American Airlines told us they planned to roll out Basic Economy fares across their domestic route network in September. I didn’t expect them to do it the day after Labor Day. Of course I suppose it shouldn’t surprise that the thing American Airlines IT delivered on-time was the least customer-friendly move in the known pipeline.
Basic Economy fares are not new lower fares. They are new restrictions on the already-existing lowest fares. Many people are confused by this, since United in particular has been misleading in its descriptions. But American has been up front about it, and never claimed otherwise.
From a few cursory searches it appears that American is now selling Basic Economy fares across the lower 48 – including on connecting flights – for travel September 12 onward.
American’s Basic Economy Fares Mean:
- 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.
- 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.
Elite frequent flyers and co-brand credit card holders can board with their regular priority zones with a full-sized carry on bag.
Just because American’s IT team managed to roll out Basic Economy doesn’t mean they’ve done it correctly, for instance they appear to be having ‘the United problem’ for travel on some dates where Basic Economy is more expensive than regular economy.
Now even if you spend $30,000 a year on American Airlines buying expensive tickets, the once or twice a year you take your family on vacation you will have to spend $20 or $40 more per person each way (once American gets the IT glitches ironed out). That may be $320 extra per trip or — forget upgrades or extra legroom coach seats — you won’t even get advance seat assignments let alone sit together. So much for your loyalty.
Ultimately even Delta says Basic Economy isn’t the boon to an airline’s bottom line that American thinks it will be. And this makes Southwest, jetBlue, and Alaska Airlines far more attractive. When price is the same why would you fly American?