How to Make the Best of Basic Economy on United Airlines

Flying United Basic Economy isn’t the most comfortable or glamorous flight but it does save a lot over the other alternatives in airfare. What’s really worse than purposely booking a flight on economy is when someone else is in charge of the arrangements and they book a seat for you in this class. Don’t despair though, there are some things you can do to make the best of it and even improve the flight when you know what steps to take.

The facts about United Basic Economy

Of the three types of economy class aboard United, the basic economy is the least expensive but it comes with restrictions on your seat assignment, on carry-on baggage and with boarding upgrades, elite benefits, and earnings, cancellations or changes. Here are the stark naked facts about the basic economy.

Checked bags

You are allowed to check a bag and although the fees vary from one itinerary to another, the cost of the first checked bag is between $25 and $60 with European destinations from the US on the highest end of the spectrum. The price for a second checked bag ranges between as low as $35 all the way to $200, depending on the destination. You must check all bags at the counter because if you wait until you’re at the gate, you’ll pay an additional $25 in fees for gate checking.

Carry on restriction is still in place

You cannot bring a carry-on with you, but you can bring one personal item that measures a maximum of 9x10x17 inches. The item must fit under the seat.

You can select your seat

You the option of selecting your seat if you purchase in advance through the time that check-in begins. The costs are minimal and to choose a seat in basic economy class, you’ll only pay an extra $10 to $20 for the choice of where you sit, based upon availability of courses. Seats are automatically assigned before boarding begins and once the assignment has been made you cannot change it.

Check-in restrictions

If you’re checking a bag you’ll be able to use the online service. If not checking a bag, you are required to complete your check-in when you arrive at the airport. The reason for this is to prove that you have only one personal item in your possession.

Earning miles

You can still earn miles which will be based on your MileagePlus level and the fare. You won’t earn premium miles when you fly in basic economy class though.

Boarding

With United Basic Economy you are in the last group to board the aircraft. You cannot change your flight. No refunds are allowed on cancellations unless you meet the criteria under United’s 24-hour policy.

How having a co-branded credit card can help

If you hold one of these credit cards as the primary account holder and you purchase the ticket with the card, you could change your circumstances with a basic economy reservation. You must provide your United MileagePlus number at the time that you purchase the flight though. Here is how you can defeat the Basic Economy doldrums.

What elite status allows you to get

You and each of your traveling companions on the same reservations can bring one carry-on bag apiece so long as it’s a maximum of 9x14x22 inches. You bump up in priority boarding to Group 2 along with your traveling companions and you and one of your traveling companions get to check the first bag for free. These are the benefits of booking with a United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card or a United Explorer Club Card.

Premium members and Star Alliance elites with premier silver and Star Alliance Gold are allowed one bag that weighs up to 50 pounds. Premier Gold allows two bags that can weigh up to 70 pounds apiece. The Premier Platinum and the Premier 1K allow you to bring three bags weighing up to 70 pounds each.

How to find the card that gives you the right benefits

When searching for the ideal credit card to help you beat the restrictions of United basic economy class, it’s important to research each of the cards thoroughly and find the ones that most closely meet your traveling needs. Each is different and offers a variety of perks that can be applied towards basic economy flights. Compare the cards as some offer an annual fee for as low as $0 for the first 12 months and $95 for every year thereafter. Some are as high as $450 per year for the annual fee. These offer the greatest benefits but they’re only applicable if you travel a lot of air miles.

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