United’s Basic Economy fares — along with American’s — are the most complicated fare increase in airline history.
Basic Economy fares are all about providing less value at the same price, in hopes that customers will pay more. At the same time United’s press releases pretend that the fares are somehow about offering customers travel for less (they’re not).
By imposing new conditions on the lowest fares offered — no seat assignments at booking, last to board, last to be re-accommodated if something goes wrong with the flight, no upgrades, no full-sized carry on bags — they’re forcing customers to wade through more information and pay more to get the same thing as before.
One piece of United’s Basic Economy strategy is even to force customers not checking bags to check in with an agent rather than online. Basic economy, it seems, doesn’t pay for use of the mobile app.
However these restrictions carry some risks for United. If a customer flying on a Basic Economy fare is forced to check something that’s then damaged, the whole thing could boomerang. We all know what happened when musician Dave Carroll checked his guitar on a United flight.
The unparagoned Brian Sumers shares this internal detail from United:
— Brian Sumers (@BrianSumers) June 22, 2017
At least elite frequent flyers and co-brand credit card holders get their priority boarding. And since the restriction that you can only have a personal item and not a full-sized carry on bag is enforced by boarding group, these customers get to bring on a carry on bag as well.
But if you’re not a United elite or a co-brand credit card holder, and you want to bring on more than a personal item (or just don’t want to pay to check a bag), consider making the case for a small instrument your suitcase. Stuff it full of clothes and electronics. Because you can bring that on, even if United won’t allow your rollaboard.