The move by the US full service airlines to give passengers “choice’’ has hit a new level with United Airlines offering a basic economy ticket that restricts carry-on and does not guarantee families can sit together.
The new tickets mean passengers will receive an automated seat assignment at check-in, will be able to take on just one small personal item and will not be eligible for upgrades.
They will be the last to board, unless they have frequent flyer status, and the tickets will not be able to be used in an interline arrangement or combined with normal economy fares.
Passengers will be allowed to take on board a small personal item such as a shoulder bag, backpack or laptop bag.
“Full-size carry-on bags are not allowed unless you’re a Premier member, a primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or a Star Alliance Gold member,’’ the airline says on its website. “Basic Economy fares have the same checked baggage policies as regular Economy tickets.‘’
The airline also warns that people travelling in groups may not be able to sit together and that the automatic seat assignment cannot be changed.
It said the new fares were aimed at further meeting customers’ needs and providing more options to price-sensitive travellers.
“Customers have told us that they want more choice and Basic Economy delivers just that,” said Julia Haywood, executive vice president and chief commercial officer. “By offering low fares while also offering the experience of traveling on our outstanding network, with a variety of onboard amenities and great customer service, we are giving our customers an additional travel option from what United offers today.”
The move by the US full-service carrier to offer tickets which do not include carry-on comes as cabin baggage has become an increasing problem after airlines started charging for checked luggage.
It is aimed at preventing the migration of passengers to low-cost carriers and part of an increasing trend by service airlines to differentiate services and cabins as ancillary revenues – the charges outside the cost of ticket — becomes more important.
However, the trend has also seen airlines under the spotlight of competition regulators because the confusing nature of the choices has not always been spelled out clearly to passengers.