Thursday, January 19, 2017

United outlines basic economy roll out; to start with Minneapolis

United Airlines will initially test basic economy fares on flights to/from Minneapolis before rolling out the offering to its entire domestic network.

United president Scott Kirby, speaking to analysts and reporters to discuss United’s 2016 earnings, said the Chicago-based airline wants to “make sure everything works” with basic economy before it rolls it out “to the rest of our domestic system in the near future.” Basic economy fares will go on sale soon for United’s second-quarter Minneapolis flights.

Once the domestic network is covered by basic economy fares, United will add the offering to near-international flights, such as to the Caribbean, Kirby said. United has not yet decided whether it will roll out basic economy fares on long-haul international flights.

Kirby outlined United’s basic economy roll-out timetable on the same day American Airlines, for which Kirby previously was president, announced it would also start offering basic economy fares. Like United, American will not allow basic economy passengers to bring overhead bin carry-on bags aboard aircraft.

United and American will both charge basic economy passengers who bring overhead bin carry-on bags to the gate a check-bag fee plus a handling fee. There is no handling fee if the bag is checked at the check-in counter. Kirby said United is working on “clever ways to make sure we can get bags in the [airport] lobby” rather than at the gate.

He made it clear that, if a bag is not collected at the check-in counter or the gate, United flight attendants will not be policing basic economy passengers aboard aircraft regarding baggage. “We’re not going to ask our flight attendants to monitor anything,” Kirby said.

Kirby said United expects to generate $250 million in incremental revenue this year associated with rolling out basic economy fares.

He emphasized that United is focused on ensuring customers buying basic economy fares understand the fares and what is included (and not included). “We’re making sure we’re communicating it clearly to customers,” Kirby said. “We’re making sure we’re crystal clear.”

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

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