Home Airlines United’s New Basic Economy Changes Are Good For Passengers

United’s New Basic Economy Changes Are Good For Passengers

by SharonKurheg

Joe and I haven’t made it a secret that we’re not big fans of basic economy class tickets. We’ve flown that class once or twice and honestly, we’re just at a place where we’re willing to pay more for a few extra perks, such as being able to board earlier, and the ability to have a carry-on bag on the plane (which you can do with only some airline’s basic economy fares). Of course, as the good blog says, Your Mileage May Vary.

United’s basic economy has always been one of the most restrictive of all the airlines. You generally couldn’t bring a carry-on for domestic flights; just a personal bag. You couldn’t choose a complimentary seat; seats were assigned to you unless you paid (which was the only way to guarantee a family would sit together). You were in the final boarding group. You earned Premier Qualifying Points but not Premier Qualifying Flights. You weren’t allowed to get complimentary upgrades. And you couldn’t change or cancel your tickets, except for within 24 hours of booking. All of which made United’s basic economy’s fares pretty….ugly.

Fortunately, United has seen the light. The airline’s new policy for passengers who book basic economy tickets is they can cancel them for a fee. They also can upgrade to a standard economy ticket, which offers more benefits. They told Travel & Leisure that it’s part of their ongoing effort to provide more flexibility.

“As part of an ongoing effort to offer more flexibility, United is making it easier for customers to change their Basic Economy tickets,” a United spokeswoman told T+L, explaining that customers can “either pay to upgrade to a Standard Economy ticket, which will allow them to reschedule their flight and give all the benefits of a Standard Economy ticket, including premier benefits, free seat assignments, a free carry-on bag and more; or, if a customer doesn’t want to rebook, they can cancel their trip and receive a residual credit for their basic economy ticket.”

The new policy went into effect last Wednesday, April 13th.

  • If you buy a domestic basic economy ticket and need to cancel, you can. You’ll receive a flight credit for the price of the ticket, minus a fee of $49.50 for one-way tickets and $99 for roundtrip tickets. If an international basic economy ticket needs to be canceled, the fee is $99.50 for one-way tickets and $199 for roundtrip tickets.
  • If you have a basic economy ticket and would rather upgrade to a standard economy ticket, you can do that for a fee.

With these changes, United won’t necessarily be the airline with THE worst basic economy. They seem to be somewhere in the middle of the pack, with all restrictions and allowances considered.

  • Delta allows cancellations to basic economy for a fee of $99 to $199. The remaining funds can be an eCredit or redeposited into your SkyMiles account.
  • Similarly JetBlue allows cancellations of Basic Blue tickets purchased after June 8, 2021, for a $100 fee if they are traveling within the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America, or for a $200 fee on all other routes.
  • American, Alaska and Hawaiian don’t allow changes for basic economy tickets at all.
  • Delta, American, Alaska and Hawaiian passengers are allowed a free carry-on (United and JetBlue do not).
  • Alaska Airlines allows basic economy passengers to choose their seats for free, but only from the back of the plane.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

JohnB April 18, 2022 - 7:56 pm

Delta is a clear winner in basic economy. But with United, we have had really good luck lately. Our flights in basic economy, have been upgraded to Economy Plus and a couple times to Premium Plus on South America flights. We have no status. I asked and the reason was they wanted our seats. Whereas American, never upgrades us at all. Delta sometimes does upgrade us, but nearly as much as United.


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