United announced a new ‘enhancement’ that takes it one step closer to turning Economy class into something akin to what a Low Cost Carrier would offer, or worse.
In their announcement, they are now going to restrict certain low-level Economy fare buckets to only allow one piece of carry-on luggage which has to fit under the seat in front of you. In addition, seats will not be assigned until check-in and it is even possible that passengers traveling together on the same itinerary will not even be able to choose seats next to one another. ‘United Friendly’ right?
Also, this new fare class will have to refund or rebooking options. If you don’t fly on that ticket, you’re out the amount that you spent. According to UA, these fares will also not be eligible for upgrades no matter what your elite level may be.
On top of all this, these ‘low class’ Economy fare buckets will not be eligible to earn Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM). How’s that for being ‘Friendly’? AND you’ll get to automatically board with Group 5, meaning you will be the last person on the plane. More insult to injury.
Why not just charge for water while you’re at it, United?
United suggests that this will add approximately $5 billion to their bottom line annually by 2020. I guess someone has to pay for the Polaris product that is coming next month. So let the back of the plane subsidize the front! 🙂
It’s an obvious cash grab since in my mind I have no doubt that the other Economy Fare classes will have substantial price increases to exploit the passengers wishing to avoid this enhancement. I can also see Advance Seat Reservation (ASR) fees going up. Instead of $19 for an ASR or upgrade to Premium Economy from GRR to ORD, maybe it moves to $50. Good times.
From a passenger point of view, I can only see this as a disaster. Especially once on board the aircraft.
For example, lets say 25% of the Economy cabin is booked in this new ‘Sheeple’ class, where passengers can only bring aboard one bag that HAS TO fit under the seat in front of them. This will theoretically create quite a bit of over head bin space. What’s to stop someone in this fare class from putting their bag into the overhead since it’s empty anyway? Are the flight attendants who already don’t care about passenger well-being going to police the cabin during the flight and use the passenger manifest to enforce whose bag goes up top, or whose goes under the seat? C’mon.
On the optimistic side of things, United has done a piss poor job in enforcing previous passenger enhancements. Remember when your bag had to fit into the sizer next to the gate? Yep, fail. In 2 years and dozens of flights, I still see Hockey Bags, Backpacks destined for Everest, and babies still board aircraft! 🙂
This may very well fall under the heading of all bark and no bite since getting their crew to enforce these measures will be the hardest part as far as policy enforcement is concerned.