United Airlines Economy vs Basic Economy

United Airlines offers two types of economy tickets: Economy and Basic Economy. The Basic Economy provides a lower-priced fare but may have restrictions on seat assignment, boarding, carry-on baggage, upgrades, changes, refunds, elite earnings, and elite benefits. This article will highlight the significant differences between a United Economy vs. Basic Economy you need to know before you book a flight with United.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Overview

Basic Economy

  • Fairs are cheaper by $20- $30 each way
  • Only one personal item allowed 17 × 10 × 9″
  • Allowed but up to about 25 liters maximum hand luggage (1 bag) with no carry-on permitted
  • Last boarding group
  • Choosing your preferred seating costs extra
  • No refunds or flight changes
  • No Economy Plus is available
  • Unable to check in online or via the app unless you pay for checked luggage

United Economy:

  • More expensive than Basic Economy
  • No restrictions on the number of personal items allowed. However, luggage must fit under the seat
  • About 70 liters maximum hand luggage (2 bags)
  • Includes a carry-on 22 × 14 × 9″
  • Boarding groups 3-5
  • Choosing your preferred seat is included
  • Refunds available for qualifying tickets
  • Ability to upgrade to Economy Plus seats with extra legroom
  • Able to check in online or via the app

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Difference

Imagine visiting a restaurant, the place looks inviting, and there is a nice ambiance. You go in, order something from the menu which looks reasonably priced and wait in anticipation.

When your food is served, the waiter informs you that the silverware wasn’t included in the initial price of your meal, and it will cost you an extra $5 if you want a knife and fork and another $5 table-side processing fee for ordering your knife and fork at the last minute. To top it off, you and your family won’t be sitting at the same table. They want extra money for that too!

You would be enraged if this happened to you, right? 

This is how some customers flying United feel when they choose Basic Economy. In a nutshell, you have to pay extra for services otherwise considered standard. That is, you have to pay for anything apart from them flying you and your personal effects to your intended destination.

Similar to the example above, your main purpose to go to the restaurant was to eat food. Any additional (that is, using their utensils) is considered outside the basic need to eat food.

One of the highly noticeable differences between the two is the baggage allowance. As a Basic Economy ticket holder, you won’t be able to bring more carry-on in the overhead bin. On the other side, the Economy class has an adequate baggage allowance, and you can comfortably travel with all your luggage and personal items.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Expensive or Inexpensive

Basic Economy is the cheapest fare class offered by United. In contrast, the United Economy is the most affordable class.

There is only a slight price difference between the two economic fares, with Basic Economy tickets being cheaper by $20 – $30 each way. This price difference represents the limit allowed in your carry-on, being last to board the plane, and not being able to choose any seats.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Personal items

Luggage United Economy

For Basic Economy tickets that are not trans-Atlantic, the limit is one personal item with no carry-on bag. Passengers on a Basic Economy ticket who bring a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate will be required to check their bag.

When you purchase the economy ticket, personal items must fit under the seat in front of you. Everyday items include backpacks, laptop bags, and purses. These bags can be no larger than 9 inches X 10 inches X 17 inches (22 cm X 25 cm X 43 cm).

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Liquid Range

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has some restrictions for packing liquids, gels, and aerosols in your carry-on bag. These items must be in containers that measure 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less. They must also be inside a single quart-size or liter-size clear, sealable bag.

When traveling with Basic Economy flyers, you are allowed about 25 liters maximum of hand luggage. For United Economy, you are allowed about 70 liters maximum hand luggage (2 bags).

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Carry On

United economy flights are operated by regional partners that use smaller aircraft. The overhead compartments have less space; roller bags and larger carry-on bags won’t fit. This is why United Airlines are strict when it comes to luggage.

united economy vs basic economy

If you are traveling on Basic Economy flyers, you can only bring one personal item onboard.

However, there are some exceptions.

If you want to bring a full-size carry-on, you will need to check your bag. You will need to pay the applicable checked bag fee and a $25 gate handling charge. For ease of convenience, pay via credit card.

While carry-on luggage is included in the ticket that you pay for, it may not fit the overhead cabin or under the seat storage. Therefore, United Economy passengers may need to gate-check their carry-on before boarding. These gate-checked bags will not be sent to the luggage claim area when exiting the airport. Instead, they will be brought to you just outside the aircraft.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Boarding group

Passengers with Basic Economic tickets will be in the last boarding group unless they’re a MileagePlus Premier member or companion traveling on the same reservation, a primary card member of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or a Star Alliance Gold member.

When you purchase a United Economy ticket, you and your travel companions on the same reservation will maintain your boarding priority and be allowed to bring a full-sized carry-on bag on board if space permits. This is one of the benefits of economy fares ticket class.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Choosing a seat

Avoiding the dreaded middle seat is practically impossible when you fly Basic Economy.

When purchasing a Basic Economy ticket for your travel, you won’t receive a complimentary seat assignment for seat selection. But, you may be able to purchase advance seat assignments during booking and up until check-in opens. 

However, you can receive seat assignments at an extra cost to help you with seat selection failure, to which your seat will be automatically assigned to you before boarding, and you won’t be able to change your seat once it’s been assigned.

The United Basic Economy ticket seat selection allows you to choose your preferred seat at no extra cost. You have the chance to book a window seat to enjoy the airline services even more. Economy plus tickets may be purchased at check-in.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Refund Policy

If you purchase Basic Economy tickets, then your itinerary changes due to a cancelation; you are not entitled to a refund or flight changes. With an economy ticket, the airline will refund or rebook you according to the usual procedures in the event of any changes made by United, such as rebooking due to a cancellation or schedule change. You are also eligible for ticket changes to any ticket type without incurring extra economy fare.

Online portal for checking

When you purchase a basic ticket from united airlines, you are unable to check in online or via the app. So, you cannot access the airline remotely unless you visit the airport. 

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

Online check-in is always better, if nothing else, from a convenience point of view. If you check in online, you can typically still pick some pretty decent seats. If you check in at the airport counter, you are stuck with whatever seats your fellow passengers didn’t want.

United Economy vs. Basic Economy: Economy Plus

The United Basic Economy ticket allows you to stretch out with a small upgrade fee to Economy Plus, where you’ll have extra legroom in an Economy Plus seat located near the front of the United Economy cabin. With an Economy Plus subscription, you can reserve an Economy Plus seat (when available) on any United or United Express flight. No economy plus is available when you purchase primary tickets.


Is a united Basic Economy the same as the Basic Economy?
No. There is a difference between a united Basic Economy and Basic Economy. They are different fare classes from United Airlines. United Basic Economy ticket has fewer perks compared to the standard economy fare.

Can I bring a carry-on with United Basic Economy?
For Basic Economy tickets for trans-Atlantic flights, the limit is one personal item, no carry-on bag. Passengers on a Basic Economy ticket who bring a full-sized carry-on bag to the gate will be required to check their bag and pay the applicable checked bag fee plus a $25 gate handling charge.

What does Basic Economy mean for United Airlines?
Basic Economy was created for customers who are more price sensitive. Basic Economy fares provide most of the same in-flight services and amenities available with the standard economy, such as food and beverages, United Wi-Fi, and in-flight entertainment.

Can I pick a seat on the United Basic Economy?
For all the ticket classes, except Basic Economy, you will be able to pick your seat or change your seat assignment. If you have a Basic Economy ticket, you’re able to purchase a seat assignment during booking and up until check-in opens.

Does United charge for carry-on bags?
United Airlines (UA) allows 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item ( purse, briefcase, laptop bag) per passenger fee-free. Carry-on should not exceed the following size and weight restrictions: 45 linear inches (22 × 14 × 9) or 115 centimeters 56 × 36 × 23) including handles and wheels.

How much is a united carry-on bag?
If you arrive for your flight with a standard carry-on bag and a Basic Economy ticket, the airline will make you check your suitcase, resulting in a $50 added expense ( $25 checked for bag cost, plus a $25 handling charge. International Basic Economy checked baggage fees are $60 for the first bag and $100 for the second.

Is a backpack considered a carry-on?
Technically, any piece of luggage that you “carry on” to an airplane is a carry-on bag. Most airlines allow one piece of carry-on luggage or “hand baggage” that can fit in the overhead bin, plus a “personal item” (a smaller purse, computer bag, diaper bag, small backpack, etc.)

Can I bring a backpack and a carry-on United Airlines?
Most travelers can bring on board one carry-on bag plus one personal item free of charge. About your personal item, the maximum dimensions of the item such as shoulder bag, backpack, laptop bag, and any other small item are 9 inches × 10 inches × 17 inches ( 22 cm × 25 cm × 43 cm)

How much does it cost to choose seats in the United Basic Economy?
There is no charge when it comes to seat selection with the united Basic Economy where available, but you can opt for “preferred seating” (closer to the front of the economy section) for $9 each way. If you are not ready to book at the time of searching, you can pay to reverse the ticket charge using ‘farelock.’

Is there a difference between the United Basic Economy and the Basic Economy?
While Basic Economy provides the same level of in-flight service as standard economy, the lower-priced option has some essential restrictions to seating, carry-on baggage, MileagePlus member benefits, including premier member benefits, and other aspects of your travel.

How do I know if I have a united economy?
Once you click on a fare, the site displays a pop-up of the flight details with a small highlighted notation that the plane is the Basic Economy. You can get all these details concerning the ticket class on the airline’s website.

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