United Airlines will begin offering Basic Economy fares in
the second quarter of 2017, the carrier announced during its Investor Day on
"One of our competitors, in Atlanta, already has basic
economy. We've taken it a little farther," United president Scott Kirby
said, referencing Delta.
United's Basic Economy fliers will pay less than passengers who
buy regular economy fares. In exchange, they won't get to choose their seats
and must accept that there is no guarantee they will sit next to a traveling
companion. Voluntary ticket changes won't be permitted. And Basic Economy
customers will be in the last boarding group.
Those provisions are similar to what Delta has offered in its
Basic Economy since the launch in 2012. But where United will differ is that
its Basic Economy passengers will only be allowed one carry-on bag, and it will
have to fit under the seat.
"That room is going to be saved for our economy
passengers who value that and are willing to pay for it," chief commercial
officer Julia Haywood said.
She said that by reducing the number of customers who can
take larger bags on the plane, United will make the boarding process more efficient.
United said that it will offer Basic Economy fares on
selected flights, and didn't say how much less they would be than regular
economy seating. Basic Economy tickets will go on sale in the first quarter of
The new fare class is part of a broader United strategy to
diversify its product offerings. The airline will debut its new Polaris
business class next month and is also considering the introduction of premium
economy cabins on both international and domestic flights, Haywood said.
Competing with ultra-low-cost carriers is a primary
objective of United and its legacy competitors when it comes to basic fares.
American, too, has said it plans to begin selling basic economy seats in 2017.
Haywood noted that United's Basic Economy seats will be the
same as standard economy seats.
"It's going to be the same experience onboard, the same
product as economy, which we all know is much better than our [ultra-low-cost] competitors,"