United Warns its Best Customers to Avoid Basic Economy

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United has a new marketing approach borrowed from Spirit Airlines: warn customers of the awfulness of its product.

MileagePlus Premier members are being emailed with a ‘recommendation’ to not buy United’s basic economy (emphasis added):

Because you are a MileagePlus® Premier® member, we know you value using your benefits and earning Premier qualifying credit to maintain status. That’s why we want to be sure you’re aware of our newest fare option, called Basic Economy, which is available on select routes and in addition to standard United Economy® fares. Created for our customers who may be more price-sensitive, these lower-priced fares come with some important restrictions, including no upgrades, no Economy Plus® seating and no Premier qualifying credit, among other restrictions. If these benefits are valuable to you, then we recommend choosing a standard Economy ticket for your future travel.

The standard product comparison chart, say a software with basic and pro versions, will list a few check marks of included features on the basic, then a bunch more for the pro. With United basic economy, it is entirely bad news:

United Basic Economy Premier MembersThe only slight positive benefit for Premier members is buried in a footnote:

Typically, with a Basic Economy ticket you would not be allowed a full-sized carry-on bag4, but because you are a MileagePlus Premier member, you will receive this benefit as well as your standard priority boarding privileges. Primary cardmembers of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card will also be allowed these same exceptions.

Economy fares are typically $20-40 more than basic economy each way. United is going to a lot of trouble create a crap product and marketing its crappiness, just to try to squeeze out this premium.

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5 years ago

Would you still pick basic economy for the lower price if you had the credit card and qualified for the free carry on?

Stefan @ Rapid Travel Chai
Reply to  Dan

I care about maintaining Star Alliance Gold status for my international travels so I will not take basic economy. If status is irrelevant, and with revenue-based earning, miles are mostly irrelevant, then for me it would come down how much I care about advance seat selection and what seats I can select in regular economy. Short flights or planes with 2×2 seating I probably would take Basic Economy, for longer I might not.

5 years ago

Glad to see this being pointed out, and not in a good way. You’d think after the ocean of bad press they’ve gotten, someone with some common sense would try to do better.

“For our more price sensitive customers….” What a bunch of insensitive turds.


[…] A Warning About Basic Economy:  United is emailing their MileagePlus Premier members about the restrictions of their Basic Economy seats.  They “recommend” that they don’t buy basic economy seats since they wouldn’t be eligible for any perks as they would with a Standard Economy seat, including no upgrades.  This is a rather interesting marketing approach, as it could be interpreted in so many ways. […]

5 years ago

Small error in the last paragraph:”Basic economy fares are typically $20-40 *less* each way” – at the level where Standard Economy used to be.

In other words: For the same “Standard” service, you now pay $20-40 more per direction.

Stefan @ Rapid Travel Chai
Reply to  Stavros

Corrected, thank you.