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 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!

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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  1. I booked United to go overseas and I paid the extra for Standard Economy (not basic) as it included pre selected seats and a checked bag. One of our flights that we have purchased through United is Austrian Airlines (from Europe back to the states). We have to pay $35 for our seats on Austrian Airlines even though it clearly said we do not have to pay for seat selection when we decided to go with Standard and not Basic economy. This seems like false advertising.

    • Hi Cindy, Did you book with us? We’d be happy to take a look and see what happened. If you did please shoot us an email with your 10-digit booking number at [email protected]. It could have been a mistake or it could been that some seats were available for free selection, while other seats are reserved for an additional cost, such as towards the front of the plane, or wider rows. Thank you

  2. If I purchase two tickets on United basic economy will those two tickets be seated together when they are assigned?

    Or are we just put into a boarding group and have open seating and can choose to sit next to each other?

    • Hi Kendal, when you don’t purchase a seat, you are assigned one randomly on the date of departure. Often, people can request seats together, but if the flight is full that is not likely to happen.

  3. If I purchase two United Economy Plus fare but do not make a seat selection, will I be assured that both seats will be together if the airline decides to give me the seats?

    • Hi Andres, There really aren’t any guarantees in getting seats together when you do not purchase a seat selection. If the flight isn’t full and the flight crew can accommodate you, they usually will, but remember – no guarantees. And these days it’s a pretty simple reason. When you charge people for their seat selections, the people who actually paid for their seats are less charitable about moving to other seats. If it’s going to be a huge disappointment if you are not seated together, we recommend ponying up for the seat assignment.

  4. Hi, can i make a set selection for me and my daughter . i am looking for two windows seats on our fly to Panama Dec 06 2019 and return fly Dec 15 2019. Is a little big complicate to do the selection on your united,com.
    i used hotwire com, here is the itinerary # 7494995674642

    Hope you can help me out.

    • Hi Eneida, Sorry we can’t help. We’re actually a travel site ourselves so we do not have access to Hotwire bookings.

    • Hi M.B Loftus,

      Great question. You can view to add and edit seat selection online using the “My Trips” link: 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.

  5. 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?

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