Please sign in to post.

basic economy vs economy: seat selecton

With all the different classes just for economy, it gets quite confusing!

Has anyone actually flown using basic economy? It sounds like that limits seat selection, checked baggage, etc.

We are trying to decide to take the chance to book basic economy and hope the two of us get seats together. We usually just bring a carry-on, so checked baggage isn't a dealbreaker.

Is it worth it to just 'upgrade' for a few hundred dollars just to have the ability to pick seats? I assume that economy and basic economy are the same seats, and you don't get a little larger seat unless you move to premium economy.

We are looking at Delta or United.

Thanks!

Posted by
5766 posts

Exactly what you are subjected to in these new lower-than-lowest-class seats depends on the airline -- they are not all the same. You need to check the details for your specific airline (and carefully). Details should be on their websites; read them carefully to avoid surprises.

Posted by
1966 posts

Look at the specific airline websites for details, which vary from one airline to another, then determine your acceptable level comfort.

Posted by
7205 posts

or your acceptable level of pain...probably more appropriate

Posted by
7269 posts

I have flown both Untied Basic and Premium Economy.
Here is what is covered in Basic
https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/inflight/basic-economy.aspx

If you book two passengers on one itinerary on United it has been my experience that the system will assign two seats together when you checkin online 24 hour in advance even if you do not pay to select seats,

The Premium Economy has a few inches noticeable more space then Basic economy on United.
The prices to upgrade from Basic to Premium fluctuate depending on how empty the flight is.
You can look at the seat map. I have snagged one of those Premium seats for $75 before and the one next to me was empty.

Posted by
3789 posts

Perhaps Seat Guru website can also help with seat pitch and width if you can do a dummy booking without benefit of actual purchase. You enter the date and airline, or airline and flight number. Plane configuration comes up with seat per seat details.

Posted by
996 posts

I have never flown Delta's basic economy class, but I have read a lot of comments from people who have. There are limits (especially on domestic only routes) for checked luggage and your carry on may wind up being gate checked since basic economy is the last class to board in most cases. (People with super high status can still board earlier, I believe.)

The other major complaint I've read about is seat selection. According to their terms/conditions, the basic economy passenger cannot select their own seat. What's usually available at the last minute are the middle seats, and there is no guarantee at all that you and any traveling companions will be seated together, even if on the same reservation.

Apparently you can't upgrade those seats (using miles or money) and changes are not doable/refundable after the first 24 hours of booking the seat.

If sitting next to someone is an important factor for your trip, I'd pay for regular economy seats where selection is available.

Posted by
745 posts

My first experience with Norwegian Air Shuttle was on an "included airfare" bargain basement all inclusive trip promoted by a British travel agency. We flew Norwegian's basic economy seating - no seat selection, no meals and a limit of 10 kg of carry on luggage non stop Los Angeles to Paris. My wife and I did not sit together on that flight. Since then, we have flown Norwegian many times, always enjoying their low fares.

Posted by
2576 posts

Jazz, read the link you posted to United. Basic economy is not standard economy. You cannot upgrade to Economy Plus. You cannot select seats. You cannot carry on a standard rollaboard- you must check your bag and pay to do so. It’s bare bones travel at it’s worst.

Posted by
13007 posts

I fly the bare bones option, Basic Economy, non-stop from here to FRA, Paris, or London, regardless what it is called, book that on-line but I don't choose the seat then, especially when you have to pay for it such as with Br. Air.

Only at check-in do I ask if there is a seat in the rear after I am told what my seat is., " Anything in the rear, preferably an isle seat?" Likewise with United to Paris or Frankfurt.

The last 4-6 times I've lucked out, there was a such an empty seat.

Posted by
5697 posts

I will post in a few weeks about United Basic Economy experience SFO>CDG. I booked using my Mileage Plus Explorer card, so I was able to reserve across-the-aisle seats (our favorite) for $25 each and have one checked bag each. The return flight will be the real test -- checking in with Lufthansa so no free bags and no seat selection more than 23 hours before flight time. Flying United on the transAtlantic portion so we were able to get $25 across-the-aisle seat reservations.

Posted by
613 posts

My wife demands business class on any flight longer than 2 hours. She is right.

Posted by
65 posts

My only experience is United. It is not worth getting Basic Economy unless you literally have nothing with you but something that can go under the seat in front of you and don’t mind sitting in a middle seat for 8 hours. Anything that gets checked or goes in the overhead bin will get charged. You also cannot get upgraded to Economy Plus even if you qualify..silver or gold status, etc. it is just not worth it. Save a few $$$ somewhere else and try to enjoy the flight.

Posted by
1020 posts

Steph makes an important point--even though some airlines do allow a carry-on size bag, I have heard many a gate agent say the flight is full, if you're in the final boarding group (that's the Basic Economy group), they'll be checking your bag as all the overhead space will be long gone by the time you board.

Regarding seating, you get whatever is left over, which usually isn't a good thing. Not to get your hopes up, but over on the Delta Flyertalk page, the only seat left for one BE passenger happened to be in First Class! (OK, it was a flight from Victoria to Seattle, but still, weird.)

Posted by
13007 posts

I have had that flight SFO-CDG on United in Basic Economy, non-stop for 11 scheduled hours but, as usual, the plane arrives anywhere from 15 to 30 mins earlier. You can still count on 10.5 hrs being airborne. Likewise in Basic Economy to Frankfurt on United, which I took a few years ago.

Posted by
6881 posts

Has anyone actually flown using basic economy?

Yes, and I actually lived to tell about it. Flew with a backpack only under the seat for a three day trip to Memphis on Frontier Airlines (that was $39 round-trip) and Spirit one-way to Mexico (about $100 each way) with also a small duffel under the seat for a week trip. I would do it again for short trips like those - the bag for one week really pushed my limits for packing light, but I did it. If you have to check your bag or absolutely need a regular carry-on, then obviously this wouldn't work for you.

I also flew basic economy to Los Angeles via Alaska Airlines but their definition of basic economy included a carry-on and advanced seat assignment (but boarding in last group, which doesn't bother me). Again, the low fare ($109 each way) was worth it.

Posted by
3709 posts

Exactly what you are subjected to in these new lower-than-lowest-class seats depends on the airline -- they are not all the same. You need to check the details for your specific airline (and carefully).

This, and transatlantic BE is different from domestic. Delta transatlantic BE includes a checked bag but not seat selection. United is generally a step down, for example domestic BE doesn’t include a carry on, but Delta BE does. Delta BE transatlantic includes liquor, United does not.

Posted by
4741 posts

Likewise in Basic Economy to Frankfurt on United, which I took a few years ago.

Fred, United did not offer Basic Economy a few years ago. If you flew Economy on United a few years ago it was regular economy. Basic Economy on United international flights has just been introduced in the last year.

The Points Guy had a pretty good series of articles on basic economy. Here is the one for United.
https://thepointsguy.com/guide/how-to-survive-basic-economy-on-united-airlines/

Posted by
13007 posts

Sorry, a matter of definition. I flew United in 2014 (more than a few years ago), SFO to FRA, r/t, after checking my notes. What ever it was called, it was Economy, the absolute cheapest price possible, no upgrade, my seat was assigned to me at check-in at SFO.

Posted by
4741 posts

Fred, this new “basic economy” gets you even less than you got in 2014.

Posted by
7705 posts

Exactly, “Basic Economy” can basically be considered “Economy Minus.”

Posted by
3493 posts

United actually has a separate class of service now called Basic Economy. It gets you less than economy class that has always existed. Don't confuse the two.

Basic Economy: No carry on, only 1 small personal sized item. No advance seat selection, you get the leftovers meaning mostly middle seats in the rear of the plane. Pay for checked bags (even if you would normally qualify for a free checked bag in most cases). No option to upgrade to any other class at all. Absolutely no option to change flights unless United cancels the one you are on. They are extremely tight about these requirements.

Economy: 1 carry on and one personal item. You can pick your seat, possibly for an additional charge, before check in. Pay for most checked bags, but you may get one free from your status level or credit card used to purchase the ticket. Upgrades are available to business class for a payment or you may get picked for free with high enough status. Flights are changeable for a fee.

Economy Plus: Same as economy with addition of the extra leg room in seats closer to the front of the plane.

Basic Economy just doesn't make sense for me. I always travel with a cary on and don't check my bag. This means I would end up paying $60 each way to Europe to check what I would normally carry on. This easily offsets the price differential I see between Basic and Regular economy tickets.

EDIT: On United international flights offering Basic Economy, you do have the option of taking on a standard carry on and placing it in the overhead now. Apologies for misstating that, things keep changing. Domestic flights continue to not allow standard cary ons.

Posted by
13007 posts

Thanks for the current definitions with United.

Given those restrictions I can live with United's Basic Economy, seats in the rear of the plane are preferable anyway, especially if it is an aisle seat, which of course, can't be guaranteed.

I make it point to ask if anything else is available other than the seat I am assigned to at check-in. Sometimes, I do forget to ask too, sometimes there's nothing, and I've lucked out a few times in getting an aisle seat.

If the price is right in Basic Economy, no problem putting up with it as long as the flight from SFO or OAK is non-stop going to Paris, FRA or Londron.

Posted by
3332 posts

To each his own (not an original thought). I am a short person - - 5’1” , but sitting in a middle seat for a 10+ hour flight would reduce me to blithering idiocy. Just the thought brings shudders of horror. We are at the stage of life where paying a hundred dollars more, is less relevant than more comfort. We even pop for Economy + on our outbound flights in order to arrive in a slightly less tattered state. Before being mesmerized by low prices, I think people should candidly assess their own tolerance.
In my opinion, the airlines are constantly dreaming up new ways to fill their seats and, often, to penalize the passengers for the apparent savings. “Basic Economy” is only the most recent entry in the race to the bottom pioneered by Ryan Air.

Posted by
3352 posts

With all the different classes just for economy, it gets quite
confusing!

Has anyone actually flown using basic economy? It sounds like that
limits seat selection, checked baggage, etc.

We are trying to decide to take the chance to book basic economy and
hope the two of us get seats together. We usually just bring a
carry-on, so checked baggage isn't a dealbreaker.

Is it worth it to just 'upgrade' for a few hundred dollars just to
have the ability to pick seats? I assume that economy and basic
economy are the same seats, and you don't get a little larger seat
unless you move to premium economy.

We are looking at Delta or United.

I would NEVER fly Basic Economy even on a short flight between LGA & BOS. Things to bare in mind:

  • No upgrades for anyone on that fare.
  • No access to overhead compartments; your carryon must fit under the seat in front of you.
  • The cost of checking a bag probably eliminates the cost savings of basic economy.
  • You're in the middle seat probably in the back so if you want to be one of the first off the plane, not going to happen in all likelihood and that could be a problem if you're flying a tight schedule and need to change planes.
  • If you want to sit together, hope the flight is empty so you can move after the aircraft is above 10,000 feet.
Posted by
1966 posts

I wonder what the next iteration of basic or basic minus economy will be? You know there's going to be a more spartan option some day, "vertical economy" excepted lol.

Posted by
486 posts

United Basic Economy to London, however, does allow a carry on, we're flying it in June.

Posted by
3493 posts

Oh, on United in the Basic Economy seats you also CANNOT move from your assigned seat. So no way are you going to get your group together unless they put you together to start. A passenger got sternly yelled at on my last United flight because there was an aisle seat he tried to move to and he was a Basic customer.

Posted by
486 posts

ideally, all parts of the plane get to destination at the same time. as it's 3 adults, we're fine with that.

Posted by
141 posts

If I was in my 20s I’d do the basic, it was easier to bounce back at that age. If it was a short flight and I was alone, I’d do it now. But my husband is tall and I have no idea how he’d squeeze into basic since my stumpy legs barely fit.

However, the thought of 8 hours crammed like a sardine almost completely upright is just too much for me now (mid 40s). I also don’t get to travel often due to work/family so for me it’s worth it to spend the extra for premium on anything over 7-8hours. That may change if we ever get the opportunity to travel more often, but for now I splurge so we can hit the ground not being 100% exhausted.

Posted by
1966 posts

I"m with riverain on this one. In my 20s being in cargo would have been fine. Actually, on several military flights that's pretty much where I was, trying to stay warm and pretending to sleep. Now in our late 50s and only flying once or twice per year, max, we afford ourselves a bit more comfort with premium economy. A flight of two or so hours we would likely just go basic or maybe even vertical economy.

I used to get to Europe in pretty decent shape despite being in an upright, sardine position, but not so much any more.

Posted by
13007 posts

Flying from SFO or OAK non-stop to Paris or Frankfurt, you can reckon on 10.5 hrs flight time if the take-off is more or less punctual, even though 11 hr is the scheduled flight time. True, it is a sardine can for that duration which I'm paying for.

The plane usually lands 20 min or so earlier, which doesn't mean you are out of your seat, (the announcement: remain seated), and after that you're still waiting for everyone to get off. It could be 30 mins conceivably from the moment of landing before you are literally walking past the flight crew and pilots.

In 2013 the Lufthansa flight departing SFO didn't take off until one hour after it schedule, so we just sat there (in Economy) for that wasted hour.

Posted by
1966 posts

Fred, my grandfather was in his late 70s when he visited us in Heidelberg. He flew economy but it was a bit more comfortable back in the 1980s. Maybe a lot more comfortable. Anyway, he was the kind of guy who could sleep anywhere, any time, so I still envy him. Grandpa would arrive at Frankfurt in the morning, ready to go. It was something else. He would cheerfully recall how great the flight was, the landing, the flight attendants, and the food.

Posted by
3259 posts

I recently decided to bite the bullet and fly regular economy to Greece to save money. But when I thought about what it would be like when the person in the seat in front of me reclined his/her seat, I chickened out and paid for premium economy for the overnight flight on the way over-it was only $219.

Posted by
7705 posts

Premium Economy always seems to be something like $400 more for each way whenever I am looking at it. That’s $800 for the round trip. I would love to do it, but just can’t justify it with my budget. Maybe someday.

But I am beyond flying basic economy!! No way.

Posted by
11292 posts

Continental, thanks for posting that Carol Burnett link. It shows just how far back the idea goes, of giving lower fares in exchange for lower services, and of needing to be careful when saving a few bucks on a flight. The Carol Burnett Show ended in 1978, so the sketch is at least 40 years old!

I'm still laughing at "Get your foot off our rug!"

Posted by
13007 posts

@ Big Mike...It may very well be that international flights in the 1980s in Economy were better, less cramp. I flew three times in the '80s, SFO to FRA, r/t on Condor in Economy in 1984 and '87 and on Lufthansa in 1989 where I was upgraded from Economy to Business...a very pleasant and unexpected surprise going over. The main difference between then and now on these 10.5 hour non-stop flights is that I didn't make it a point to sleep. If I slept, a little or much more, fine; if I didn't, ok too.

Since I turned 51 (on that trip), I make it a point to sleep, ie, no distractions or temptations, ie, watching movies, listening to music, etc.

Like your grandfather I generally have no problems at all sleeping on trains, day or night, and on flights, be it going from SFO to LAX or trans-Atlantic, although admittedly on a flight it is a bit harder to fall asleep. Sleeping going over is the key to avoiding jet lag upon arrival.

You'll arrive fit to go after Border Control and Baggage Claim.

BTW, that 2013 Lufthansa flight (above) late one hour departing from SFO, I slept during that hour, woke up only to find out that we were still on the ground, (what??) ...in a way I felt it was a wasted hour of sleep, which should have been while airborne to make the flight duration shorter.

Posted by
532 posts

Decided on regular economy. It was worth a few hundred more to reserve a seat and have opportunity to check a bag if needed.

Still can't bite the bullet and pay for premium economy or business class. I have been lucky in the past to be upgraded, but that was when I flew regularly for work.

Posted by
3352 posts

Harold, the absurdity aside, some if it can ring true today. Glad it made you laugh! Such a great sketch.

Posted by
3332 posts

One more postscript. United actually has one more class distinction. I just made some reservations for domestic flights. When seat selection came up, there are actually lots of economy seats labeled “preferred,” with an extra cost attached. So now they have basic economy, economy, preferred seat in economy, economy +, business, and sometimes first. As far as I could tell, the preferred seats were closer to the front and, maybe, not ones that don’t recline.