If You’re Flying Basic Economy on American or Delta And Need Overhead Bin Space, Do This

If you don’t have elite status on American there are often very few seats you can select at booking without additional charge other than middle seats.

So paying extra to avoid a basic economy fare just means buying the right to pay more for a seat assignment. You’re often better off buying basic economy and waiting to see what you get at check-in (and if you really want to pay for a seat assignment, you can do that 48 hours prior to travel).

American Airlines basic economy fares used to prevent customers from bringing full-sized carry on bags onto the plane, but they removed that restriction September 5. This restriction was a reason not to fly basic economy, but it was also pushing customers to fly other airlines instead — Delta never had this restriction even on their basic economy fares, and Southwest doesn’t even charge extra for two checked bags.

Basic economy customers without elite status or the airline’s co-brand credit card board last. American is adding bigger overhead bins to their domestic narrowbody fleet. In the mean time if you have a rollaboard and board last you may get stuck having to gate check. That’s still a reason to avoid basic economy fares Or is it?

If you’re flying American Airlines on a basic economy fare take note: starting December 12 customers with peanut allergies can board early so they have a chance to wipe down their seats. Delta already allows this.

American Airlines Group Inc. will allow people who suffer from peanut and tree-nut allergies to board flights early so they can wipe down areas where they will sit to avoid potential exposure to allergens.

The change will take effect Dec. 12 when flight-service manuals are updated, Fort Worth-based American said in a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Transportation Department.

…”Customers with nut allergies who would like to board flights early to wipe down surfaces may ask to do so at the gate,” American said.

So now if you don’t have elite status (and I’d argue, if you aren’t at least a Platinum who can pre-select Main Cabin Extra seats) what exactly is the reason to pay more to avoid basic economy? Just the ability to pay $200 to change a ticket that may not have even cost $200.

At least it’s better than people who request wheelchair assistance when they don’t need it in order to get airport priority since this wouldn’t take away a service from someone that really needs it, or delay them while they wait on a wheel chair.

By the way United Airlines remains the only carrier that still restricts basic economy customers from bringing a carry on bag on board but there’s a loophole for that too: just bring a musical instrument case as your carry on.

I don’t actually recommend misrepresenting your needs. I do think these loopholes speak to the absurdity of the restrictions themselves.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Can you please edit the title of this post and re do it? It makes no sense. It looks like you left some words out and seriously it looks lazy and sloppy

  2. -1 internet points for a clickbait title.
    Also, your title says “…if you need overhead space…do this”. “Do this” appears to be “claim you have a peanut allergy to board early”.

    But then you say “I don’t actually recommend misrepresenting your needs.” So what is it from the title that you are actually suggesting we do?

    If you’re just making light of these loopholes and incoherence of basic economy, fine, but then the title is totally off.

  3. Don’t misrepresent your needs, but take advantage of an allowance given to those with a medical need, simply to gain overhead access for your carry-on? Ridiculous! This advice is only going to lead to the policy being rescinded for too much abuse.

  4. Putting a “but I don’t recommend…” at the end of an article is a pathetic CYA attempt.

    I’m embarrassed for you Gary.

    This is just plain stupid and I’m guessing your airline friends would think so too.

  5. @Snorklez care to explain? The REASON I don’t recommend is because you can buy these points instead and use Amex points for other things. It is not a concern with LifeMiles (I mention the positives and negatives). Indeed I have purchased plenty of LifeMiles myself.

    This isn’t a long article either, there’s news (the partner was added), there’s upsides and downsides, there’s alternatives, and how I weigh those. I’m sorry you don’t like the structure of my blog post? Because I’m having a hard time following your complaint exactly.

  6. Just another attempt to by pass the rules to take advantage. Now everyone will have fake allergies. The people with true ethics, who follows the rules, not Gary (but he would never be in basic economy), will not get the overhead bin space they deserve.

  7. This is, of course, ridiculous, as it simply invites abuse. But I’d rather have a person with a fake peanut allergy sit next to me than a personal with a fake comfort animal. Maybe I can get them to wipe down my sticky tray table, too?

  8. Gary, looks like your reply to Snorklez is for another article. Seems to back up the claims of sloppy work. I agree with the other posts here, another click-bait title, announce a loophole and then cya with a “but I don’t recommend.” By writing the content filling article you are in fact recommending and publicizing. Like mentioned, this will only cause the option to be rescinded for those that could actually benefit from the intended purpose. I just can’t believe there wasn’t mention of a MAX or the “shrinking lavatories.” I’ve never seen someone so obsessed with the size of a restroom, let alone a restroom on a plane.

  9. @hotintx — snorklez appeared to be responding to my post on Amex transfers to Avianca which I had just posted. I read comments in a dashboard, his comments made sense, I don’t necessary look into where the comment was placed.

    By the way you sure use a lot of different names to attack me in the comments..

    TO me this post was an interesting exercise. I think people can make their own choices. But it’s worth noting what the implications of the policy are. I think we can have that sort of discourse, your mileage may vary of course.

  10. More fine “thought leadership” here.

    It’s a dumb policy. But encouraging people to use it as a loophole, is disgraceful.

    And putting a little disclaimer in the very last sentence after that headline is just cowardly.

  11. Gary –

    Did I miss your blog post encouraging people to register their shih tzu as a service dog to avoid cargo fees?

  12. Wow. You never cease to amaze with your stooping abilities.
    Did I miss a headline that you too were bought by bankrate?
    Or were you bought by Business Insider?
    Clickbait and bottomfeeding at its best.

  13. @Gary Only 1 username here. I think the problem is for the most part your posts are useful or at least thought out. People can certainly disagree on the validity of some of your points, but at least you are making a point. This article is not one of those, and I think you know that. I also know you will defend the “story” as to its worth to the death. That is fine. It’s your site, and you have won by having each of us read the “article.”

    However, it would be okay as well to admit that the article is in bad taste and not up to the standards of some of your other work. My $.02.

  14. Yes, it’s a dumb policy, in part because of how easily it can be abused. So what does the New York Times ethics editor think of inventing an allergy to give yourself an advantage over other people who don’t have an allergy either? You can (and do) do better, Gary.

  15. “if you’re flying basic economy on american and need overhead-bin space do this” is the title. What are you recommending people do if it’s not pretend to have a peanut allergy? Please don’t encourage this type of behavior. It’s lousy for those you have some integrity. It’s also a head ache for the gate agent, f/a and all other pax as the agent might document in the reservation that the pax has a peanut allergy and no snacks with nuts will be given. People think of some crazy things and compromise their integrity just to board a little early. Just don’t get it.

  16. What is particularly odd about this “accommodation” is that, even if you have a peanut allergy, why do you need extra time to wipe down your seat? Would it take more than a minute? More than two? Has anyone NOT had 2 free minutes after boarding before the door shut (unless you ran for the flight, in which case you wouldn’t be pre-boarding anyway!). And, btw, what if there is peanut dust on nearby seats? Is there something magical about there only being dust on your seat?

  17. Chopsticks, it does help the person to have extra time to board as it allows them to notify the f/a’s of the allergy and they can take out the peanuts (or those that contain nuts) out of the serving cart.

  18. I just got a peanut allergy. Not. This will be fun to watch at boarding. Let me see where I place now as Gold
    Peanut people
    Uniformed military
    Gold/AA Exec Card holders
    I feel that I’missing a couple steps.

  19. I think that next time I fly AA, I will claim that my “emotional support animal” is allergic to peanuts. That’ll show ’em! HaHaHa

  20. I don’t think a new group of a politically sensitive nature has to be named by the gate agents, they should simply announce “Howdy Doo, Members of the Peanut Gallery may now board”. Of course that could empty the entire gate.

  21. How awful.

    This is exactly why fares are no longer refundable due to a medical condition. Eons ago, they used to be, but then ethically challenged people like the author came along and made everyone worse off.

    I guess we live in the era of “me, me, me”, from the President on down, even though any economist knows that it’s the best recipe to economic poverty (cooperation and collaboration lifts everyone’s incomes; division and isolationism doesn’t — North Korea and any closed country prior to it are a prime example).

  22. If Gary hadn’t mentioned this new ridiculous policy, he would have been ridiculed for being lazy. Can’t win with the Internet. It’s a dumb policy that screams “abuse me.” And what about other allergies? Nuts aren’t even the most common. You don’t need to preboard to have time to wipe off a tray. And if you’re that allergenic, you’ve informed the airline already to not serve but products.

  23. We are retired British and we will visit USA next year , travelling around in a combination of flights and rental cars and on a tight budget. Ages 72 and 63 .
    What suggestions can you give us to get good flight deals , easy boarding , less hassles ?
    Thanks guys .

  24. SHAME ON YOU. We already have so many people claiming “emotional support” and now you add to the problem. I don’t care what kind of disclaimer you wrote. You now gave every yahoo an idea.

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