OFFICIAL: Full Details Of American’s New Basic Economy Fares

Filed Under: American

Earlier I posted about American’s new basic economy fares, with a lot of information provided by the always knowledgable JonNYC. Well, American has just put out a press release with all the details of basic economy:

American Airlines today announced it will begin selling Basic Economy fares in addition to the wide range of Main Cabin fares currently offered. These no-frills tickets provide a simple and affordable way to experience American’s network, and provide customers the option to pay for the services they want.

Basic Economy fares will go on sale in February in 10 select markets, with the first flights occurring shortly thereafter and expansion to additional markets expected later this year. Not every American Airlines flight will offer Basic Economy fares.

“American Airlines now has something to offer every customer, from those who want simple, low-price travel to those who want an ultra-premium experience via First Class,” said American Airlines President Robert Isom. “Importantly, this new fare product also gives American the ability to compete more effectively with the growing number of ultra low-cost carriers.”

Here’s a look at what Basic Economy customers can expect:

In-flight experience – The same in-flight experience that all Main Cabin customers receive today, including free entertainment options, soft drinks, and snacks, and the same seats.

Seat assignments – Made automatically and only when customers check in. Paid seat assignments can be purchased 48 hours before the flight.

Upgrades – Not permitted, regardless of elite status level.

Bags – One personal carry-on item that fits under the seat (such as a purse or small backpack) is allowed. No overhead bin luggage may be brought on board. Larger carry-ons such as a rollerboard bag must be checked at the ticket counter for the applicable checked-baggage charge. Basic Economy customers who bring more than an under-seat personal item to the gate will incur regular checked baggage charges plus a $25 gate service charge per bag.

Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage® credit cardmembers will be allowed to bring one personal item, one rollerboard, and they maintain their current free checked bag allowance.

Boarding – Basic Economy customers will comprise the last boarding group and will be seated in the Main Cabin. Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage® credit cardmembers will continue to receive Priority or preferred boarding even when purchasing this fare.

Tickets – Non-refundable, non-changeable. Use it or lose it. No same-day flight change or same-day standby.

AAdvantage – Full AAdvantage miles and Elite Qualifying Dollars may be earned when purchasing these fares; however, only one-half Elite Qualifying Mile will be earned per mile flown, and one-half Elite Qualifying Segment per segment flown.


As you can see, basic economy fares will go on sale in 10 markets starting in February 2017, and they’ll gradually be expanded after that. Not all flights will have basic economy fares.

Basic economy fares won’t allow ticket changes, upgrades, or seat assignments more than 48 hours out. However, at least they’ll continue to earn some elite qualifying miles, unlike United’s basic economy fares.

Still, as an elite member you can bet I’ll be booking a non-basic economy fare, as there’s no point in choosing American if I’m not upgrade eligible, can’t select a seat at booking, etc.

Unfortunately the part of this that isn’t true is the suggestion that fares will somehow drop as a result of this. In practice we’ll simply see many of the lowest fares become basic economy fares, rather than basic economy fares being lower than existing fares. So yes, it helps American “compete more effectively,” but doesn’t really “provide customers the option to pay for the services they want,” at least in comparison to American’s existing fare structure.


What do you make of the details of American’s new basic economy fares?

  1. Delta, UA, and AA should rename these ‘just fly Southwest instead, we really don’t want your business’

  2. Totally agreed with Alpha. As a United 1K, I would much prefer to fly Southwest than Basic Economy. Fares will not drop, and I’d bet Spirit continues to be significantly cheaper.

    The oligopoly system is really starting to hurt the consumer – sad to see.

  3. The enforcement of the “no overhead bin space” rule is going to be interesting. Considering how many people still can’t figure out basic TSA procedures, there are going to be a ton of upset people who show up to the gate with a carry on that they then have to pay for.

  4. I suspect that since Basic Economy boards as a separate group and is last, it will be somewhat easier to enforce the no overhead baggage rule (elites who are exempt will still board when they normally do so doesn’t matter). As it stands, many times GAs make those in Group 4 gate check their luggage anyways.

  5. Great the already-grumpy gate agents are going to be even more bitter and nasty. Get the popcorn out.
    American is making it increasingly hard to remain loyal. Can we talk about the availability of trying to use AA miles again? It’s a nightmare trying to find anything but overpriced “AAnytime” Awards. #Sad!

  6. Looks like AA learned from UA’s mistakes with respect to two key areas:

    Elite Qualification – you can actually earn them on AA, albeit at half rate, unlike UA where you get only get redeemable miles
    Seat Assignments – you can actually pay for seat assignments within 48 hours of a flight, unlike UA where you’re stuck

  7. Curious to know if any of the fare sales AA recently had would land those tickets in basic economy fare class? Kind of like how tickets bought before the devAAlue to revenue based mileage earning ended up accruing miles based on the price of the ticket because you flew the route after the devAAlue and not based on when the ticket was purchased.

  8. Buying popcorn!!!! How does AA plan to enforce the “no overhead bin” policy? Let’s say I am an Executive Platinum passenger that is flying on a Basic Economy ticket. As per the rules shown above I will have priority boarding but cannot use overhead bin. Will the gate agent check my fare when I board on the priority lane? The boarding process will be a zoo!!!!

  9. @Santastico
    It pretty clearly states that if you have a CC or status you get the standard carry on allowance.

  10. @Santastico – the restriction on overhead space does not apply to elites. Same rules as before, nothing changes.

  11. @Santastico,

    Start reading sir…

    “Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage® credit cardmembers will be allowed to bring one personal item, one rollerboard, and they maintain their current free checked bag allowance”

  12. A couple of thoughts:
    1. The airline that pioneered the overuse of the word “premium” now calls their F cabin “ultra-premium” LOL
    2. With basic economy and frequent flyer devaluations, it seems like AA/DL/UA are all copying each other with minimal differences to show that one is ever so marginally better or worse than the other.
    3. Good luck with the boarding process. On full flights, most pax have to gate check when Group 2 starts to board anyway, but charging basic economy pax when the gate agents are aiming for “D0” will just slow things down even more and become a complete clusterf***.
    4. What’s going to stop someone on a basic economy fare from bringing their free under the seat “personal item” and putting it in the bin.
    5. Not sure “rollerboard” is a real word.

  13. Since it’s hard to clear domestic upgrades, if I’m okay with not even being able to try, it sounds like this could be a good deal. I know I’ll be in economy, but otherwise I still get miles, still get to bring on the same amount of luggage as before, and still get priority boarding. Seat assignment choice is annoying, but not insurmountable.

    Not the worst announcement I’ve seen from American.

  14. I wonder how this works with AAdvantage Credit Card holders. Can I still book at seat with my AAdvantage card, receive free checked bags and group 1 boarding? I am assuming yes. In that case, I guess the seat assignment is the only perk lost if you book basic economy with the AA credit card.

  15. As a lifetime gold who rarely flies revenue ftickets, this isnt a total loss. I would be unlikely to get upgraded anyway, so the only real loss is preassigned seating.

  16. “4. What’s going to stop someone on a basic economy fare from bringing their free under the seat “personal item” and putting it in the bin.”

    Nothing. American’s own official statement was the flight attendants will not be enforcing this restriction. So, effectively, the restriction will just be that you can’t bring on anything that’s too big to fit under the seat in front of you, not that you really can’t use the overhead at all. Granted, you will be boarding last, so it’s not like there will be space left in the overhead bins anyway.

  17. Looks like the airlines are in the driver’s seat now, and can treat passengers with contempt and still fill the planes and make profits. And they’re in it together.

  18. A couple thoughts:

    1) We all know that the cheapest fares will now just have this label, there won’t be cheaper fares available. So now you will have to pay more for what you get now.

    2) Doesn’t this screw business travelers that have to choose the cheapest fare? Though I guess it’ll reduce the number of elites at each level. In addition to the reduction from existing program changes this year.

  19. Have to echo Eric’s comment – how will business travelers required to pick the lowest fare be affected? Some markets (at least currently), obviously not at all. In others, however…. I wonder if companies will eventually allow business travelers in affected markets to book ‘normal’ economy….

    It will be interesting to watch the luggage thing. The last half-dozen flights I have taken with AA this year, anybody boarding in later groups was checking luggage due to full flights and lack of space, which somewhat delayed the boarding process. My question will be how will the boarding process be affected now when the group last to board actually has to check luggage, because you know people will try and get around it – many these days still have problems with TSA and security.

  20. I’m not a big fan of the basic economy fare concept in general, as I think that is about raising full-service fares rather than price competing, which is already happening.

    However, I think the large carry-on luggage restriction is FANTASTIC. The number of flights that I’ve been on recently where boarding has taken forever and delayed the flight because of passengers with endless, massive, overstuffed rolling bags that they are utterly incapable of safely lifting above their own heads is absurd. People hit each other with the bags while lifting them and when they can’t find space they go past their seat and then have to battle back down the aisle, it’s insane.

    Checked bag fees are perfectly logical because it does cost airlines real money to handle, carry, and assume liability for checked bags. And some people check absurdly heavy and large bags. Bag fees prevent light travelers from having to paying for all of this. Yet this of course results in an excess of carry-on luggage. The basic economy fares put the occasional leisure traveler / cheapskate back doing what they should be doing, checking their bags and leaving overhead bin room for those with reasonable amounts of luggage who can board and deplane quickly with it.

    I wish that all airlines would become much stricter with carryon luggage for the above reasons.

  21. Ugh! Rollerboard? ROLLERBOARD?! That doesn’t even make sense in any context. A suitcase isn’t a board by any stretch of the imagination. C’mon AA, get it together. It’s ROLL-ABOARD. Because you *roll* the stupid thing *aboard* the airplane. Jeez!

  22. @Eric, @RTBones – this came up time and again with DL and UA Basic Economy on FlyerTalk. At the end of the day, it’ll be based on company policy. My company already excludes DL basic and have stated they will exclude UA basic from our travel portal. I suspect the same will be true of AA basic.

    For your company, it’ll really be up to them. The internet denizens can’t tell you what will generally happen.

  23. These tickets are aimed at people who fled to Spirit and other ULCC’s. Does not effect regular ticket purchasers until they (some of you) start buying the cheap fares.

    Out of interest, how does the gate enforce carry on luggage at the ULCC and LCC’s?

    There is an upside to all of this, but most would rather bitch and complain.

  24. This is a hidden fare rise. For most PAX, it means they will have to pay extra fees for what they get now. Elite members can say goodbye to upgrades and sean selection, even Platinum or Platinum Pro….What a true shame….

  25. This is probably going to be a shit show when I try to fly for work as these basic economy fares are going to show up as the cheapest in our tool and make us ineligible for normal fares.

  26. We will see if there is going to be a price drop for Basic Economy fares. If there is no price competition in that area with budget airlines, these airlines might end up having more business at the expense of American Airlines.

  27. I see lots of issues with this roll out. Many complaints at the ticket counter and the gate area over this fiasco. Longer lines, we’ll need to show up 3 hours before a domestic flight just to get a bag checked now and make it through security.

    I see further delays occurring, at least on SW airlines those planes get loaded fast. On American it takes forever to get those planes loaded which is so odd to me. I see people getting upset because they’re told to fork over $$ for a carry on, but have the co-branded credit card or are an elite member. That’s not going to go well with loyal customers. As always, there will be problems and as usual AA will not handle it properly.

    And I agree with Lucky the lowest price we’re paying now for some of these so called “perks” will now be the Basic Economy price.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the airlines strip all “perks” for elite, and co-branded credit card users. If you want to take a bag you gotta buy First Class.

  28. Can someone get inside Trump’s head on this airline BS please? We just need a tweetstorm from him for all these execs to be bending over backwards to get in line. Won’t survive more than 2 years. We’ll be talking about this again in 48 months.

  29. So for customers with the American Airlines credit card on basic economy flights do you get a free carry on bag for international flights as well or only for domestic flights like with the checked bag?

  30. This Fiasco has been confusing and insulting and pretty much guarantees I’ll never fly American again unless it’s a last resort. To add to the confusion it looks like they’re backtracking and starting in September 2018 going to allow check luggage again??? Too late American I don’t care, my only consolation is that I’m bugging your reservation system now for the second time because it’s so confusing as to what I have to do on flight day to guarantee that I can actually carry on my carry-on.

  31. I just flew my first Basic Economy class trip on AA and was assigned a center seat in the back of the plane on all four legs of travel. I booked my trip well in advance and didn’t realize I wouldn’t get seats assigned until check-in time. That’s my fault (I suppose) for not realizing center seats in the back of the plane are the first ones filled by Basic Economy ticket holders upon check-in. I thought I’d try the same class of service again on a trip taking place tomorrow morning. I’m traveling with my husband this time. We’re ticketed together on the same reservation record and when I checked in this morning, the system assigned us seats aisles apart even though there are plenty of available seats together. I can see the necessity of splitting up a party if seats are limited, but this is not the case. I’ve been an American Airlines AAdvantage member since 1996 and this is the biggest disappointment I’ve ever had with them as an airline. I’ve always expected better from them and have remained loyal throughout all the fare wars, etc. Asking me to pay for a seat or be subject to whatever seat they give me has really shaken my faith in their ability to take care of the customer and provide satisfactory service. This new Basic Economy is strictly a money grabbing plan.

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