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What You Need To Know

by Staff

Ever since EVA Air offered its upgraded Evergreen class of premium economy seats in 1991, other airlines have jumped on the wagon, hoping that passengers will pay extra for a slightly better experience. The experience can vary greatly depending on the airline, with some offering an increased baggage allowance, better in-flight meals, and improved entertainment. One thing they all have in common is increased legroom and a more expensive purchase price.

Chicago-headquartered United Airlines has taken the concept a bit further, offering three classes of economy tickets, which are:

With this in mind, we will compare United Airlines’ basic economy and see how it compares to the carrier’s regular economy offering. United Airlines economy class is comparable to other American carriers like Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. Still, its basic economy only offers some of the perks of a regular economy class ticket.

Basic Economy Class

Photo: United Airlines

What you get with a United Airlines basic economy ticket:

  • Checked luggage and carry-ons: If you are flying within the lower 48 states, you can bring one personal item like a shoulder or laptop bag aboard, so long as it can be stowed on the floor of the seat in front of you. No full-size carry-on bags are permitted. If you have another bag, you must pay $35 and have it checked in. Checked luggage on international flights costs $60, but you can bring a carry-on.
  • Seat assignment: United Airlines will assign you a seat. However, some flights allow you to select your seat for a fee starting from $10.
  • Boarding: As a basic economy passenger, you will be in the last group to board the aircraft.
  • Cancelations and refunds: United Airlines basic economy tickets cannot be changed, but you can get a refund if you cancel your flight at least 24 hours after booking for a full refund. If you cancel your flight later than 24 hours before departure, you will pay $99 for a domestic flight and $199 for an international flight. You will also not be reimbursed in cash but will receive a voucher that you can use for a future flight.
  • Miles and upgrades: With a basic economy fare, you will not receive a complimentary upgrade to economy plus. You will earn half the air miles you would typically be entitled to with a regular economy ticket.


Basic Economy Tickets Revenue Increased 20% At United Airlines In Q4 2023

United Airlines carried 165 million passengers in 2023 at a load factor of 86.4%, the most passengers ever in a year.

Economy Class

overhead bins with carry-on

Photo: United Airlines

What you get with a United Airlines economy class ticket:

  • Checked luggage and carry-ons: United Airlines economy seating has the same fees as basic economy, but it does allow you one piece of carry-on luggage.
  • Seat assignment: With regular economy, you can select where you want to sit, which is a big plus when traveling with friends or family.
  • Boarding: Just like with basic economy, standard economy is one of the last groups to board, but you do get called for boarding ahead of people with basic economy tickets.
  • Cancelations and refunds: United Airlines, like other mainstream American carriers, has gotten rid of ticket change fees > If you cancel your booking within 24 hours of making it, you will be entitled to a full refund. You can still cancel later, but your refund will be in the form of a voucher for a future flight.
  • Miles and upgrades: If you are a member of the United Airlines MileagePlus program, you may be offered a free upgrade to economy plus

Looking at flying with United Airlines round trip from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA), a basic economy ticket at this time of year is available for $116. The same flight when flying regular economy is $186, which is $70 more expensive than the basic fare.

Seeing how it is only a two-hour ten-minute flight and the fact both seats are the same width and legroom, it makes sense to fly basic economy. Having said that, if you dread getting assigned a middle seat, need a carry-on, and want to sit with family and friends, it makes sense to pay the extra $70.

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