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November 21, 2016

Thanks for Nothing: United Airlines Intros “Last Class” Service

Filed under: Thanks for Nothing,Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:38 am

United AirlinesWe all know what first class air travel means — priority boarding, bigger seats, fancy food, quick exiting, etc. Now United Airlines is introducing what we have nicknamed “last class” service. As our moniker implies, this is at the opposite end of the spectrum of fares.

According to United’s website, “basic economy” as they call it will be their least expensive fare (with unspecified extra savings, if any), but will come with some new and severe limitations:


  • You will not be able to reserve a particular seat.
  • Seats will be assigned automatically at check-in, and presumably you will have no choices offered.

  • If you buy multiple seats for your family, sitting together is not guaranteed.

  • You can make no voluntary changes to your ticket.

  • You will earn miles, but not earn “segments.”

  • You will not be allowed to upgrade.

  • You will be automatically placed in the last group to board the plane.

    And the biggest (and nastiest) new restriction:

  • You cannot carry on any luggage except a small personal item like a laptop that fits under the seat in front of you.

  • So… during this Thanksgiving week, we say to United Airlines, thanks for nothing.

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    1. Maybe they could give it a snappy marketing name, such as ‘Skyway Steerage.’ But unless they’re pricing this at the former Economy Class and bumping up prices on that and all other classes, I’m not sure as to what the problem is. As long as all restrictions are clearly – and not ‘Mouse Printingly’ – spelled out, and it fills a need in the marketplace, what’s wrong with it?

      Comment by Marty — November 21, 2016 @ 7:12 am
    2. If the savings are sufficient, flyers might be delighted to have this as an option.

      Edgar replies: That is the $1000 question… what are the savings, if any? Their press release, quoted below, makes no reference to the actual savings that will accompany these fares. It would have been very easy for them to say that Basic Economy fares will be an average of say 10% below the current lowest fare. But they nothing… and to me, that is very telling.

      To further meet customers’ needs and provide more options to price-sensitive travelers, the company announced the introduction of Basic Economy fares. This new offering provides customers the option of paying the lowest fares to their destinations, while still receiving the same standard economy experience, including food, beverage, Wi-Fi and personal device entertainment, with a few key differences. Customers who choose Basic Economy will be assigned seats on the day of departure, be assigned to boarding group five and be permitted only one personal carry-on item that must fit under the seat. The new offering provides the added benefit for customers and employees of simplifying the boarding process, as fewer customers will bring overhead bags on board. Complete details on Basic Economy can be found at

      Comment by Mel — November 21, 2016 @ 7:35 am
    3. All the United’s stated terms are above the line. They even mention on the press release that customers who purchase this fare will be reminded about not being able to be seated together. So, while it could lead to a lousy flight experience, it is clearly disclosed.

      United stated that this fare will be offered on selected routes. My presumption is that it will be offered only on routes that compete with Spirit, Frontier, and other ultra-low fare airlines that have this as standard policy. So United will match their fares by matching their terms. That is IMHO a fair and sound business practice.

      Comment by Marc — November 21, 2016 @ 8:25 am
    4. What about kids pay more or they may be sitting together. and if we are super evil that kill come with an UM fee.

      Comment by Joeb — November 21, 2016 @ 10:09 am
    5. I reserved two seats of my choice to a matinee showing at a local AMC movie theater at a total cost of $5.28 per ticket. United is still going to assign seats and I assume will be using a computer to do so. The only reason I can see in their stupid restriction is to get people to upgrade.

      Comment by Michael Sidorak — November 21, 2016 @ 10:13 am
    6. I remember a day when airlines raced to be the topmost option for travelers. Now I guess it’s a race to the bottom.

      Comment by Shawn — November 21, 2016 @ 10:42 am
    7. I bet Women’s purses count as their “personal item”.

      Still, United is being upfront.. no mouse print.

      In addition, concurring with the post that this is most likely being offered on routes with “everything is an upcharge” competitors, it makes sense.

      Edgar replies:

      “Still, United is being upfront.. no mouse print.”

      Robert, and everyone… the list of what you don’t get with the new United fare came from a press release and an interior page of their website. The real disclosure test will be when you are picking a fare and making a reservation. Do they make it clear at the point of purchase what you’re not getting and that you cannot bring on any luggage.

      Comment by Robert — November 21, 2016 @ 11:20 am
    8. Reads fine to me. A budget traveler on a fixed income, these printed rules are no biggie to me.

      Comment by Gerry — November 21, 2016 @ 12:02 pm
    9. And obviously they don’t say what will happen when people show up with carry on luggage, which we (and United) know they will.

      Comment by Dan — November 21, 2016 @ 12:54 pm
    10. Well Gerry… You better wear five layers of clothing if you want that super cheap air fair. You not going to be able bring that much with you on the flight…

      Comment by richard — November 21, 2016 @ 2:05 pm
    11. One datapoint if United is trying to compete with Spirit… Spirit charges $25 or so for a checked or carry-on bag of a specified size/weight in advance. If you get it wrong and show up at the gate with something bigger/heaver the charge is whopping $100.

      Hopefully United is trying to compete with them w/o being as draconian.

      Comment by Robert — November 21, 2016 @ 4:01 pm
    12. To those saying that this is fine…well, this is just where it starts. There was a time when airlines competed to provide the best service, but now it seems like airlines are competing to see who can offer the cheapest and most inconvenient experience that customers are willing to settle for.

      We’ve voted with our dollars and are getting what we desire…unfortunately.

      Comment by Wayne R — November 22, 2016 @ 12:19 am
    13. Do you want to sit next someone s 5 year old—feel sorry for the f/a s as they will have to try and work out seatings for people who want to sit together. Airlines are going downhill FAST. Think you would have better luck on greyhound!!!!

      Comment by Carole Paquin — November 22, 2016 @ 12:08 pm

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