Airlines have for years been finding new and inventive ways to charge customers more for extras that were previously complimentary, but United's latest move is a real sucker punch.
The Washington Post reports the carrier is launching a new pricing tier, introducing its new cheapest ticket category called "basic economy" that will only allow passengers to bring one personal item onto a flight – which must fit under the seat.
Yes, no more automatic right to stow your bag in the overhead bins, with the Post saying it's the first time a large U.S. airline has taken such a step. It is expected to add $1 billion to United's revenues as more passengers pay to check bags or opt for a more expensive ticket.
As well as the baggage stipulation, basic economy passengers will not be assigned seats until the day they travel, meaning people traveling together could be separated.
Here's the description of what baggage you can bring on board in "basic economy," courtesy of the United website:
You're allowed to bring a small personal item on board, such as a shoulder bag, backpack, laptop bag or other small item that is 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm) or less. Full-size carry-on bags are not allowed unless you're a Premier member, a primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or a Star Alliance Gold member. Basic Economy fares have the same checked baggage policies as regular Economy tickets.
In its announcement, United said it made the decision after feedback from customers who said they wanted "more choice." The fares will be available to book in January for travel from spring onwards.
It's not gone down well with New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who described the overhead bin as "one of the last sacred conveniences of air travel."
"The fact that United Airlines – and potentially others – plan to take that convenience away unless you pay up is really troubling," he told WKBW in Buffalo.