Here’s the ironic thing about buying a Basic Economy ticket on United Airlines. By not being able to pre-assign a seat, you often end up with one of the best economy seats on the aircraft.
My brother’s girlfriend accidentally purchased a Basic Economy ticket on a recent flight from Los Angeles to Houston. Interestingly to me (since I would never buy an Basic Economy ticket), the boarding pass is orange in color (versus the normal blue) in the iPhone wallet.
Of course that’s not all — here are the warnings when you buy a ticket:
And it is exactly for these reasons I would never buy a Basic Economy ticket.
But she did. And she ended up with an exit row aisle seat, one of the most coveted on the plane, despite having no status and buying the cheapest ticket available.
How? Basic Economy seats are assigned just prior to boarding and that prime exit row seat was the only one left.
How United can Remedy This
While I’m truly happy that she enjoyed a complimentary exit row seat, that just seems totally counterintuitive to purchasing a Basic Economy fare.
And this is not a one-off event. I’ve witnessed this myself.
But prohibiting Basic Economy passengers from EconomyPlus would create a potentially burdensome two-step process. Passengers seated in United Economy would need to be moved to EconomyPlus then Basic Economy passengers would be accommodated in their old seats.
This seems too time-consuming.
In an internal memo to employees, United addressed this very issue-
There will be instances where the only seats available for customers who purchased Basic Economy are Economy Plus seats. In order to minimize this occurrence, we are working on a few initiatives that will help to identify high-value customers with a standard Economy ticket. We can then offer a free Economy Plus seat to these customers prior to the check-in window opening in order to free up seats in economy for customers who purchased a Basic Economy ticket.
Indeed, this is the only practical solution: pre-emptive upgrades to EconomyPlus. Not only will this make some customers happy, but it will alleviate the burden upon gate agents.
United still has not figured out how to keep Basic Economy passengers out of EconomyPlus. While you are certainly not guaranteed an EconomyPlus seat if you buy a Basic Economy ticket, you stand a decent chance of ending up with one. That’s at least one reason to buy a United Basic Economy ticket…