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United's Basic Economy - Discussion, Q&A, ... {Archive}

United's Basic Economy - Discussion, Q&A, ... {Archive}

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Old Feb 9, 19, 9:19 am   -   Wikipost
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This is an archive thread -- the active thread is United's Basic Economy - Discussion, Q&A, ...

Important Note: these fares became available 21 Feb 2017 for MSP for travel beginning 18 Apr 2017. More markets were added 19 April 2017 for travel starting 9 May 2017.

Related thread: Basic Economy Airport and Plane Experiences (First or Second Hand)

If you booked before the dates above, you did not have a BE fare. If purchased on united.com you will see a warning like:


4. MileagePlus members will earn full Premier qualifying dollars, 50% Premier qualifying miles and 0.5 Premier qualifying segments for each flight, as well as lifetime miles and toward the four-segment minimum.



Link to UA's description of how these fares will work: Basic Economy.

Here are the key facts:
  • No seat assignments until check-in. Seats will be assigned by the system and cannot be changed.
    *NEW* When purchasing a Basic Economy ticket, you will not receive a complimentary seat assignment but may be able to purchase advance seat assignments during booking and up until check-in opens. If you donít purchase an advance seat assignment, your seat will be automatically assigned to you prior to boarding, and you won't be able to change your seat once it's been assigned.
  • No guarantee of adjacent seats with companions
  • No voluntary ticket changes after 24 hour purchase period
  • Carry on limited to 1 personal item unless the customer is a MP Premier member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance *G
  • Customers ineligible for carry-on who bring one to the gate will be charged a $25 convenience fee to gate-check in addition to standard baggage fees (source: @united twitter)
  • Customers will not be eligible for Economy Plus or premium cabin upgrades. This includes all forms of upgrades (CPU,supported or purchased). Likewise for E+ access (elite or purchased).
  • Customers will board in the last boarding group (currently Group 5) unless the customer is a MP Premier member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance *G
  • Companions on same PNR will have same boarding group and carryon if one on the PNR has a waiver
  • No combinability with regular economy fares or partner carriers. Interline travel is not permitted.
  • Tickets will earn RDMs (based on fare and status), PQMs (50% of distance), PQSs (0.5), PQDs, in addition it will count for minimum 4 segment and lifetime miles (New as of Dec 2018)
  • Basic Economy tickets will use booking code 'N'
  • Online check-in only with paid checked bag, otherwise need to see a United representative to verify the onboard bag allowance and receive a boarding pass.
In air, passengers will receive the same standard economy inflight amenities including United Economy dining options, inflight entertainment, United Wi-Fi (availability depending on the flight)

related threads
New UA/*A TATL -LGT Economy fare - no free first bag, no changes/upgrades allowed

Benefit impact of restricted economy fares on UA Elites (Basic Econ, -LGT, Light Econ

Pre-announcement speculation thread (now closed) New "Budget Economy" fares
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Old May 8, 17, 6:23 am
  #1531  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
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Originally Posted by dmurphynj View Post
To give United some credit, they do everything possible to discourage you from booking N fares. Even their app has a toggle switch to turn them off.
That's not worthy of "credit". They aren't trying to protect you from accidentally booking an N fare. They are actively encouraging you NOT to buy the N fare.
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Old May 8, 17, 6:24 am
  #1532  
 
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Originally Posted by BaltimoreZ71 View Post
But I believe his point is that N Class is not about saving money but rather a way for United to mask a fare increase for regular economy while making it seem like they have introduced a lower fare for the same flights.
Exactly. UA found a way to increase the base economy fare for elites and monetize carry-ons.
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Old May 8, 17, 6:28 am
  #1533  
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Originally Posted by ezefllying View Post
Yes, passengers like low fares. But none of them asked to get far less tomorrow than what they'd get for the same price today.
Originally Posted by dmurphynj View Post
To give United some credit, they do everything possible to discourage you from booking N fares.
In the hands of third party booking agencies, though, Basic Economy is increasingly presented as the New Normal. I was searching ORD-YVR last night on Kayak, and the price-driven returns were BE-centric, with regular (E-) coach seats positioned as an upgrade for X dollars more, and E+ as a next-tier upgrade for 2X dollars more.

Even if N fares "aren't intended for elites," per the sentiment upthread, this transaction design makes you conscious that you are paying more for E- to get things like seat assignments that used to be bundled in. You're not starting from E-, then offered a discount to forego those things.

I would really prefer to deal with airlines that do not force people to navigate these wickets. It is not presented as choice, but as diminution of value.
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Old May 8, 17, 6:52 am
  #1534  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
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Originally Posted by garykung View Post
While agreeing on everything mentioned, the reality you should keep in mind that Basic Economy (N Class) is not intended for elites.

So how much saving or how stupid the N Class really is should not be a concern of us.
Basic Economy is merely the vehicle for an across-the-board fare increase. It affected everyone, including elites. If you've flown one of those routes, you've likely paid $20 more than you would have before BE was introduced.

Any time there is a devaluation to a group of customers, it impacts all of us. Devaluation is typically a process of small steps anyway. Take something away from non-elites, a year later from Silvers, a year later from Gold and Plat, etc.
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Old May 8, 17, 7:36 am
  #1535  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
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Originally Posted by JBord View Post
Basic Economy is merely the vehicle for an across-the-board fare increase.
I still think this is "what people want". The public want to pick the lowest sticker price regardless of carrier, pitch, seating assignment etc. If UA's PRASM increases it's a success, if not they will be quietly removed except in the few markets they help.

Last edited by escapefromphl; May 8, 17 at 7:42 am
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Old May 8, 17, 7:57 am
  #1536  
 
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Nice comparison job, ezefllying!

Not a surprise, but always worth demonstrating that BE is simply a masquerade for a $20 (or $x) increase across the board for all other fare classes.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether it sticks, and whether the number of seats available at each price point remains the same, or whether there are more seats available at the >BE fare classes.
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Old May 8, 17, 8:07 am
  #1537  
 
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Originally Posted by escapefromphl View Post
I still think this is "what people want". The public want to pick the lowest sticker price regardless of carrier, pitch, seating assignment etc. If UA's PRASM increases it's a success, if not they will be quietly removed except in the few markets they help.
I totally agree. Unfortunately, they're now paying the same price for less if they choose UA. It's all marketing and optics. We'll see if the market bears it out or not.
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Old May 8, 17, 8:15 am
  #1538  
 
Join Date: May 2003
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Originally Posted by escapefromphl View Post
I still think this is "what people want". The public want to pick the lowest sticker price regardless of carrier, pitch, seating assignment etc. If UA's PRASM increases it's a success, if not they will be quietly removed except in the few markets they help.
Not sure I connect the dots the same way you did. If UA's PRASM doesn't increase, it doesn't necessarily mean they will quietly removed. A future adjustment could and probably will be made elsewhere.
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Old May 8, 17, 8:23 am
  #1539  
 
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shouldn't be a revelation.. this is the current state of the airline business and is the future. All US airlines, that aren't already there, are on the slow slide to LCC status. Welcome to reality.
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Old May 8, 17, 9:19 am
  #1540  
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Originally Posted by ezefllying View Post
Intuitively, most of us appreciate that when an airline claims it's introducing a new fee or restriction to provide customers more "choice," that choice is between paying more and getting less.

That's obviously the case with United's new Basic Economy fare level, which provides virtually no frequent-flyer benefits, offers no flexibility and transforms carry-on bags into a revenue source.

United (and Delta, which previously introduced the fare level) would like to pretend that Basic Economy is meant to help flyers "save" off usual discount-economy fares. But many of us figured that the Basic Economy fares would simply assume the price points of the formerly least expensive (but far more flexible and inclusive) fare classes -- and that those previously-cheapest fare classes would increase in price.

Proving that the introduction of Basic Economy fares simply means reducing service without lowering prices is difficult, since United could claim that price hikes for normal Economy fares following Basic Economy's introduction are the result of changes in demand, season or other unrelated factors. To prove Basic Economy's impact on Economy fares, you'd need to compare virtually identical flights -- say, two flights scheduled just minutes apart -- before and after the introduction of Basic Economy into the market.

But we can compare. For example: Today's and tomorrow's redeyes from LAX to Chicago, 78 minutes apart -- one before and one after the apparent introduction of Basic Economy into that route at midnight Tuesday:

Attachment 32188


What $114 buys you at 11:15 PM Monday night costs an extra $20 at 12:33 AM Tuesday. And your $114 gets you much less -- no carry-on, no changes, no advanced seat assignment, no upgrade -- in the post-midnight hour.

And United isn't just targeting the lowest price points for service reductions. Here's what $249 -- a fairly mid-level one-way fare for the route -- gets you Monday vs. Tuesday.

Monday (today):


Attachment 32189


Tuesday (tomorrow):


Attachment 32190


I realize this will seem terribly obvious and boring -- and un-scandalous -- to a lot of FTers. After all, the airline is simply taking advantage of its market power to maximize profit.

But I find something striking about being able to so clearly and undeniably prove the lie of the airlines' claim that their race to the bottom is simply about giving passengers "choices" or "what they want." Yes, passengers like low fares. But none of them asked to get far less tomorrow than what they'd get for the same price today.
So, firstly, UA has always said the goal of BE was to gain revenue. Why they would introduce a new fare class to let people fly on the same flights and make less is beyond me (i.e. if someone was willing to pay the $114 to fly on that flight, why would they offer it for $100?) Maybe someone can find a quote where UA execs specifically mentioned BE would drop prices, I am not aware of any. They've certainly said it increases choice, which it certainly does..just doesn't add the choice that most on this board will like.

But another point is that fares are completely dynamic, and in an industry where prices are typically stable, then yes, it makes sense, and in that specific moment in time you booked, yes, it makes sense. But tomorrow, UA may add a different K fare basis at $114 (or maybe there is an existing one, but the conditions on your search don't match it) and the BE becomes $94, or maybe they open G space at those above rates.

Originally Posted by dmurphynj View Post
It is stupid, but an idea the airline industry keeps coming back to. The difference is that the last time we saw this, we called it Ted. Basic Economy is virtual Ted.
Disagree BE is like Ted in most ways. Sorry.

Originally Posted by bearkatt View Post
this would make me visit the southwest airlines website to compare. it pays to shop around now.
You probably should. IME, and as I wrote upthread, I've almost never seen WN cheaper than the majors, and at least for me, they are often less convenient and don't serve one airport on either departure or arrival area, and that'sbefore talking about the different models (i.e. no seat selection available in any case) Works for some people, and that's great, but they haven't for me. Maybe that'll change, but we'll see. Let's not forget the LCC moniker isn't about the fares you see, but at the cost structure for the carrier.

Originally Posted by entropy View Post
Look north of the border where AC has their "Tango" fares, and the "Flex" fares can (rarely) be tens of dollars, but are often considerably more for 100% earning and upgradability.
This. It's crazy the differences you can see sometimes between Tango and Flex. On the other hand, when these fares first rolled out (IIRC, in the early 2000s), the differences weren't that bad...I'm pretty sure when they first started they were pretty comparable to the difference between BE and regular fares. Maybe UA/AA/DL goes there at some point down the line, but probably much harder here given the competitive environment in the US vs. Canada.

Originally Posted by BaltimoreZ71 View Post
But I believe his point is that N Class is not about saving money but rather a way for United to mask a fare increase for regular economy while making it seem like they have introduced a lower fare for the same flights.
Maybe, but this isn't limited to UA. Look at my example above on CVG-SFO, where the F9 fare I saw was $328 vs. $400 on UA (roundtrip), but when you need to say, check a bag each way, that's an additional $70 on F9 and the prices don't go up for an elite on UA, and its $20 less than F9 for a non-elite checking a bag on UA. Maybe many won't do enough research to notice, but at a minimum, you still get better pitch, free drinks, more options, etc. with UA. Based on my experience when I've compared LCCs/ULCCs to majors, on itineraries I've needed, when going all in, the legacy on a regular fare has always been cheaper, even if the upfront is more. That doesn't include convenience (which have been pluses for legacies, at least in my cases), and the risk in case of IRROPS of being stuck way longer on an LCC, which in almost all cases aren't able to interline onto other carriers, for example.
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Old May 8, 17, 10:42 am
  #1541  
 
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Originally Posted by spin88 View Post
Yes, it is a "up fare" cash grab, but ONLY BY UNITED. Which is using these fares at higher fare categories, which Delta is NOT. Perhaps people will willingly pay $15 more each way to Fly United, and do so via an upsell. But I think this will end badly, with United having not only lost a lot of sales, but upset its flyer base.
Once again, that is absolutely a misleading statement. DL not only does it, they were the first to do it. And they don't just do it for "cheap" fares. They bait-and-switch "medium" fares as well. Clearly it's working for them, so UA going farther into the fare brackets is an worthy strategic decision. Let the market play out. If it works, DL will have to match. If it doesn't, UA will back off.
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Old May 8, 17, 11:53 am
  #1542  
 
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Originally Posted by escapefromphl View Post
I still think this is "what people want". The public want to pick the lowest sticker price regardless of carrier, pitch, seating assignment etc. If UA's PRASM increases it's a success, if not they will be quietly removed except in the few markets they help.
I don't think people want to pay the same for fewer services, which is what UA BE turns out to deliver. It isn't a cheaper price.
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Old May 8, 17, 12:03 pm
  #1543  
 
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Originally Posted by Catbert10 View Post
I don't think people want to pay the same for fewer services, which is what UA BE turns out to deliver. It isn't a cheaper price.
Its what they think they want. The average person isn't going to recognize this as a price increase. They WANT unbundled pricing. And that's what UA is giving them, after increasing prices across the board.
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Old May 8, 17, 12:25 pm
  #1544  
 
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Originally Posted by garykung View Post
While agreeing on everything mentioned, the reality you should keep in mind that Basic Economy (N Class) is not intended for elites.

So how much saving or how stupid the N Class really is should not be a concern of us.
What you are missing, and I think others are as well, is that this directly effects elites. May folks flew United and get a packet of benefits for that. Now, because United is running N fares in all buckets (its appears up to M) now you have to pay $5-20 each way EXTRA to get those benefits.

I fly SFO-SEA-SFO Delta charges me $219/279 for the legs, and I get to use my PLT benifits. I get status credit & upgrades, and to pick my seat.

I can chose to fly United for that exact same price and basically schedual, but it is now an N, so I a) get no status credit, (b) not lifetime credit, and (c) no seal selection or upgrades. If I want ANY benifits I would get from status, I need to pay United another $15 each way for a non-N.

The way United has implemented this requires every single united elite flier to pay more with each trip to get elites benefits.

United has - due to having these fares at all fare levels - basically converted everyone's earned status into a pay as you go program.

This is a major change, and as I have noted, it makes United non-competitive for anyone who is comparison shopping, either on an individual flight, or for an elite program.
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Old May 8, 17, 12:28 pm
  #1545  
 
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Originally Posted by entropy View Post
Its pretty awful, but fully disclosed and warned against. Perhaps it will prevent Kettles from getting ToD upgrade offers!
Heh, now I'm curious. If you book an N fare do you get the post-purchase F upgrade offer? Do you get PQD? N fares are 24-hours cancellable, right?

Originally Posted by JBord View Post
Basic Economy is merely the vehicle for an across-the-board fare increase. It affected everyone, including elites. If you've flown one of those routes, you've likely paid $20 more than you would have before BE was introduced.

Any time there is a devaluation to a group of customers, it impacts all of us. Devaluation is typically a process of small steps anyway. Take something away from non-elites, a year later from Silvers, a year later from Gold and Plat, etc.
I'm really curious how this is going to go over in the SFO/LAX market. It's a pretty unique market where there is a lot of O&D traffic compared to other short-ish hops, and a lot of competition has kept fares low. I've watched the "base sale price" of a ticket tick up from $39 to $49 to $59 over the years (and still remember when it was $9 on WN).

The $15 fare increase effected by BE is actually very large for the market, and so I am curious to see whether it ends up being sustainable even against WN.
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