More Details About American’s New Basic Economy Fares

Filed Under: American

As we’ve known for a while, American will begin selling basic economy fares as of later this month.

Among US carriers, Delta was the first to introduce “basic economy” fares. On paper, this is an attempt to compete with ultra-low cost carriers like Spirit and Allegiant.


The intent is that the cheapest fares in some markets will come with even fewer benefits, like not being eligible for any sort of ticket changes (even for a fee), not allowing advance seat assignments, not allowing free upgrades, etc. The logic is that this will allow them to compete with low cost carriers on price, when they might not otherwise be able to.

How United is doing basic economy fares

In November United revealed a lot of details about the introduction of their basic economy fares. United will begin selling basic economy later this month, for flights as of the second quarter of the year. In addition to following Delta’s lead, United is getting significantly more punitive with these fares:

  • You won’t receive any elite qualifying credit, meaning no elite qualifying miles, elite qualifying segments, or elite qualifying dollars
  • You won’t be allowed to bring on a full size carry-on, but rather will be limited to a personal item (there’s an exception for elite members and those with United’s co-branded credit card)

They’ve created a system that punishes both elite members (by not giving them elite credit) and non-elite members (by not allowing them a carry-on). While we’ve known American is introducing basic economy fares, the exact details haven’t yet been revealed.

More details about American basic economy fares

While I’m in the process of confirming directly with American, JonNYC has revealed some details regarding what we can expect from their basic economy fares. Based on what we know:

  • No changes will be allowed to basic economy fares, even for a fee
  • No complimentary advance seat assignments will be allowed, and there’s no exception for elites; you’ll be able to pay for a seat assignment starting 48 hours out (or otherwise will be assigned a seat at check-in)
  • Much like with United, no carry-on bags will be allowed, and any bags that need to be checked at the gate will be subject to the prevailing checked bag fee, plus an additional fee; elite members and those with the American co-brand credit card will be exempt
  • Basic economy fares come with Group 9 boarding; elite members and those with the American co-brand credit card will be exempt
  • No upgrades or same day flight changes will be allowed
  • Basic economy fares will earn 100% EQDs, but only 50% EQMs and EQSs

I suspect the above will be confirmed officially soon, and we’ll probably learn some additional details as well.


Bottom line

Assuming the above information is correct, American basic economy fares won’t allow any changes, seat assignments more than 48 hours, etc., as you’d expect. However, they’re also following United’s lead in not allowing carry-on bags for non-elites.

On the plus side, American isn’t being quite as punitive as United when it comes to basic economy fares, as they’ll continue to offer some elite credit on these fares. Meanwhile United isn’t offering any elite credit on basic economy fares.

What do you make of American’s potential basic economy fare details?

  1. If you consider that Scott Kirby moved from AA to UA, perhaps you will notice that UA is actually following AA lead and not vice versa.

  2. hahaha AA’s basic economy becomes the worst of all three, and DL is actually the least worst. What a time to be alive.

  3. How are they going to monitor different carry on baggage allowance during the boarding. AA is horrible at their boarding process this will make it worse

  4. I’m an AA Gold who has been flying Frontier lately (a few months) because their prices on some shorter flights have been significantly cheaper than the legacies (< 50% of the price). Frontier offers no free bags (including carry-on), advanced seat assignments for a fee, terribly hard seats with limited leg room, no complementary drinks/snacks, no entertainment/wifi and their operations are horrible leading to consistently delayed flights.

    My point is, Lucky, you use the words punish and punitive because for an elite flyer, this is a significant downgrade, but if AA, UA or DL matched Spirit, Frontier, etc. with price and offered the exact same amenities (or lack thereof) they would still be the clear choice for any flyer because of their operations. My point is for people who actually have considered and taken LCCs, are you seriously upset with these restrictions knowing what you otherwise would get?

  5. @Tommy Trash….. yeah, you right.
    My favorite (and its a mock of the AA boarding process…. is the SNL skit on……. Saturday Night Live THE BOARDING OF FLIGHT 314. This is a mirror of the AA boarding process. Tina Fey has about 2-dozen (special) Boarding Groups that board prior to Group 2.

  6. American Airlines is already implementing the scheme of choosing the seat only at the airport for a discounted economy ticket. Last December I went to Europe for a $550 economy class ticket purchased through American Airlines. Outbound on BA I was able to assign the seat and checking online within 24 hours of the departure.

    The inbound through American Airlines, even at the airport the agent was not able to assign a preferred seat like a window seat. The computer automatically assigned me the middle seat. The agent said she is not able to override the seat assigned by the computer.

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