead bin if you have a Basic Economy ticket. On the other hand, the Economy class has ample baggage allowance, allowing you to travel comfortably with all of your luggage and personal belongings.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Expensive or Inexpensive

United Economy vs Basic Economy Difference Image

Basic Economy is the (there's no better way to say it) cheapest fare class offered by the United. The United Economy, on the other hand, is the most affordable class.

The price difference between the two economic fares is minimal, with Basic Economy tickets costing $20 – $30 less each way. This price difference represents the carry-on limit, being the last to board the plane, and not being able to select any seats.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Personal items

For non-transatlantic Basic Economy tickets, the limit is one personal item and no carry-on bag. Passengers with a Basic Economy ticket who arrive at the airport with a full-sized carry-on bag will be required to check their bag.

Personal items must fit under the seat in front of you if you purchase an economy ticket. Backpacks, laptop bags, and purses are examples of everyday items. These bags must not be larger than 9 inches by 10 inches by 17 inches (22 cm X 25 cm X 43 cm).

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Liquid Range

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has some rules about bringing liquids, gels, and aerosols in your carry-on bag. These items must be in containers weighing no more than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters). They must also be contained within a single quart- or liter-sized clear, sealable bag.

When flying in Basic Economy, you are allowed a maximum of 25 liters of hand luggage. The maximum hand luggage allowance for United Economy is approximately 70 liters (2 bags).

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Carry On

Regional partners operate United economy flights, which use smaller aircraft. Roller bags and larger carry-on bags will not fit in the overhead compartments. It is why United Airlines is so strict about luggage.

When flying in Basic Economy, you can only bring one personal item onboard.

There are, however, some exceptions.

You must check your bag if you want to bring a full-size carry-on. You must pay the applicable checked bag fee as well as a $25 gate handling fee. Pay with a credit card for added convenience.

While carry-on luggage is included in the price of your ticket, it may not fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat storage. As a result, United Economy passengers may be required to gate-check their carry-on before boarding. When leaving the airport, these gate-checked bags will not be taken to the luggage claim area. They will instead be delivered to you just outside the aircraft.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Boarding Group

Passengers having Basic Economy tickets will be among the last boarding group, unless they are a MileagePlus Premier member, a Star Alliance Gold member, or a primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card.

When you buy a United Economy ticket, you and your travel companions on the same reservation get priority boarding and are allowed to bring a full-sized carry-on bag on board if space allows. It is one of the advantages of purchasing a ticket in the economy class.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Choosing a Seat

When flying in Basic Economy, it's nearly impossible to avoid the dreaded middle seat.

You will not receive a complimentary seat assignment for seat selection if you purchase a Basic Economy ticket for your trip. However, you may be able to purchase advance seat assignments at the time of booking and until check-in opens.

You can, however, pay an additional fee to receive seat assignments in the event of a seat selection failure, in which case your seat will be automatically assigned to you before boarding, and you will not be able to change your seat once it has been assigned.

The United Basic Economy ticket seat selection feature allows you to select your preferred seat at no additional cost. You can book a window seat to maximize your enjoyment of the airline's services. At check-in, you can buy the tickets for economy plus.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Refund Policy

If you purchase Basic Economy tickets and your itinerary changes as a result of a cancellation, you are not entitled to a refund or flight changes. In the event of a change made by United, such as rebooking due to a cancellation or schedule change, an economy ticket will be refunded or rebooked according to the usual procedures. You can also change your ticket to any ticket type without paying an additional economy fare.

Online Portal for Check-In

When you buy a basic ticket from United Airlines, you cannot check-in online or through the app. As a result, unless you visit the airport, you will be unable to access the airline remotely.

With a united Basic Economy ticket, you can check-in online or through the app and make any necessary reservations or cancellations.

Online check-in is always preferable, if only for the sake of convenience. If you check-in online, you can usually still get some good seats. If you check-in at the airport, you will be assigned to whatever seats your fellow passengers did not want.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Economy Plus

With a small upgrade fee, you can stretch out to Economy Plus, where you'll have extra legroom in an Economy Plus seat near the front of the United Economy cabin. You can reserve an Economy Plus seat (when available) on any United or United Express flight with an Economy Plus subscription. When purchasing primary tickets, there is no option for economy plus.


Is a united Basic Economy the same as the Basic Economy?

No! The terms "united Basic Economy" and "Basic Economy" are not interchangeable. United Airlines offers several different fare classes. In comparison to the standard economy fare, the United Basic Economy ticket offers fewer benefits.

Can I bring a carry-on with United Basic Economy?

For trans-Atlantic flights in Basic Economy, the limit is one personal item and no carry-on bag. Passengers with a full-sized carry-on bag who arrive at the gate on a Basic Economy ticket will be required to check their bag and pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling fee.

What does Basic Economy mean for United Airlines?

More price-sensitive customers were the target audience for Basic Economy. Basic Economy fares include the majority of the same in-flight services and amenities as standard economy fares, including food and beverages, United Wi-Fi, and in-flight entertainment.

Can I pick a seat on the United Basic Economy?

Except for Basic Economy, you will be able to choose your seat or change your seat assignment for all ticket classes. You can purchase a seat assignment during booking and until check-in opens if you have a Basic Economy ticket.

Does United charge for carry-on bags?

United Airlines (UA) allows each passenger to check one carry-on bag and one personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag) for free. The following size and weight restrictions apply to carry-on luggage: With handles and wheels, it measures 45 linear inches (22 x 14 x 9) or 115 centimeters (56 x 36 x 23).

Is a backpack considered a carry-on?

A carry-on bag is technically any piece of luggage that you "carry on" to an airplane. Most airlines allow one piece of carry-on luggage, also known as "hand baggage," that can fit in the overhead bin, as well as one "personal item" (a smaller purse, computer bag, diaper bag, small backpack, etc.)

Can I bring a backpack and a carry-on United Airlines?

Most passengers are permitted to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item free of charge. The maximum dimensions of your personal item, such as a shoulder bag, backpack, laptop bag, or any other small item, are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm).

How much does it cost to choose seats in the United Basic Economy?

Seat selection is free with the United Basic Economy where available, but you can pay $9 each way for "preferred seating" (closer to the front of the economy section). If you are not ready to book at the time of your search, you can pay to have the ticket charge reversed by using 'farelock.'

Is there a difference between the United Basic Economy and the Basic Economy?

While Basic Economy offers the same level of in-flight service as standard economy, the lower-cost option has some important restrictions on seating, carry-on baggage, MileagePlus member benefits, including premier member benefits, and other aspects of your trip.

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