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FlyerTalk 101

How to Avoid Accidentally Booking Basic Economy

How to Avoid Accidentally Booking Basic Economy
Joe Cortez

Welcome to FlyerTalk 101, a guide to traveling like an expert from the experts. For more guides like this, check out our FlyerTalk 101 tag or head to the forum links in this article to have any of your questions answered.

There has been some recent confusion on how United Airlines is presenting Basic Economy to consumers. Luckily, FlyerTalkers have an answer to help travelers not get lost in the shuffle. The easiest way to avoid Basic Economy fares is either booking directly through the website or watching the fare codes.

In today’s overwhelming travel space, booking the right flight and cabin at the right price can be difficult. The biggest problem may be at the back of the plane, where flyers are forced to differentiate between regular economy and the dreaded “basic economy.” Aboard United Airlines, that line can be very blurred.

On the forums, FlyerTalker mlm needed help finding that line. “What code(s) to insure[sic] that my family and I don’t accidentally book ‘Basic Economy?’” they asked on the forums. “We’ll each have a carry on bag and I want to select seats at time of booking (traveling with small children).”

As they are in many cases, FlyerTalkers were eager to help out. In addition to updating the wiki page on the forums, member Often1 provided a quick answer: It’s all in the fare codes.

“Basic Economy is its own column on the [United] website,” Often1 noted. “Along with Economy, First, Polaris, and so on. If you do select Basic Economy, it will bring up a warning box showing the specific restrictions and requiring that you click a box acknowledging the restrictions.”

“If your starting point is Google Flights, you can easily switch from basic economy fare to regular economy fare,” Repooc17 notes about searching for flights outside. “From there, the link will take you directly to the [United] itinerary summary page, ensuring the correct fare.”

As stated in the Wiki, Basic Economy fares come with many different restrictions. In addition to not being able to select seats on domestic booking code “N,” flyers are not eligible for upgrades and can only bring one carry-on piece unless they are a MileagePlus Premier elite, are the primary cardholder of a United co-branded credit card, or have Star Alliance Gold elite status through another frequent flyer program.

Have a question? Get the answer from the FlyerTalk Forums.


[Featured Image: Shutterstock]

View Comments (3)


  1. jrpallante

    August 7, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    If you can read, then it is very difficult to book a basic economy fare without knowing.

  2. ConnieDee

    August 7, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    As far as reading is concerned, first you have to be aware that there may be two (or more?) “economy” fares. You have to be aware that sites like Kayak & Google flights might give you the rock-bottom fare (oops, no carryons!) Different airlines have different names for the fare classes. What if you’re booking on a carrier in another country? They all come up with different booking displays. In Italy I relied on little pictures of briefcases and suitcases. Sometimes I had to click on links to read what the branded names for fare classes meant.

    mlm’s question is an excellent one for all those web designers who make assumptions about how pages appear to people all over the world.

  3. jrpallante

    August 23, 2019 at 6:25 am

    If you select a BE flight on Kayak, the following warning appears in a ginormous bold font: “This fare has restrictions. Please review the information below before continuing.” Farther down the page, all the restrictions are detailed very clearly in a box with a red border.

    On Google Flights, if you try to select BE, it will show you a side-by-side comparison of BE and Economy. They are essentially trying to upsell you, just as the airline does on their own site.

    With Expedia, as soon as you click on a BE flight, all the restrictions pop up, along with a note that you can upgrade your fare before check out.

    I can’t speak for airlines in other countries, but I really don’t understand how anybody could “accidentally” book Basic Economy in the USA. Every vendor or airline shows the low fare to get your attention, but then they go out of their way to discourage you from buying that cheap BE ticket.

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