In a call with investors yesterday, United Airlines President Scott Kirby announced that United will begin selling Basic Economy tickets next quarter and Minneapolis (MSP) will be the launch market.
Kirby stated MSP will be the launch city because it serves all seven domestic hubs (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Houston, Newark, Washington Dulles) and has a newly-renovated lobby that allows for the self-tagging of bags.
Minneapolis: The Test Case
Domestic and International Line Stations VP Toby Enqvist added–
We will closely watch these first flights with Basic Economy at MSP and the processes at the gate, and we will use feedback from MSP employees to make adjustments if necessary. MSP will be very important in helping us determine if our staffing standards are appropriate and whether the processes flow smoothly.
This is a wise move from United. I wrote about United Basic Economy last week and expressed concern that United would have trouble closely enforcing the strict carry-on limit, especially when performance bonuses are based upon whether a flight goes out on time. Further, I speculated that United might end up “upgrading” these passengers to EconomyPlus because those seats are often the only ones left prior to departure.
In a note to employees addressing the very situation of EconomyPlus going to Basic Economy passengers, United stated–
It’s possible, but we’ll attempt to minimize those situations. We are working on a few initiatives that will help to identify high-value customers holding standard economy tickets. We can then offer free Economy Plus seats to these customers prior to the check-in window opening in order to free up seats in economy for customers who purchased Basic Economy tickets.
Basic Economy is about raising fares, not lowering them. The point will be to push passengers to pay more for benefits like seat assignments and the chance to earn award miles. Delta has already announced its basic economy program and American just announced its own version of basic economy this week, closely mirroring United’s plan.