Low cost carriers have been giving passengers what they want – low prices. And the legacy carriers have struggled to respond. The Big 3 US carriers have now all decided to offer a Basic Economy fare with even less features and amenities than before to compete with budget carriers on price. American Airlines is the last one to do so and here is what you get for your Basic Economy fare:
United announced their Basic Economy with severe restrictions (read here) and American Airlines seems to follow that path. At least they are honest about it and call it “no-frills tickets”. Here is what you get in comparison to regular Economy (Main Cabin):
With Basic Economy, you loose the seat assignment, the carry-on and the chance for upgrades or stand-by flights. You’ll also be in the last boarding group and only earn half the elite qualifying miles. This makes Basic Economy a bad deal for most customers:
As an AAdvantage and OneWorld elite member or affiliated credit card holder, you will loose half the elite qualifying miles, which isn’t much to begin with on cheap fares, but at least you will be able to bring your carry on as an exception and also able to board based on your elite status.
As an infrequent traveler, you will have to pay for a large carry-on or checked luggage, making it very difficult to find a good use for these tickets. WIth my Top 10 Tips to Pack Light, you might be able to fit enough for a weekend trip into your personal item, but longer trips will be a challenge.
Families will have a tough time to get seats together. While AA promises to try and seat a child with one adult a few days before the flight, because you can’t pick seats at the time of booking, you might be separated from your kids – not an acceptable choice for families with small kids, really. And begging other fliers to switch seats will be even tougher when those passengers payed extra to select their seats!
I think it’s the right business decision for the legacy carriers to offer these stripped fares to compete with low-cost carriers, but for the travelling public it’s certainly bad news. You’ll get less for your money and will have to pay for the things you used to get included in your price. Any hope that fares will be lower with this move are probably misplaced!
So, going forward, look carefully at the economy fare you are purchasing and if it includes all the things you need. If it doesn’t, your job to compare fares across different airlines will be more difficult. I will do a comparison of the Basic Economy fares on the major US airlines soon to help you select!
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