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Booking Sites Don’t Always Make It Clear When Tickets Are “Basic Economy”

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A Business Insider report finds that frustrated United Airlines passengers are arriving at the airport surprised to find that they had purchased restrictive new “basic economy” tickets.

United Airlines wants passengers to know that the new ultra-low-fare basic economy tickets come with some notable restrictions. Flyers who choose to book the basic economy fare class on the United Airlines website are not only warned about restrictions and fees that come along with the low price, but the company also offers one last chance to upgrade to a less restrictive economy class fare (in some cases for as little as $20 more than the basic economy fare).

According to a just-released report from Business Insiderhowever, a slew of upset passengers are claiming that they weren’t aware that they had purchased the restrictive basic economy tickets until it was too late. While the airline’s website clearly spells out the restrictions such as a fee of between $25 and $50 for each full sized carry-on bag, no seat section and no ability to earn frequent flyer miles, booking sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline are far less clear that customers are purchasing basic economy fares. Business Insider found that in some cases, the booking sites didn’t make any mention that a booking was basic economy fare class, but for the small print displayed just before users are directed to complete the purchase.

“We, of course, continue to work with suppliers to ensure customers can clearly see the all the information they need in searching and booking,” an Expedia representative responded in the report. Unfortunately, some passengers say that they only learned that they had purchased basic economy fare when they received a follow-up email from United.

A United Airlines spokesperson told Business Insider’s Cadie Thompson that the company would prefer that third-party booking sites do a better job of making it clear to passengers that they may be booking a more restrictive fare class. United said the airline is working with booking sites to help ensure that basic economy tickets and the accompanying restrictions are plainly identifiable. In some cases in which the more restrictive fares classes were not adequately identified to customers, the carrier has even pulled inventory and refused to allow those booking sites to sell basic economy tickets anymore.

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Comments are Closed.
sdsearch June 24, 2017

The Basic Economy prices are not always "that good" that it should be obvious. I've been watching the LAX-MSY route recently on Kayak Flights, and some Spirit fares on this route (and all Spirit fares are Basic Economy even if they don't call it that) are routinely higher than AA and DL. Some of the DL flights are Basic Economy, but they're not always the lowest priced! None of the AA flights on that route are Basic Eoonomy (yet?), but on some days they're the lowest priced, and Basic Economy costs more. So, nitab62, I disagree with your comment because my experience is that if you can't tell Basic Economy by a label (which I do see at Kayak Flights for Delta) or by reading fine print, on many routes there's no easy way to tell.

robsaw June 23, 2017

I've gone through MANY on-line booking sites that are pathetic when it comes to disclosure of what exact version of "economy" one is purchasing at ANY point in the transaction. So, no, this isn't about the fineprint because in so many cases there isn't any adequate fineprint provided at all.

nitab62 June 23, 2017

Hmm, people wanting something for nothing. If the price is "too good" there is probably a reason; no pre-seat assignment, no carry ons, etc. Why would folks not look for the fine print if you know the price is "so low?" Honestly, it is an absolutely horror to fly with folks who can't read the instructions in security, the TSA still giving away Pre-Check and the rudeness and entitlement of flyers. I hate to fly anymore

makrom June 23, 2017

Well, blame the OTAs then.