AA Introduces Basic Economy Fares


Today American Airlines presented the details of its new basic economy fares.  Following the leads of Delta and United, this cheaper fare will come with a number of restrictions – though travelers will be able to decide for themselves what the better choice is.

These fares will be for seats in the Main Cabin (aka Economy) and the standard free snacks, soft drinks and inflight entertainment will still apply.  But there are a number of items not included:

  • Only one bag may be carried on and it must fit under the seat (no access to overhead bins)
  • If you try to bring on a bag that does not fit under the seat, there will be a $25 fee to check it in addition to the standard checked bag fee
  • Seats will be assigned at check-in
  • If you want to select a specific seat you may do so within 48 hours of departure but there will be a fee
  • Basic Economy fares are not eligible for upgrades
  • Travelers on Basic Economy fares may not change their ticket (even for a fee) or get a refund
  • Basic Economy will be the last group to board

There are some exceptions if you’re an elite member of the AAdvantage program or if you hold a co-branded AAdvantage credit card:

  • You may have a carry on that fits under the seat as well as one in the overhead bin
  • You’ll retain any priority or preferred boarding privileges
  • You will still receive at least one free checked bag per the terms of your elite status or credit card

There are further restrictions on the number of Elite Qualifying Dollars/Miles/Segments earned on these type of fares.

Basic Economy Fares will go on sale in late February on specific routes.

I’ve been analyzing how this will affect me personally.  I don’t have elite status with American but I do hold two of their co-branded credit cards.  So I don’t have to worry about boarding last or not being able to use the overhead bins.  The real difference is seat selection.  For me, I think it will depend on my destination. I think that for a single-leg (each way) flight this might work for me.  I’m specifically thinking of flights to Chicago that are serviced by a regional jet.  These seats are in a 2×2 configuration so there’s no worry of a middle seat.  If I’m not making a connection it doesn’t matter whether or not I’m in the back of the plane.  Even if I have a relatively short flight, a middle seat is not the end of the world.  But for longer or multi-leg flights I suspect I’ll be paying more to sit where I want.

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