United Airlines Seat Selection: Information for Travelers

Choosing the seats on your flight is quite the hot topic these days. The airlines are trying to squeeze every ounce of space out of their flights and travelers are trying to retain as much comfort as humanly possible. For these reasons, shouldn’t you pay attention to what sort of seat your ticket buys?

flight seat selection

CheapAir.com has done the research so you have this important information at your fingertips. The measurements and rules from airline to airline are not standard, so make sure you’re doing an apples to apples comparison depending on your airline, itinerary and aircraft. First up – the skinny on United Airlines seat selection!

Basic Economy
Basic Economy is United’s most inexpensive fare – think of it as your “bare bones” option. It’s always going to be the best price, but it comes without the option to select your own seat, or change your seat should it not meet your approval. When you buy a Basic Economy ticket, you leave the seat selection in the hands of the airline and you do not have the flexibility to make any changes even if you’re a Mileage Plus member. Customers who purchase Basic Economy do the best when they’re motivated by price alone and don’t mind where on the plane they’ll be sitting. The main sticking point is that you can’t upgrade after the fact to get yourself better seating if you’re not happy with Basic Economy seating. Generally speaking, you can recline your seat 4” in a Basic Economy seat. Seat pitch, which is the measurement from a point on one seat to the same point on the seat in front of it and usually is correlated to legroom) is typically 31” in Basic Economy. Keep this in mind when you book!

Economy
An Economy fare on a United flight allows you to self-select your seat and travel with a personal item plus carry-on at no extra charge. When you purchase an Economy ticket, you also have the flexibility to buy upgrades and Economy Plus (when available). Mileage Plus Premier members also receive “seat benefits,” though the site is a little vague on what extra seat benefits this elite status provides. The seat measurements in Economy are exactly the same as they are in Basic Economy (seats recline can recline 4” in an Economy seat with a 31” seat pitch). The seat width is often slightly wider in Economy than in Basic Economy. Overall, many passengers find these incremental comforts worth the extra cost.

Economy Plus
The main draw for Economy Plus is the 5 inches of extra legroom you’ll get – yes, we said 5 inches! The seats in Economy Plus are at the front of the Economy cabin as well, which means you’ll be first off the plane and on your way upon landing. Economy Plus is available on all United Flights and on most United Express flights. You are permitted to change seats at no extra cost, if the seat you prefer is priced the same. If you choose a seat that is more than your original purchase, that seat will be refunded and the new, more expensive seat will have to be purchased in full. In the unlikely event that you purchase an Economy Plus seat but the airline is unable to accommodate you, United will refund the difference in cost. In general, your seat will recline 5” in Economy Plus. Seat pitch is 34”.

United Business/First Class
With your purchase of a United Business or First Class ticket comes premium seating, designed for comfort and convenience, whether you want to relax or work during your flight. It features beautifully contoured two-tone leather, a six-way adjustable headrest, padded articulating seat cushions, and 180 degree reclining capabilities. Seat pitch can accommodate a 6’4” person in Business and a 6’6” person in First.

There are a couple of additional important caveats to remember when booking airline tickets. First, the seats you select are not guaranteed, not even in First Class. Basically, United promises to do everything in their power to keep your chosen seat – the airlines know how important seat selection is to their customers. One way to avoid losing your seat is to simply be on time. We know it can sometimes be unavoidable, but the airlines are not required to hold your seat past the check-in time you see on your ticket and boarding documents.

Specific dimensions for your assigned seat can be found on United’s aircraft page. Click on the type of aircraft to pull up a seat map for your particular flight.

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20 Comments

  1. Do you know if united basic economy seats are assigned during check in (as early as 24 hours before the flight) or at he gate before boarding?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Diana, Thanks for the question. United Basic Economy assigns seats at boarding. You’re unable to do anything 24 hours before.

  2. We have reservations from Omaha to New Orleans on Mar 7 (1116) and returning March 9. I would like to get a seat assignment.

    1. Hi Patrick, Dd you book your tickets through CheapAir.com? If so, can you email help@cheapair.com and someone on our support team can help you out. If not, please reach out to the airline directly (if you booked with them), or to the travel agency that sold you the ticket.

  3. We’re looking at buying tickets on a high-demand United route at the earliest possible date, which we know is 330 days in advance. Do you know when the earliest is that we could select F class seats?

    1. Hi Steve, If the tickets are available – all the classes of service should be available. Not to panic you, but you should be prepared to buy AS SOON as those seats become available. Probably best (in your case) to hop on the phone with the airline to make sure you snag the seats you want.

    1. Hi Barbara, You will need to reach out to United or Travelocity to make your seat selection. You might see if you can do this online with your booking number from Travelocity.

  4. Ok…So when I bought the original tickets, (Basic Economy) I was able to pay extra and choose our seats at $5 to $7 per seat…Now later on, I’m trying to do the same thing for our return trip…It takes all the info, shows available seats, takes the credit card info, charges the account, but does not give us any seat assignments…(The charges eventually come back after the hold expires on the account)…I even called United…They tried it twice…Same result….Said, they have no idea “why”, but also said, “Its not THEIR problem”…..Thanks United!!….You really do NOT know how to run an airline…Someday, you will join Eastern and TWA on the scrapheap of history…We’re traveling with a 14 yr old..He wants to sit with us..Is that to much to ask?? I guess it is…..Hopefully, they won’t haul him off the plane!!!

  5. can I reserve seat reservation without charge fee on my flight Nov.6,2018 at Manchester Airport flight number UA 9043 on left or right side with 2 seats window and isle for me and my husband as I have medical condition of weak bladder that I have to go to rest room most of the time and flight UA 9196 at Frankfurt Intetnatinal Airport going to Detroit Metropolitan Airport same day Nov.6,2018 Hoping to get response on my email.Thank you

    1. Hi Maria,

      In order for us to assist you with your seats for your reservation, we will need your 10 digit CheapAir.com booking number. We were unable to find an account with your email address. Unfortunately if you did not book with CheapAir.com, you can contact the airline you’re flying on to inquire about seating.

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback! We love to hear when things are resonating with our customers and readers and you take the time to give us a shout out. It means a lot. Thanks again.

  6. If I purchase a United Economy Plus fare but do not make a seat selection, will I be assured of a seat somewhere in Economy Plus on that flight?

    1. Hi M.B Loftus,

      Great question. You can view to add and edit seat selection online using the “My Trips” link: https://www.cheapair.com/trips/ Just enter your booking details to access your itinerary. Separately, you can call us at 1-800-243-2724 and a Travel Advisor can assist you with seat selection as well as review any other questions you may have.

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