United Selling WiFi Subscriptions and Basic Economy Seat Assignments

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United is now offering two new ways for you to spend money with them. Obviously, the more you spend the happier United generally is, but both of these new ways to hand United some of your hard earned cash will make sense in some situations.


United Offering Monthly WiFi Subscriptions

When flying occasionally on a family vacation using in-flight WIFi is usually not a necessity and is something I virtually never purchase when traveling with my kids since I don’t have enough dedicated time to make it worth the cost. However, when you start traveling without kiddos regularly for work, staying connected while in the air becomes much more important. The price for in-flight WiFi varies somewhat dramatically based on the flight, but paying about $12 for a roughly 3-hour United flight has been the norm on our travels. Unlike with some other airlines, until now there hasn’t been a way to purchase a monthly WiFi pass for your United flights. You have had to decide on each individual flight whether or not to spend the extra cash. This can seriously add up if you are flying regularly and need to stay connected.

Thankfully, today United has announced WiFi subscriptions that start at $49 per month for a WiFi plan that is good within North and Central America and $69 per month for global plans. An annual plan can be purchased for $539 for the North and Central America plan (average of $44.91 per month) or $689 for the global plan (average of $57.41 per month). You can also use miles for these plans, though the return per mile is quite poor.

The subscription is non-transferable and it is against United’s policy for the subscription to be used on a flight that you are not on. Now as to whether or not it will work in practice so you can share with a spouse… remains to be seen (not that any of us would do that…obviously). The FAQs state that it can take up to 24 hours to process a subscription, so plan ahead if you want to use it on an upcoming flight.

Unlike when you purchase a one-time pass, you will not be able to just request a refund just because WiFi is not working on a particular flight since this is a month-long pass. This is something to factor into the equation as I have had many United flights where the WiFi I purchased didn’t really work and so I requested a refund.

If you don’t want your subscription to renew then monthly subscribers should cancel the auto-renewal more than 10 days before renewal and annual subscribers more than 30 days prior to renewal in the My Account page.

United Selling Basic Economy Seat Assignments

There are a lot of problems with Basic Economy fares, but one of the biggest ones for families is that the fares do not come with advance seat assignments at the time of booking. However, United will now sell you the right to purchase assigned seats at the time of booking on Basic Economy fares. This is much like how low-cost carrier Spirit handles seat assignments. You can have them, but it is going to cost you a few dollars extra, even for a middle seat.

On the route that I tested, seat assignments on a Basic Economy fare were $5 for a middle seat, $10 for a window seat, and $15 for an aisle seat. You can secure your seat assignments at the time of booking until check-in opens 24 hours in advance of your travels, at which time seats will be assigned to you. You cannot select an Economy Plus seat or a premium cabin upgrade on a Basic Economy fare – just a regular old-fashioned economy seat.

What do you think of these new options being offered by United? Will either one make sense for your family?

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  1. The two most irritating things that airlines do is sell seat assignments and charge for luggage. It continues to amaze me how these bigger airlines want to nickel and dime you like a LCC but not charge you airfare like a LCC.

  2. Thank goodness UA stopped being my go-to airline of choice (my home base is SFO/Bay Area) years ago when I traveled for work. Now, I generally fly whoever has the lowest cost or is closer – and we have three airports to choose from, SFO is no longer the closest. The other two airports (SJC and OAK) does not have a strong UA presence, so that makes it easy to avoid UA more often than not.

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