United Airlines: 8 Things to Know Before You Fly

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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 world’s third-largest airline 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 8 Things to Know Before You Book

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?
  2. What Are United’s Fare Classes?
  3. How Much Legroom Do United’s Seats Offer?
  4. What Is United’s Baggage Policy?
  5. What Is United’s Frequent Flyer Program?
  6. Does United Offer Subscriptions?
  7. How Do Customers View United’s Service?
  8. How to Save Money With United Airlines?

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.”

United has a handful of hubs around the United States, with Chicago’O’Hare being its largest.

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 Are United’s Fare Classes?

United offers several fare classes like Economy, Premium Plus and more. Here is a list of them along with their features for domestic flights:

Fare ClassFeaturesFood OptionsBeverage Options
Basic EconomyLowest fares, assigned seating, no upgrades, no carry-on bagsComplimentary snacks, including a choice of cookies, pretzels or snack mixComplimentary soft drinks, juices, tea and freshly brewed coffee
EconomyStandard cabin service; Economy Plus available for fee; free DirecTV on select flights; Complimentary snacks, including a choice of cookies, pretzels or snack mixComplimentary soft drinks, juices, tea and freshly brewed coffee
Premium Plus (available on select flights)2 free standard checked bags; roomier seat; larger TV screen; reserved overhead bin space; discounted United Club accessHearty welcome meal, assorted mid-flight snacks and pre-arrival dining serviceComplimentary beer, wine, liquor and non-alcoholic drinks
BusinessPremium seats, 2 free standard checked bags; private screening entertainment; complimentary DirecTVRestaurant-quality dining from Trotter Project chefsStandard complimentary beverages plus cocktails and craft beer
First ClassPremium seats, 2 free standard checked bags; private screening entertainment; complimentary DirecTVRestaurant-quality dining from Trotter Project chefsStandard complimentary beverages plus cocktails and craft beer

Of course, on all flights where it’s not complimentary, alcohol is available for purchase.

And on select flights, you may be able to buy snacks and snackboxes from United’s Choice Menu Snack shop as well as prepared meals from their Choice Menu Bistro on board.

What Is Basic Economy on United?

United’s Basic Economy is cheaper but comes with many restrictions. Here are some of the major ones:

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  • You don’t get to choose your seat
  • You’ll be among the last to board
  • Carry-on bags are not permitted (you do get one personal item)
  • No changes to the flight, including refunds, are 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.”

3. How Much Legroom Do United’s Seats Offer?

United’s Economy seats on its 737 aircraft have a pitch of 30 inches, the airline says on its website. They also offer two other seating options in the main cabin: Economy Plus and Preferred Seating.

What Is Economy Plus?

If you want extra legroom, Economy Plus offers up to 6 inches (15 cm) of extra legroom and are located near the front of the United Economy cabin.

The price of Economy Plus varies depending on several factors, including the aircraft, which have different seating configurations.

What Is Preferred Seating?

Preferred Seating is located in the first few rows right behind Economy Plus. It comes with standard legroom but priority service.

The airline says Preferred Seating “allows you to receive earlier service on board and get on your way faster once your plane pulls up to the gate.”

Like Economy Plus, Preferred Seating’s cost varies based on the route, aircraft and other factors.

4. What Is United’s Baggage Policy?

Most travelers can bring on board one personal item and one full-sized carry-on bag free of charge.

United says your personal item must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Your carry-on bag must be able to fit in the overhead bin.

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Here are the maximum dimensions for both:

Carry-On Bags

  • Personal item: 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 centimeters x 25 centimeters x 43 centimeters)
  • Carry-on bag: 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 centimeters x 35 centimeters x 56 centimeters)

Checked Bags

Checked bags have various size and weight limits that you need to be aware of before you fly. Here are the maximum dimensions for United’s checked bags:

  • Size limit: 62 inches is the most a standard checked bag can measure (length + width + height)
  • Weight limit: It depends on your cabin and Premier status at check-in

From the screenshot below you can see that depending on the fare class, your maximum weight limits vary:

What Is the Cost to Check a Bag on United Airlines?

Number of BagsFeeMaximum WeightMaximum Size
First checked bag$3050 pounds62 inches
Second checked bag$4050 pounds62 inches
Third checked bag$15050 pounds62 inches
Fourth checked bag$20050 pounds62 inches

Baggage fees also vary for oversized bags depending on the weight.

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

5. What Is United’s Frequent Flyer Program?

United’s MileagePlus program is the airline’s frequent flyer program. It 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 loyalty program also includes a Premier status, which lets you earn bonus miles, fee waivers, discounts and other benefits.

6. Does United Offer Subscriptions?

United offers subscriptions for many of the amenities on a flight. Here is a list of United’s one-year subscriptions along with their starting prices.

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  • Economy Plus — $499
  • Baggage — $349 (2 bags for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation)
  • In-flight Wi-Fi — $49 or 7,500 miles (many streaming services not included)
  • United Club — $650 or 85,000 miles

Read more about United’s subscriptions here.

7. 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.

Airlines2019 Score2018 Score
Alaska Airlines8079
JetBlue Airways7979
Southwest Airlines7980
Delta Air Lines7574
American Airlines7374
All Others7173
Allegiant Air7174
United Airlines7067
Frontier Airlines6462
Spirit Airlines6362

8. How Can You Save Money on United Airlines?

Have you flown United Airlines? Tell Team Clark about your flying experience on FacebookTwitter or below in the comments section!

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