How Many Basic Economy Tickets Have Been Booked by Accident?

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United is warning customers to not book basic economy.

The emails that went around to MileagePlus members today said nothing good about basic economy. United recommends travelers not book it.

United Basic Economy Premier Members

United would prefer everyone to book from, where you get get prominent warnings of what you are booking. That is not always possible or preferred.

In other channels, from OTAs to credit card award portals, avoiding basic economy is tough. Even the most careful travelers sometimes can only guess what they are getting. Frequent Miler’s excellent guide, How to avoid United Basic Economy, shows the problem facing the traveler.

United’s email, adds:

If anyone books United® tickets on your behalf, please share these details with them to ensure your travel selections are aligned with your needs. It’s important to note that if there is a Basic Economy fare available, we will also offer the standard United Economy fare option.

This gets at agent and corporate bookings. Large company booking tools are often configured, by company choice, to exclude basic economy fares.

The population of small companies and independent bookers lacking these tools can easily get tripped up, following instructions to book the lowest price and not realizing there is this new pitfall. A great way to cause work conflict when a travel arranger receives and angry call from a colleague at the airport.

Out of the pool of basic economy tickets, which United says it really doesn’t want people to book, I wonder what is the percent booked by accident?

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5 years ago

So how much further does it go to simply be called bait and switch? Searches need to flag “Basic Economy” very clearly, and users need to be able to check a box to opt out of seeing such fares in searches.