December 8th, 2016

When United says “no frills”…

they really mean it:

The airline, one of the world’s largest carriers, plans to introduce a new ‘basic economy’ fare in the New Year.

But these tickets come with a catch. Passengers who buy the ‘basic economy’ ticket instead of a standard economy fare can travel with a single small item of carry-on luggage, but only if it fits underneath the seat in front of them…

Prices, however, for this new low-frills ticket will actually be comparable to the low fares United now charges for the economy cabin, according to Reuters – which effectively means that using the overhead bins will hit fliers in the pocket.

The Telegraph reported that United ‘expects the changes to raise around $1bn by 2020’.


I suppose they’ve done their market research. But it seems to me that this appeals only to passengers who are going on day trips or at the most overnight jaunts. I suppose that’s a sizeable number, but it wouldn’t be me. I travel heavy, even for short trips. And so do a lot of women (this video features the f-word quite a bit, but it’s very funny and it describes me almost exactly):

[NOTE: I hesitate to put up this companion piece video that shows how guys pack, because it’s really gross. But it’s really funny, and spot on about the more cavalier attitude to packing of most guys I know.]

17 Responses to “When United says “no frills”…”

  1. London Trader Says:

    Spirit charges for carry on luggage and it’s more expensive than checked. Because most airlines charge for checked a lot of people take their bags as hand luggage which I find annoying. Incentivizing passengers to check their cases seems like a good idea to me.

    The lower basic fare actually work out to be a good deal if you are travelling in family groups and can combine luggage so not every passenger has to pay for a bag.

  2. Vanderleun Says:

    Willaim Burroughs has said, “If you can get everything you own into one small suitcase, then your mind MIGHT be free.”

  3. parker Says:

    The Whippet was very nervous.

  4. neo-neocon Says:


    I certainly wouldn’t take Burrough’s advice on much of anything.

  5. J.J Says:

    Airline travel today is such a pain in the keister. And the airlines are not endearing themselves to their customers with all their revenue enhancement schemes. Jet fuel costs have been down for over two years and they are still charging for extra bags because it costs extra fuel to haul the extra weight. ūüôĀ It used to be a service business. Today it’s a game of ever shifting prices and minimal service – except for their premier customers.

    At one time it was a great job and I was proud of providing a service to the flying public. Today the employees are unhappy, the passengers are unhappy, and only the top executives are satisfied. I still travel by air, but only as a necessity. It’s just too much heartburn.

    Twenty-five years of flying the line taught a great deal about packing frugally and getting along with less. Two to five day trips out of the same suitcase, which was basically the size of your standard carry on.

    My first time getting stuck in a blizzard in Chicago for several days motivated the purchase of nylon underwear that could be rinsed out in the hotel basin and would dry over night. Also lightweight tennies and sweat pants for jogging on layovers.

    My in hotel routine was so well practiced I could wake up, do the morning ablutions, dress, pack my bag, and be in the hotel lobby in 20 minutes.

    I still travel pretty light. Two weeks in Africa with a standard carry on bag. Same for a month in Spain. It requires some willingness to look like a hippy, but what the heck.

  6. Donna B. Says:

    I too travel heavy. And that’s the 2nd reason I no longer fly. The first reason is the nightmare-inducing experience of every airport I’ve ever been in. And I know I haven’t been in the worst.

    My last flight was in 2007. I’ve heard that since then, seats are narrower with less leg room. I’m not afraid of flying, but I do have a bit of claustrophobia and the sense of being trapped in my seat with either another person or another seat touching me would be difficult to handle.

    My sister lives in the UK and visits the US several times a year. Her experiences have become worse and the cost higher in the last several years. I’ve flown to visit her once and I’ll never again subject myself to that experience although overall it probably wasn’t a truly bad one.

    To make travel really convenient for me these days, I need a luxury motel. Since I’m one of the partially handicapped – I can’t walk very far, but I can still walk – hotels with mile long treks (do I exaggerate? Maybe.) to the elevator and then another one to the room are killers for me. I look for rooms I can park in front of and these seem to be in bad neighborhoods with less than hygienic rooms. The price almost makes it worthwhile. Sometimes.

  7. JuliB Says:

    I’m nearly a million-miler on United. This is filling me with dread – people will be very upset and for those of us who buy early to get decent business prices, the cheap fares will not count towards frequent flyer status. I see very little good coming out of this and hope it fails.

    Otherwise, everyone else will do the same thing.

  8. Yancey Ward Says:

    I haven’t flown anywhere in the last 6 years, but on my last true travel trip of more than a day or two, to Hawaii in 2007, I tried a new thing since I hate luggage. I took exactly one change of clothing for a two week trip- I just did a laundry load every night. All I took with me was a small bag. I will do the same when I travel in the future. The cost of washes was less than $20 dollars total.

  9. Surellin Says:

    You mean not everyone has a bug-out bag prepacked by the door?

  10. Big Maq Says:

    United now joins Spirit and Frontier on my no-fly list.

    Bet it is not just the fees, but they probably soon to move the seat another inch closer for those prices. I’m not tall by any means, but on some airlines, on some of their aircraft, even my knees hit the seat in front!

    Price comparison sites really need to catch up and allow shoppers to turn on and off these fees to get a real apples to apples comparison.

    Like JJ, have been traveling for a great many years for work, every week. It wasn’t the cause, but the turning point seems to be around 9/11 when airlines and the air travel experience started to seriously turn towards the rotten. Had a brief stint at traveling the Acela corridor (yes, used to live on the east coast), and it was wonderful in comparison in nearly every aspect.

    Yes, gotten to the point where backpack (no longer brief case – gone years ago) and biggest wheeled suitcase that can fit overhead/under seat, are all I need. Mostly business casual, but can squeeze in a suit and shoes if need be, working out the wrinkles at the other end.

    One tip: Ziploc Space Bags – if you really need to squeeze more in. Be sure to pick ones you can roll up to push the air thru a one way valve.

    Be sure to buy them via Neo’s Amazon link.

  11. Sergey Says:

    The guys usually have little patience for detail and tend to care only about the basics. That means a smaller baggage. And just one suit of clothes, while ladies want to take with them a good half of their wardrobe.

  12. Grumpy Says:

    Learned to travel light walking the camino to Santiago for the past 12 years. Having discovered the pleasures of a light rucksack on the camino, I take the absolute bare minimum on any trip.

  13. Ray Says:

    I am now waiting for the airline that has the straps hanging from the ceiling like a bus.

  14. Big Maq Says:

    @Ray – it is actually being considered:

  15. Roy Says:

    Travelers mostly want two things, comfort and reliability. The airlines today are supplying neither of those things.

    For an adult male, flying coach is an excersize in torture. The seats are made to fit a 10 year old girl. I am a 6’2″ man and when I shoehorn myself into one of those seats, I can’t help but overhang a little on each side. (…I am not obese or even overweight for my size.) My femur is longer than the distance between my seatback and the seat in front of me. I have to sit a little sideways to fit. If the person in front of me reclines their seat without warning, I get a jammed knee.

    And then there is reliability. I have not flown once in the last ten years that the airline hasn’t had a multi-hour delay on at least one leg of the trip. In a few cases they have even cancelled the flight at the last minute.

    I was on a return trip from Nuremberg Germany a few years ago. The Lufthansa part of the flight went like clockwork. Unfortunately, the flight back to the US was booked via United. Nothing went right with them. Every single flight was late except the last one. It was cancelled at 11:00 PM after we had waited there in Chicago for 8 1/2 hours. (Just say “NO” to Chicago O’Hare in the winter time.) I finally got home over a day late. IT took me days to recover from the combination of jet-lag and pure exhaustion from that ordeal.

    Nowadays, I only fly if it is absolutely necessary. Anything a day or less away, I will definitely drive. Considering the travel to and from the airport, the security check in and the inevitable delays, it’s better than even odds that I will beat the airplane anyway. Even going as far as the west coast, I will drive if I have the time. At least when driving, I don’t have to worry about the size of my carry on.

  16. Tina Says:

    A friend of mine ships their things UPS ahead of the trip. Cheaper than paying luggage fees. There is always Southwest Airlines, which is amazing compared to these companies.

  17. waltj Says:

    When I was living overseas, I was able to avoid US carriers most of the time. Traveling on Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Lufthansa, or Qantas isn’t bad, especially if you have the miles to upgrade, or the company is paying for business class. These and some other foreign carriers still understand that service counts, and they try to make their flights pleasant. Now that I’m back in the States, it’s all US carriers all the time, with crowded seating, TSA security theater, and ever-increasing baggage charges. So I don’t fly that much now, and when I do, I try to find a reasonably-priced business class ticket (you usually can do it if you’re willing to hunt for one, and the time you want to fly isn’t a peak travel time or less than a week away), or just drive if the destination isn’t that far away. Getting into a premium class makes a huge difference in comfort, and if I’m flying cross-country, I’m willing to pay money or miles to upgrade.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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