American Airlines will begin selling Basic Economy fares in 10 select markets in February 2017. With expansion to additional markets expected later this year. Not every American Airlines flight will offer Basic Economy fares. United announced their details on the same day during their fourth quarter 2016 earnings call.
- In-flight experience – The same in-flight experience that all Main Cabin customers receive today, including free entertainment options, soft drinks, and snacks, and the same seats.
- Seat assignments – Made automatically and only when customers check in. Paid seat assignments can be purchased 48 hours before the flight. As it does today, American’s reservations system will check for families traveling with children 13 and under a few days before the flight, and attempt to seat each child with an adult. This is the same process we follow for Main Cabin customers.
- Upgrades – Not permitted, regardless of elite status level.
- Bags – One personal carry-on item that fits under the seat (such as a purse or small backpack) is allowed. No overhead bin luggage may be brought on board. Larger carry-ons such as a rollerboard bag must be checked at the ticket counter for the applicable checked-baggage charge. Basic Economy customers who bring more than an under-seat personal item to the gate will incur regular checked baggage charges plus a $25 gate service charge per bag. Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage® credit cardmembers will be allowed to bring one personal item, one rollerboard, and they maintain their current free checked bag allowance.
- Boarding – Basic Economy customers will comprise the last boarding group and will be seated in the Main Cabin. Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage® credit cardmembers will continue to receive Priority or preferred boarding even when purchasing this fare.
- Tickets – Non-refundable, non-changeable. Use it or lose it. No same-day flight change or same-day standby.
- AAdvantage – Full AAdvantage miles and Elite Qualifying Dollars may be earned when purchasing these fares; however, only one-half Elite Qualifying Mile will be earned per mile flown, and one-half Elite Qualifying Segment per segment flown.
Many think this is just an excuse for American to charge more for today’s current Main Cabin Experience, while Basic Economy replaces that price point. Although American argues this new class of service is so they can lower their price point to more closely match Ultra Low Cost Carriers like Spirit and Frontier. Spirit over the past few years has expanded at American Airlines’ largest hub of Dallas/Fort Worth, giving them some reason to worry.
Will you be willing to sacrifice a carry on bag, upgrades, elite mileage credits, and a seat assignment to buy an American Airlines Basic Economy fare?