January 19, 2017
American Introducing New Basic Economy Fares

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Straight to the Point

American Airlines’s new Basic Economy class offers the airline’s cheapest prices but comes with restrictions such as no carryon luggage, no advanced seat selection, last to board the plane and more.


Overview

Basic Economy is the newest fare class that legacy carriers are introducing in the US to match fares offered by budget airlines such as Spirit and Frontier. Basic Economy is essentially the same Economy seat you’re used to but with every add-on you’ve come to expect stripped out. It allows you to pay for a seat on the airplane with pretty much everything else sold separately.

 

Details

While Delta and United have already announced their versions of Basic Economy, American has just released the details of its own new fare class which will begin rolling out in select markets at the end of February. Here’s what it comes with-

  • Lowest price in Economy class
  • You can bring one small item that fits under the seat
  • You don’t have access to overhead bins
  • Seats are assigned at check-in
  • You can pay to choose a specific seat up to 48 hours before departure
  • Not eligible for upgrades
  • No flight changes
  • No refunds
  • Last to board the plane
  • If you have to check-in a bag at the boarding gate, the fee is $25+ the normal baggage fee
  • Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and Elite Qualifying Segments (ESQs) are earned at a reduced rate of 0.5 per mile/flight segment flown

basic-economy-american

Here’s a nifty chart summarizing Basic Economy v. Economy


Flyers with AAdvantage elite status and AA credit card holders maintain these benefits-

  • Store one item in the overhead bins for free
  • Keep their priority boarding privileges
  • Keep their checked bag benefits

 

Final Thoughts

These changes are likely to initially confuse and irritate passengers who’ve come to expect a certain product (even if sub-par) from their economy ticket. This change isn’t particularly surprising as the industry has been moving in this direction as customers demand cheaper and cheaper tickets. The only bright spot is that flyers will still earn some EQMs, unlike United’s Basic economy fares which don’t earn any PQMs. I’m a United /Star Alliance flyer so this doesn’t really effect me. That being said, if I were to fly American I would avoid Basic Economy and just book an Economy ticket because I want to pick my own seat in advance, I want the flexibility to change flights at the last minute if I need to, and I really don’t want to board the plane last. I suspect there won’t be a drastic price difference between Basic Economy and Economy.

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