American introduces ‘basic economy’ fare

American Airlines has become the latest carrier to add a no-frills fare to its existing plethora of fare offerings.

“From Flagship First to our new, lowest fare – Basic Economy – we’re providing you with a new option to select a travel experience that best fits your needs,” the Dallas-headquartered carrier effused in a Jan. 18 email sent to its AAdvantage members. “There are some restrictions, but you’ll still get a comfortable seat in the Main Cabin and enjoy free snacks, soft drinks and inflight entertainment,” the airline added.

American 737 departs SEA
The restrictions on American’s (NASDAQ:AAL) Basic Economy fares are very similar to the basic economy fare announced in December by Chicago-headquartered United Airlines (NYSE:UAL). Seats are assigned at check-in, though they can be reserved up to 48 hours before departure … for a fee. United's basic economy passengers do not have the option of paying to select their seat at any time.

Passengers are allowed one carry-on that fits under the seat with no access to overhead bins, they will boarding in the last group, no flight changes or refunds are allowed, and Basic Economy fares are not eligible for upgrades.

Importantly, all items beyond the one carry-on must be checked at the ticket counter, or “an extra $25 gate service fee per item plus the applicable bag fee” will apply. Obviously, the airlines have finally caught on to the strategy of taking one’s “carry-on” to the gate, knowing full well that it will have to be checked, as a way of avoiding the odious checked-bag fee.

Basic Economy fares won’t be quite as restrictive for member of the airline’s AAdvantage frequent flier program or passengers who carry the airline’s affinity credit card.

AAdvantage® elite status members or eligible AAdvantage® credit card members will be allowed to put one item in the overhead bin, they will keep their priority or preferred boarding privileges and their checked bag benefits.

The airline will start selling Basic Economy fares for select routes in late February.

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Photo by Carl Dombek
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