United Airlines: 9 things to know before you fly

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United Airlines: 9 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 9 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 United’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.

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

United’s Economy seats have a pitch of 31 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. About United’s frequent flyer program: MileagePlus

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

The thing about MileagePlus miles is that they expire if you go 18 months without using them either by flying or redeeming miles on a United flight or that of a partner. One caveat: If you have a MileagePlus credit card, your miles won’t expire.

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 have purchased Basic Economy, 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.

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

6. What happens if your flight is delayed or cancelled on United?

Unlike some other airlines, if you’re not at the gate, United will not notify you of a delay or cancellation. The only way, they will alert you of something amiss with your flight is if you’ve signed up for their flight status notification subscription service online. Otherwise, you’ll have to contact United to be rebooked or speak to an agent at the ticket counter.

7. How do customers view United’s service?

When it comes to customer satisfaction, United came in eighth out of ten among major U.S. carriers in the American Customer Satisfaction Index report that was released in April 2018. It held the same position last year.

Company 2017 2018 Change
Southwest 80 80 0%
Alaska 78 79 1%
JetBlue 82 79 -4%
Allegiant 71 74 4%
American 76 74 -3%
Delta 76 74 -3%
All others 74 73 -1%
United 70 67 -4%
Frontier 63 62 -2%
Spirit 61 62 2%

8. United has a Bug Bounty Program

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.

9. How to save money on United Airlines

Here are some more travel-related articles you might enjoy from Clark.com:

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer.  You can reach Craig at craig@clark.com
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