Chuck Schumer speaks out against United’s new ‘basic economy’ fare

Chuck Schumer speaks out against United’s new ‘basic economy’ fare

The new fare category prohibits the use of overhead bins.

  Senator Chuck Schumer spoke out against  United's proposed
Senator Chuck Schumer spoke out against United’s proposed “basic economy” fare structure, saying at a press conference on Sunday that it poses one of the most restrictive policies on airline passengers we have seen in a long time. Photo Credit: Lauren Cook

United’s planned “basic economy” fare that would ban the use of overhead bins by passengers won’t fly if Senator Charles E. Schumer has his way.

“Enough already!” Schumer said at a press conference Sunday.

United’s new fare category “means that no customer will have access to the lower prices unless they are willing to forego the convenience of the overhead bin. . . . Air travelers are sick and tired of being nickel and dimed by the airlines for every bag they carry, every peanut they eat, and every inch they stretch,” the senator said.

United announced last month it expected to generate an additional $4.8 billion in “earnings improvement” by 2020 through a variety of strategies, including a new “basic economy” fare that would prohibit seat assignments until the day of departure, require ticket holders to board last and limit luggage to a carry-on “that must fit under the seat” and cannot be stored in the overhead bins.

“Customers have told us that they want more choice and Basic Economy, delivers just that,” United Executive Vice-President Julia Haywood said at the time.

But Schumer contends that the “basic economy” fare (to be implemented Jan. 1) will prevent cost-conscious, savvy packers from saving money with a single carry-on bag and split up families wishing to be seated together, further degrading the flying experience for budget travelers. “You can bet other airlines are looking to see if the policy actually flies,” Schumer said.

The “sacred convenience” of overhead space “should be free for all, and forever. No matter what kind of ticket you purchase,” said Schumer.

Schumer, noting that a 2010 plan by airlines to charge for carry on bags was scrapped after his intervention, hopes that United will voluntarily cancel plans for its new bare-bones fare.

Sheila Anne Feeney