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With United Airline's Basic Economy "N" class fares, carry-on luggage that goes into the overhead bin is not allowed (mostly). Basic Economy passengers who bring a carry-on to the gate anyway are supposed to be forced to check the bag, and fined extra for it.

So if I purchase a more costly fare that is supposed to include one carry-on, but then I am forced to gate-check my carry-on because the plane ran out of bin space, then I am essentially being downgraded to a lower class of service.

Am I entitled to a refund of the difference in fares? Certainly if I had known that I would be denied a carry-on when I booked, then I would have purchased the cheaper fare in the first place.

United could (but probably doesn't) sell more N fares and less of the other economy fares to control the number of carry-on suitcases. In other words, the airline has the ability to not oversell the bin space.

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    This feels more like a question for the Law Stack Exchange, if you are asking whether or not a company applying a limit on your service which essentially and effectively bumps you into a tier that would have cost you means you have legitimate grounds for a refund of the difference... – Moo Oct 24 at 8:55
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    You aren't being downgraded to basic economy, because you're not being made to pay to gate check your bag. It's a frustrating situation, but the distinction between economy and basic economy is whether you're charged a fee for your carry on sized bag, not where that bag is transported. – MJeffryes Oct 24 at 11:42
  • @Moo I’m looking for consensus from the travel community for what constitutes a downgrade that should trigger reimbursement from an airline. What a small claims court judge would find convincing is really just a roll of the dice. – wemily Oct 24 at 13:14
  • @MJeffryes There are many other distinctions between N and the other economy classes. The one I find relevant is the one that affects my purchasing decision: whether I am permitted to bring one carry-on suitcase with me into the cabin. Basic Economy passengers are not. At the time that I purchase my fare for a higher class, United says that I am. But when I get to the gate, the attendant says I am not. – wemily Oct 24 at 13:27
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    A general question: "since others..." is never a good legal reason. The existence of other prices, categories, "perks", etc are mostly irrelevant for your case. There are people that paid half or your fare, but so? You cannot reclaim money back. You should check just what was in your travel contract, and you agreed only with that. What do other have should be irrelevant, and it just add confusion. – Giacomo Catenazzi Oct 24 at 15:21

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