United Airlines: 10 things to know before you fly

United Airlines: Things to know before you fly
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Whether you’re just looking to visit relatives or heading to an exotic location, there’s a good chance you can get there with a United Airlines plane ticket.

The third-largest airline in the world, United has been taking customers to and fro since the 1920s, when it was created from a consortium of struggling carriers.

Looking to fly United Airlines? Here are 10 things to know before you book your flight

United has a handful of hubs around the United States, with Chicago’O’Hare being its largest. If you’ve never flown United or you’re thinking of booking a ticket again in the near future, here are some important things to know about the carrier:

1. Where does United fly?

United and its partners under the United Express umbrella fly to more than 560 cities around the world, giving it an unparalleled global reach. The airline boasts “the world’s most comprehensive route network.”

The company operates more than 750 aircraft under the United brand and an additional 550+ as United Express carriers. United is also a founding member of the Star Alliance, which serves nearly 200 counties on 29 member airlines. See the carrier’s U.S. and international route map.

2. What is United’s fare structure?

Basic Economy: While the fares are cheaper, they come with many restrictions. You don’t get to choose your seat in Basic Economy (meaning you may not to get to sit with family). You’ll also be among the last to board. Carry-on bags are not permitted (you do get one personal item) and any changes to the flight, including refunds, are not allowed.

Basic Economy travelers will also be charged a $25 baggage fee if they bring a full-size bag to the gate. That fee can only be paid with a credit card.

Money expert Clark Howard has called Basic Economy the result of major carriers setting out to make flying “as miserable as they possibly could.”

Economy Plus: This fare gets you more legroom by seating you toward the front of the plane. With Economy Plus, there are fewer restrictions on refunds. As you might expect, Economy Plus will set you back a more money depending on your flight.


The airline announced in February 2019 that around 150 of its aircraft will have more than 1,600 premium seats added. In the second half of 2019, United also plans to introduce a new regional jet the 50-seat Bombardier CRJ 550, with plenty of legroom.

3. How much legroom do United’s seats offer?

United’s Economy seats have a pitch of 30 inches, the airline says on its website. Seats in Economy Plus let you stretch out more to relax and “sit near the front of the cabin so you can exit the plane easier.”

4. Does United offer a frequent flyer program?

United’s MileagePlus program gives travelers the opportunity to earn points by flying on United or United Express.

United announced in August 2019 that MileagePlus miles will no longer expire. Previously, they would go away if you went 18 months without using them.

The program also includes a Premier status, which lets you earn bonus miles, fee waivers, discounts and other benefits.

5. What is United’s baggage policy?

Most travelers can bring on board one full-sized carry-on bag plus one personal item free of charge. If you purchase a Basic Economy ticket, you will only be allowed one personal item, unless you are a Premier member or a primary card member using a qualifying MileagePlus credit card.

For carry-on bags, the maximum dimensions are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches. For personal items, the size must not exceed 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches. These sizes include wheels and handles.

For checked bags, the maximum dimensions (length + width + height) are 62 inches, including wheels and handles. As for the maximum weight, that depends on your class of service. Use this tool to calculate checked baggage service charges before you fly.

On a positive note, active service members and their dependents are exempt from baggage fees.


6. Is United canceling flights?

A United spokesman tells Team Clark that the airline is canceling more than 8,000 flights in 2019 related to the grounding of Max aircraft.

Here is a statement forwarded to Clark.com:

We have decided to pull MAX flights out of our schedule until November 3. During this period, we’ll continue to take extraordinary steps to protect our customers’ travel plans. Moving forward, we’ll continue to monitor the regulatory process and nimbly make the necessary adjustments to our operation and our schedule to benefit our customers who are traveling with us.

  • In July, we expect to cancel approximately 40-45 flights a day which results in roughly 1,290 flights for the month
  • In August, we expect to cancel approximately 60 flights a day which results in roughly 1,900 flights for the month
  • In September, we expect to cancel approximately 70 flights a day which results in roughly 2,100 flights for the month
  • In October, we expect to cancel approximately 95 flights a day which results in roughly 2,900 flights for the month

7. What happens if your flight is delayed or canceled on United?

United recommends checking your flight status frequently before your flight. If you have an unexpected flight delay or cancellation on the airline, check out these options:

8. How do customers view United’s service?

When it comes to customer satisfaction, United came in eighth out of 10 among major U.S. carriers in the American Customer Satisfaction Index report that was released in April 2019. The airline improved from the 2018 survey.

Airline 2019 Score 2018 Score
Alaska Airlines 80 79
JetBlue Airways 79 79
Southwest Airlines 79 80
Delta Air Lines 75 74
American Airlines 73 74
All others 71 73
Allegiant Air 71 74
United Airlines 70 67
Frontier Airlines 64 62
Spirit Airlines 63 62

9. United offers a unique reward opportunity

United rewards those who help it discover glitches in its online reservation system and on other parts of its website by giving them miles in its MileagePlus program. To participate in the Bug Bounty Program, you must be a MileagePlus member and the bug must be unreported by others.

10. How to save money on United Airlines

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