American Airlines started selling ‘basic economy’ fares three months ago.
These fares try to make the travel experience difficult enough that you’ll spend more for less restrictive tickets.
- Last group to board, no full sized carry on allowed (“personal item only”).
- No residual ticket value for changes, no same day changes or standby, use it or lose it.
- Seat assignments at check-in or for an extra charge 48 hours before travel.
- No upgrades.
- 100% of redeemable miles and elite qualifying dollars (which are earned based on fare), but only 50% elite qualifying miles and 50% elite qualifying segments.
- No re-accommodation on other airlines if your flight goes mechanical, and bottom of the list for automatic re-accommodation on other American flights.
These fares were initially launched in 10 markets:
Now American has expanded the routes where they sell the cheapest fares as Basic Economy. (HT: JT Genter)
Basic Economy fares are not less expensive fares. They are fares that give you less for what you used to pay.
American Airlines is intentionally making the travel experience worse, in hopes you will spend more to avoid the pain points.
In other words they don’t really want you to book these fares. The risk to American, though, is that you may not book these fares — and might book your travel on another airline that’s less restrictive like Southwest Airlines or jetBlue, even Alaska Airlines and to a certain extent Delta (but not United).