United Airlines: What passengers need to know before flying
According to United Airlines reviews around the web, here’s everything you need to know before Making United Flight Reservations.
The history of United Airlines dates back nearly 100 years, when Varney Airlines (which would become part of United Airlines) launched its first flight on April 6, 1926 – a mail run from Pasco, Washington, to Elko, Nevada, via Boise, Idaho.
As a result of its growth, the company has operated more than 4,500 flights across five continents with more than 1,300 planes (including mainline and regional aircraft). In addition to launching its frequent-flier program in May 1981 and founding Star Alliance in 1997, the airline became the first North American carrier to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in 2012.
The United Airlines network includes hubs and large bases in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Hence, you may be wondering what the flight experience is like before you buy a ticket. Here’s what you need to know about United Airlines before you book, including passenger feedback.
Ticketing options with United
While United’s fare types are standard for a large U.S. carrier, it recently introduced a Basic Economy fare, which provides you just with a seat.
For those traveling light, this reduced and restricted fare excludes checked luggage and carry-ons.
In addition, if you are a member of United’s frequent flyer program (covered later in this article), you won’t be eligible for the premier qualifying miles that contribute to your elite status.
The following are additional fare types and cabin classes, with inflight amenities covered later in this article:
Basic Economy (the least restrictive fare):
- Before boarding, seats are assigned in advance
- Seating for families or groups is not available
- It costs $120 to check a bag (round-trip).
- It is not possible to upgrade
- No refunds or changes will be accepted
The economy (standard):
- Seat selection during booking (if available).
- Add other options to your booking
- Refundable ticket (subject to cancellation fees).
- During booking, you can select your seat (if available).
- Customize your booking with other options
- Larger, more spacious seating with more legroom
- Food and beverages are complimentary
- Add other options to your booking
- Extra legroom and spacious seating
- Food and beverages are complimentary during enhanced dining
- Depending on the route and plane type, certain cabin classes are available, as well as how to upgrade to business or first class.
- With Economy Plus, you’ll receive more legroom and be seated closer to the front of the aircraft so you can disembark faster.
- When booking a regular economy ticket, you can upgrade one time or subscribe to an annual upgrade (where Economy Plus is available).
- If you are going to book, you will need to be sure of what you are choosing.
- Basic Economy is the lowest-priced fare. You will be assigned a seat automatically before boarding, and you can’t change it (although you can pay for a seat assignment of your choice). Group seating and family seating are not available unless you have children under 12. On certain routes, carry-on bags are waived, but personal items (i.e. under-the-seat bags) are allowed. You’ll also board last. The airline will not count these fares against your Premier Elite tier if you’re aiming for it.
- Mark wrote on Yelp, “I strongly recommend avoiding basic economy tickets. Yes, I saved $50, but I had many hassles.”
- If you purchase an Economy Plus ticket, you’ll have more options at the time of purchase or after. In contrast, regular economy seats include limited advanced seating assignments. If you upgrade to Premium Plus (premium economy), first class, or Polaris business class, you’ll have more options
How to Change Or Cancel United Airlines Flight
As per United Cancellation Policy, No cancellations are allowed beyond 24 hours from booking. Most United tickets are nonrefundable, which means you’re not going to get cash back. However, you may be eligible to apply the value of your ticket toward the price of a new ticket with its travel credits.
United Change Flight Policy allow you to adjust your travel plans without any change fees — including for award tickets — for flights within the U.S., or for international travel originating in the U.S. This applies to most United Economy and all premium cabin tickets. You’ll just pay the fare difference if your new flight is more expensive.
You can change your flight on united.com or the United app in four steps: Go to My Trips. Select “Change flight” Select “Edit” to update your flight.
Please note that certain tickets cannot be changed on united.com or the United mobile app, including tickets booked through another airline (if the ticket receipt does not begin with 016). Please contact the original ticketing airline to make changes.
United Airlines Baggage Fees
United Airlines Carry-On Allowance:
- 1 personal item: FREE
- Standard carry-on bag: FREE (including basic economy transatlantic flights but not all other routes).
Checking Allowance for United Airlines:
In economy and premium plus fares, the maximum weight is 50 pounds (23 kilograms), and in business and first class, it is 70 pounds (32 kilograms).
A linear size of 62 inches (158 cm) is the maximum
To view baggage costs associated with specific fares, United recommends passengers use their official baggage fee calculator tool.
We ran some basic route searches, and the fees appeared as follows (please confirm your specific fare before booking):
- United States & Canada
- A basic bag is $30, a plus bag is $40, a standard bag is $150, and a plus bag is $200
- Business: 1st and 2nd bags free, 3rd+ bags $150
- S. to/from Mexico
- A basic, plus, or standard economy bag costs $30, a second bag costs $55, and a third bag costs $180.
- First and second bags are free, third and more bags are $180
- S. to/from Europe
- First bag free (£60 for Basic Economy), 2nd bag $100, 3rd bag $200
- First and second bags are free, third and more are $200
- Business: 1st and 2nd bags free, 3rd bag $200
- First: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd bags free; 4th+ bag $200
Excess and additional baggage fees:
(up to 115 inches/292 cm) Oversized Fee: $200 per bag
Fees for overweight passengers (route dependent):
100-200 dollars per bag for bags 51-70 lbs
Bags weighing 71-100 pounds: $200-400 each
Weight allowance for MileagePlus Status:
- Silver, Gold, Platinum, 1K: 70lb
- Star Alliance Gold (traveling in first class or United Polaris Business): 70lb
Fees & Add-Ons for United Airlines
Reservations made through United.com do not incur a service fee. Other booking methods within the U.S. and Canada incur the following fees:
- $25 by phone
- $30 at the City Ticket Office
- $50 at the airport
- Fees vary by country for reservations made outside of the U.S.
- (Cash Tickets) Cancellation and change fees:
- Fee for domestic cancellations: $200
- Cancellation Fee: Up to $400 for international bookings
- $75 for same-day changes
- Gold, Platinum, and 1K members are exempt
- No refund will be given if you cancel a non-refundable ticket, but you can use the cost against a new ticket within 12 months.
- If your departure or arrival time changes by more than 30 minutes (due to a schedule change), you can request a refund or change your flight.
- Additionally, we’ve discussed United’s award flight change and cancellation fees.
Seat Selection Fees
- Seat selection is free with United (where available), but you can pay $9 each way for “Preferred seating” (closer to the front of the economy section).
- Upgrade to Economy Plus: $16-$169 each way
- Fee for unaccompanied minors: $150 each way
- Cabin fees for pets are $125 each way
Holding fees for fares
- If you’re not ready to book at the time of searching, you can pay to reserve your fare using “Farelock.”
- Fees vary by destination, but range from $5-$20 and can be held for three or seven days.
Fees for United Airlines’ annual subscription
- From $499 for Economy Plus
- If you reach your destination faster, you will benefit from additional legroom and quicker exiting.
United Bundle Options
A bundle combines different options, such as an Economy Plus upgrade and a United Club trip pass. Prices vary per route, but United States savings can be found by buying a bundle.
- From $49 for Wi-Fi
- From $550 for United Club membership
- Access all United Club locations and select partner lounges.
- United Airlines Bistro Onboard
- United Airlines “Bistro on Board.” Image Credit: United.com
The “Bistro on Board” menu is available for flights over 3 hours (in the United States and to/from Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America), and features items such as chorizo breakfast sandwiches, pepperoni deep dish pizzas, and mezze samplers, ranging in price from $6.99 to $9.99. Flight routes determine the menu options.
There is a “Snack Shop” serving sweet and savory nibbles and snack boxes on flights over 1.5 hours (within North America, including select Latin American destinations and the Caribbean, as well as Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand). Prices range between $3.99 and $9.49.
A bottle of beer or wine costs $8, a premium spirit costs $8-$9, and a specialty cocktail costs $10.
Customers can purchase DIRECTV with more than 100 TV channels and movies on select Boeing 737 and 757-300 aircraft.
United economy passengers on flights less than 2 hours will pay $5.99 ($7.99 for flights greater than 2 hours).
A list of United Airlines’ destinations
United Airlines has hubs in the following cities: We are pleased to sell United Airlines, the airline that serves 238 domestic destinations and 118 international destinations in 48 countries across the globe.
- Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, Washington DC, Guam
Experience on United Airlines’ flights
Based on aircraft and route, United Airlines offers Basic Economy, United Economy, Economy Plus, Economy Premium Plus, United Business, and United First class fares. For a detailed explanation of each fare type, click here.
- In-flight dining
There is a complimentary snack and beverage service on all flights. Passengers in Economy can also purchase a more extensive snack box or alcoholic beverages. Premium Economy Business and First Class passengers receive hot meals and complimentary beverages.
- Charging stations with power and USB
Your seat may have a power outlet and USB charging port depending on the aircraft
It is free to watch United’s in-flight entertainment, but it depends on the aircraft. Some aircraft have in-seat video screens, but most Economy passengers can stream content to their laptops, tablets, or phones using “Personal Device Entertainment.” Aside from movies, there are also TV shows, audiobooks, music, podcasts, and more.
Boarding procedures for United Airlines
Recently United Airlines changed the boarding process. United used to have a group boarding process, but now offers two lanes – a blue and a green – for a more streamlined process.
As opposed to the other airlines, United does not specify precisely when boarding will begin and end, but suggests travellers “allow enough time to make your way to the gate, and your boarding pass will tell you when boarding will start and end.” When United app push notifications start for most flights, you can opt in to get notified.
There will be two lanes of boarding for Group 1 and Group 2. The rest of Groups 3-5 will board via the green lane when they are called, while Group 1 and 2 will board via the blue lane.
In this order, united boards are:
Pre-boarding: unaccompanied minors, customers with disabilities, active military personnel, United Global Services members, families traveling with children under 2, Premier® 1K® members
Group 1: Platinum and Gold members of Premier Platinum, Star AllianceTM Gold members, United Polaris®, United First®, and United Business® passengers.
Group 2: Members of the Premier Silver, Star Alliance Silver, UnitedSM Explorer, Club and Presidential PlusSM, as well as Members of the UnitedSM Awards Card.
Groups 3 through 5: United Economy®, Economy Plus®, Basic Economy*
*Basic Economy customers will be boarded last with the exception of Premier members, Chase Cardmembers of qualifying cards and Star Alliance Gold members, who will still receive priority boarding.
Priority Boarding can also be purchased to avoid lines and board earlier.
Seats and legroom
In recent years, United Airlines has broadened its range of seat and cabin offerings. Which seats and cabins are available depends on the route and type of aircraft you plan to fly.
Seats in economy classes tend to measure 16-18 inches wide, 30 to 31 inches in pitch (the distance between the seat back and the seat in front), with 2 to 3 inches of recline. Regional aircraft have 2–2 aisles, while mainline planes have 3–3 aisles, and larger jets like the Boeing 777 have 3–3–3 or 3–4–3 aisles.
In their United Airlines review on Tripadvisor, RTrips7 said: “Seats are narrow, and there is not much legroom.”
The seating configuration is similar to economy, but there’s extra legroom of three or four inches. Yelper Derek, who flew from Boston to New York, said, “Economy Plus was an extra $97, but well worth it for five inches of legroom on a 5.5-hour flight!”
First class seats on the airline’s domestic product are wide recliner seats, usually in a 2–2 layout. Expect them to be 19-24 inches wide, 37-42 inches tall, and five or six inches wide.
There are 18-19 inches of width and 38 inches of pitch in United’s international and transcontinental premium economy sections. They’re laid out in a 2–3–2 or 2–4–2 configuration on larger planes.
One United Airlines passenger named Nat flew in Premium Plus from Auckland to San Francisco and said, “The extra legroom, the size of the seat, and the double armrests between the seats made for a very comfortable trip … This is the way to go on international flights without paying the higher price… for business class.”
Polaris Business Class
The United Polaris business class product is indeed the airline’s flagship international product, although it may seem odd that it is more luxurious than its first class cabin. The seats are arranged in a staggered 1–2–1 pattern, and they are 20.5 to 22 inches wide, reclining to a lie-flat bed of 78 inches.
DEP3 wrote in his Tripadvisor review of Polaris on United Airlines, “If you have oodles of reward points and are willing to spend several hundred dollars on top of that, nothing beats flying Polaris for long flights – the bed, the service, the space: wow!”
United Airlines and flying with children
The following items can be brought on board with you with an infant or child, along with your carry-on bag and personal items: diaper bag, breast pump, milk, government-approved child seat (car seat or infant carrying seat), and compact folding stroller that meets our carry-on bag size guidelines (9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches or 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches).
Flying with Pets on United Airlines
In addition to your carry-on bag allowance, United allows you to bring a pet’s kennel aboard. Your kennel must stay at your feet, beneath the seat in front of you. Hard-sided kennels have a maximum dimension of 17.5 inches x 12 inches x 7.5 inches (44 cm x 30 cm x 19 cm).
A soft-sided kennel should be at least 18 inches long by 11 inches wide by 11 inches high (46 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm x 28 cm).
Due to their collapsible nature, soft-sided pet carriers can exceed these dimensions slightly. The animal must be able to stand up and turn around comfortably in the kennel, and only one pet is permitted.
In addition to the $125 service charge each way, there is a $125 service charge for each stopover of more than four hours in the U.S. or more than 24 hours outside of the U.S.
You will need to contact United ahead of time to make sure your pet is allowed to b
How can I book a flight with United Airlines for a group?
United Airlines offers two ways to book a group flight:
- Online: Log in to the United Airlines website and click on the “Group Travel” tab. You can request a quote online by clicking on “Get a Quote”. The group travel form must include the number of travelers, travel dates, and desired destinations. After you submit your request, United Airlines will review it and get back to you two business days later. When you accept the quote, you can book your group’s flights online.
- We will help you book your group’s flights and answer any questions you have.
The following tips will help you book a group flight with United Airlines:
- Book your flights early, especially if you travel during the peak season.
It is important that you are flexible when it comes to your travel dates and times. This will allow you to find a better price as well as give you more options.
Package deals, which include flights, hotels, and rental cars, can be a good option.
If you are traveling with a group of ten or more, you may qualify for a discount from United Airlines.
United Airlines will need the following information once you have booked your group’s flights:
- Each traveler’s name and contact information.
- Date of birth and gender of the travellers.
- Passport information (if applicable).
- Information about traveler payments.
The information you provide will be used to create a group reservation for your group. You will receive a confirmation number when the reservation is created.