United Airlines has announced a new option for price-sensitive travelers with the introduction of lower "basic economy" fares. But there's a catch.
Passengers who choose the new fares will be assigned seats on the day of departure, with seating together not guaranteed. They will board the plane in the last group (five) and are allowed only one personal carry-on item like a laptop, purse or small backpack that must fit under the seat. (There does seem to be a little wiggle room on the last two requirements, with waivers for a Premier member, a primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or a Star Alliance Gold member, according to the United website.)
Other standard perks, like food and beverage offerings, Wi-Fi and personal device entertainment, will be included, officials said.
“Customers have told us that they want more choice and Basic Economy delivers just that,” said Julia Haywood, executive vice president and chief commercial officer, in a press release. “By offering low fares while also offering the experience of traveling on our outstanding network, with a variety of onboard amenities and great customer service, we are giving our customers an additional travel option from what United offers today.”
United will continue to offer its current purchase options — economy, Economy Plus and domestic first class, and it will introduce its international premium travel experience, United Polaris, on December 1. The company is also looking at a new premium economy experience for domestic and international markets.
The airline will begin selling the new class of service at the beginning of 2017, with flights scheduled to start in the second quarter of next year.