United Basic Economy Review: It Sucks

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This is TPOL’s first Flight Review of a United flight. I’ve done a great job of avoiding the airline and will continue to do so. Here’s what happened:

What I saved in money I lost in time. That’s the theme of this trip. (see Frontier MSO-NYC, see airport shuttles 1 & 2.) I booked a basic economy ticket and, per the terms, could not check in ahead of time. I arrived at DEN airport to the longest check in line. There were no check in kiosks. I tried to put in my information but received an error– ask agent for assistance.

The agent came over and scanned his card. I asked what the problem was and he said that he had to make sure that I didn’t have an oversized bag. “You’d be surprised that people buy these basic economy tickets and show up to the gate with more bags.”

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised because I’d try to do the same thing. In this case, my companion had a normal ticket so there was no need for trickeration.

The idea of not checking bags is supposed to save time. The idea of basic economy is to save money. In this case, the marginal dollar I saved was lost by the time I spent in line.

Oh, and for some reason my TSA precheck didn’t come up. Joy to me.

To top it off, I boarded in Zone 5.

11 COMMENTS

  1. What of all the basic economy details (like group 5 boarding) were you NOT aware of when you clicked through the 4+ warnings and bought your basic ticket to save $15? And how is group 5 that detrimental when you have a seat assignment and don’t need overhead space?

    • Oh capitalizing NOT for emphasis. Do you try things to see how good or bad they are? Or do you just read about them and do nothing

    • Where does it say I was surprised? I’m no longer surprised by comments from people who don’t read but criticize nonetheless.

  2. Of course it sucks. United wants it to suck. They would make it suck more if they could (and they probably will in future).

    The whole point is to make it so terrible that you will never make that same mistake again and will now be a discriminating airline ticket purchaser, no longer choosing the cheapest ticket but instead selecting from the menu of more expensive options. They lost the battle but won the war.

  3. I’ve flown these Basic Economy fares twice now, once on UA and once on DL and personally for the quick weekend trips I’ve done they were a great way to save about $50 r/t on each flight. I had a backpack so I didn’t care about overhead bin space and was travelling by myself so I didn’t really care about seat assignments even thought I lucked into 2 exit rows, a Middle Economy+ seat on UA and a window on DL. I knew what I was buying and everything went smoothly. The UA rule forcing you to go to the counter to check-in stinks, but it didn’t cause me any more than a 5min delay getting to security. I suppose they could just increase the ‘fine’ for bringing a rollaboard to the gate but I’m perfectly happy with the set up as it is now. I don’t really get why bloggers are so up in arms over these fares, or the hate on UA in general, but I guess its all about clicks these days.

    • Your last sentence makes me not want to respond to any of your other points. Generalizing all bloggers is stupid.

  4. I guess it wasn’t clear when I booked BE because I would never have imagined you couldn’t take a carry-on bag…especially when it’s a small backpack and a laptop case. I couldn’t check in online and thought it was a website error but it wasn’t. Then I was forced to pay to check my small backpack. They wouldn’t even let me pay to carry it on. My BE money was no good to them! Of course there was NO WAY I was checking my unpadded laptop case so they forced me to awkwardly shove it into my purse in front of everyone at LAX United security checkpoint. It split the seams of my purse but I had no choice! What was I supposed to do?? I’m sure they want you to be so frustrated you never purchase that fare in the future. Wrong! I’ll ever fly United again after that public humiliation!

    • I’m with you on this one. Even though I thought I knew what I was getting into, I didn’t expect it to be that bad. How cheap are these airlines that they have to lure us in with low fares only to make us feel cheap when we question their asinine policies?

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