United Airlines have had a torrid time in the press of late. The over reaction of security in Chicago and a poor initial management response turned them into the airline that everyone loves to hate. Everyday it something new sadly a dog passing is the latest story this morning. However they still operate 4,500 flights a day and the vast majority of those customers are satisfied and most importantly safe.
The launch of Basic Economy has also been met with some angry social media attention , how dare they copy their competitors by offering a no frills ticket!!! Sure the pricing pretty much remained static and they increased the next level to try and squeeze some extra revenue but so did everybody else, it is a business after all. As was reported this week the vast majority of US customers look for price over everything else and are willing to sit in a middle seat to save a few dollars.
For me choosing basic or not depends on the route. I would pay the extra for anything over two hours as an international or transcon route would be miserable sandwiched between two strangers. However this week flying between Boston and Newark we snapped up the $65 fare and had no issue with 28B and 29B for the short hop. Having signed up for the United MileagePlus credit card previously meant we would still be in boarding group 2 so we could still use the overhead bins and the option of a free checked bag as part of the cards benefits.
Arriving at Logan to check in, the machines showed the flight as overbooked but work commitments meant getting to New York on time was a priority. However it can’t hurt to ask, so at the desk we checked what our options were. The two options were to leave 90 minutes later to EWR in a first class seat with a $500 voucher or surprisingly to leave 15 minutes later on American Airlines to LGA in economy also with a $500 voucher. Despite a little haggling there was no movement in the voucher value.
Needless to say we chose the latter, 28B/29B turned into 6D/6F and EWR turned into LGA. The commute to Manhattan was slightly quicker and we now have $500 each towards a trip in the future. That’s a big dent in a round trip to Asia. So all in all even though we didn’t actually end up flying United Basic Economy it was by far my best United experience yet.
Now this isn’t going to happen every time but the fare rules are clear, since Herb Kelleher launched Southwest airlines have been penny pinching and this is unlikely to ever change. Basic Economy fares are here to stay and it’s your choice weather or not you book it. If you do book it – don’t complain about it, who knows you might make some new friends in that middle seat.