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When I travel, I’m sometimes forced to take United Airlines because they happen to have more flights going to particular destinations from SFO.
In my experience, customer service on United isn’t as friendly as Jetblue or Alaska. Let’s not forget their string of public disasters, namely, the passenger who was dragged off the jet. Their latest involved a dog that died in the overhead bin — yikes. They’re definitely not winning any travel brownie points with me.
So, I’m even less inclined to fly with them after I experienced their new and totally uncool no carry-on policy for Basic Economy.
Paying a fee for something that was once free
There’s something to be said about paying for something that used to cost nothing. Mentally, it just doesn’t sit well with me.
Recently, I flew to Orlando and discovered I had to pay $25 each way for my tiny carry-on bag. I not only paid a total of $50 for my bag, but I also had to check it in. This no carry-on policy went into effect in July, which means you can only bring a small personal item on the plane.
The ticket for the flight was cheaper than the other flights that came up in my initial search. However, with the added $50 it came out to be about the same cost as the other flights.
This new fee reminds me of low budget airlines and their nickel and diming tactics. They lure you in with a super cheap fare, but the added fees for bags and seats makes it the same price as the other flights. Spirit Airlines does this with their Bare Fare ticket, which charges you a fee for bringing on a personal item and carry-on.
Can you claim you have no carry-on bag when checking in online?
Nope. I wondered the same thing and tried this on my return flight from Orlando when I checked in online. During my check-in, I clicked that I had zero carry-on bags.
I got a message that told me I had to verify that I had no bags (except for a personal item) to the agent at the ticket counter. The message basically told me I couldn’t finish checking in until I saw the agent at the ticket counter. Plus, my ticket had a big “BE – NO CARRY ON” (Basic Economy) marked clearly at the top.
There was definitely no way I could be slick and walk through the gate with my carry-on bag.
How to bypass this no carry-on policy
If you fly United a lot and want to book Basic Fare tickets and avoid the carry-on fee, your only option is to sign up for an airline credit card, specifically, their Explorer (currently has a 65k bonus) or MileagePlus Club Card. This makes me wonder if United took away the right to bring on a carry-on just so they can leverage it as a credit cardholder benefit.
If you already have Premier status, you can also avoid the fee.
You should also note that if you’re traveling with friends or family, they won’t be able to carry on their bags. Only the primary cardholder will be able to bring on the carry-on to the plane.
Other members in your party will need to pay the applicable bag fee, plus a $25 gate handling fee.
Summary: United’s new carry-on policy is a real bummer
Because I primarily use Chase Sapphire Reserve as my go-to credit card for travel, I probably won’t sign up for the United MileagePlus Club credit card. The main reason being: the $450 annual fee, which is the same as the Chase Sapphire Reserve. This move to charge travelers to pay a fee for their carry-on and check it in makes United less appealing for budget travelers like me, who only fly with a carry-on bag.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.