United: No Full-Size Carry-on Bags in New Basic Economy Class

United Airlines' new basic economy will not allow passengers to bring full-sized carry-on bags on planes when it rolls out this new cheapest class of service in select markets next year. UPDATE Jan. 2017: American airlines announced similar rules for its upcoming basic economy class.

What does this mean for fliers?

No Full-Size Carry-on Bags in Basic Economy

According to its press release, the new Basic Economy class of fares is being introduced to “provide more options to price-sensitive travelers” so expect cheaper fares (compared to regular economy) and some restrictions. As for the 'no carry-on rule,' that's expected to make the overall boarding process faster since fewer passengers will be doing the time-consuming work of finding open overhead bins to stuff bags into.

More information can be found in United’s explanation of Basic Economy but here are some basics:

  1. Basic economy allowance: Basic Economy passengers will be limited to a single personal item only such as a purse or laptop or backpack or a very small bag that must fit under the seat (this is similar to Spirit’s policy).
  2. Size guidelines: Any under-the-seat bag is limited to 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches.
  3. Exceptions: Basic Economy passengers are exempt from the one personal item rule if they are a “MileagePlus Premier member, a primary card member of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or Star Alliance Gold member.”

A United Airlines spokesman told FareCompare that these restrictions will be made very clear as shoppers book Basic Economy fares, and it's important to note that you can still pack a full-size carry-on as long as you're willing to check it and pay the fee. But is a cheaper fare worth the price of not having a bag travel by your side? Only you know the answer.


Updated: January 27, 2017