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.
> Read More: Everything You Need To Know About Basic Economy on United
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.
That’s a surprisingly brilliant solution! Solves the problem of screwing up people’s E- seat assignments. And it shouldn’t devalue E+ if done correctly (since the same amount of freebies would be given out either way). Of course SHARES would have to be smart enough to know that E- is only “overbooked” by 10 people so only let 10 people move up to E+. Otherwise flights will go out with full E+ and empty E-!
Why has no one offered “fare customization” yet i.e. the cheapest possible fare from ORD-DFW would be $100 and would include only the bare minimum (a seat on the plane, a “personal item”. and a soft drink.) You could buy “extras” i.e. a full carry on for 15$, the ability to upgrade to Y+ for $8, a checked bag for $25, seat assignments for $12 etc. You could buy “bundles” i.e. a $140 fare would allow you flexibility, a full-sized carry on, and upgrades and ticket changes for a fee.