United's Basic Economy Fare

United launches Basic Economy fare between Houston and Minneapolis/St. Paul

United launches Basic Economy fare between Houston and Minneapolis

United Airlines airplanes tails at IAH Bush Intercontinental Airport
United Airlines will introduce its new Budget Economy fares between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Houston on April 18. BoardinArea.com

In a hint of things to come, United Airlines announced the introduction of Basic Economy fares between Minneapolis/St. Paul and seven U.S. hubs, including Houston, beginning April 18.

The new fare is the lowest offered by the airline — about $20-$40 less than standard Economy each way — but comes with some important restrictions — no overhead bin space, no ability to preselect seats, no upgrade privileges, and no flight changes.

It is meant to compete with ultra low cost carriers like Sprint and Frontier, as well as competing full-service airlines like American, which has recently offered a similar low-cost fare to the budget-conscious traveler, and Delta, which has offered the low fare for about a year.

Checked bags and inflight food, alcoholic beverages and entertainment will also cost an extra fee — just as in standard economy now.

United said it is offering the new fare in just one market, Minneapolis/St. Paul, to ensure a smooth rollout. It is expected to expand to the rest of the U.S., Caribbean and short-haul Latin American flights in the coming months.

Passengers who choose the new fare will be seated in the Economy section of the airplane but will not have the opportunity to choose their seats. Customers traveling together, including families, will not be able to sit together. Customers will board in the last boarding group (Group 5) unless a MileagePlus Premier member, or companion traveling on the same reservation, a primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member.

Carry-on bags are limited to one personal item (that's means no carry-on luggage with rollers), unless the customer is a MileagePlus Premier member, or companion traveling on the same reservation, a primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member. Full-sized carry-on bags must be checked for the regular $25 checked baggage fee in the airport lobby.

MileagePlus program members will still earn award miles, but they will not earn Premier qualifying credit (miles, segments, or dollars), or lifetime miles, and no contribution to the four segment minimum.

In addition to Basic Economy, United will continue to offer standard Economy, Economy Plus, United Business, United First, as well as its international premium travel experience, United Polaris. United is also looking at adding a new Premium Economy experience for domestic and international markets.