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These Domestic Airlines still allow Free Carry-On

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Basic Economy fares have taken the airline industry by storm over the last several years. If you're not aware, Basic Economy was rolled out with the idea that passengers were empowered to choose whether they wanted seat assignment, carry-on, etc. In reality, Basic Economy is simply a ploy to charge you more for what you previously got for free. Before you get pigeonholed into unexpected fees, consider the following U.S. domestic airlines that have yet to roll out these ugly new fares



As JetBlue continues its quest to compete with the major U.S. carriers, it's low-cost fares still pack in all the perks that savvy passengers want. No matter the fare category, JetBlue allows passengers a complimentary carry-on bag in addition to a personal item. It's also worth noting JetBlue provides customers with the most legroom in coach with a seat pitch of 34″ in comparison to the industry average of 30-31″. JetBlue is also the only U.S. airline to currently offer free gate to gate WiFi access.

There’s no fee for advanced seat assignment, though that will soon be changing with the announcement of a basic economy fare class coming soon.



Staying true to their “Transfarency” marketing, Southwest continues to allow passengers two free checked bags, complimentary carry-on, and no fees to change flights. The world’s largest low-cost carrier specializes is U.S. domestic flights but has expanded its travel to various international destinations that are likely tropical and south of the border. The big news this year, is that Southwest will be adding Hawaii routes in late 2018 or early 2019.

While passengers either love it or hate it; there are no prior seat assignments on Southwest. If you want to jockey for the best seat position, you need to check-in immediately 24 hours before departure. If you want to cheat the system, you can purchase EarlyBird Check-in, which automatically checks you in for only $15.

Thrifty Tip: Want to know one of the most valuable perks in the points game? Check out the Southwest Companion Pass.


Alaska Airlines / Virgin America 

A longtime staple airline for the Pacific Northwest, Alaska Airlines has expanded their route network with the merger of Virgin America in 2017. Both airlines allow complimentary carry-on bags along with a personal item in the varying class categories, in addition to free advanced seat assignment.

Inflight entertainment is also complimentary and WiFi-enabled flights can use iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger at no cost. Alaska and Virgin America will complete their merger under the Alaska brand in 2019. 

Thrifty Tip: Alaska does not have a change or cancellation fee for changes made more than 60 days before departure.


Hawaiian Airlines

Whether you’re Hawaiian island hopping or jetting to the mainland from one of the hubs that lie mostly within major west coast cities, Hawaiian Airlines is another option to avoid the dreaded Basic Economy fare. While checked bags still require a fee on Hawaiian, one carry one and personal item are still complimentary for all passengers.

Upgrading to preferred seats is an additional charge as well, but basic seat selection is complimentary. There is however an interesting “lost paper ticket” fee that if traveling outside neighboring islands is $100.

Thrifty Tip: Hawaiian does offer complimentary sport check for surf, kite, paddle and wake boards on non-stop flights between the U.S. and Australia or New Zealand.


Delta Air Lines

All Delta fares include free carry-on and earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) towards elite status (even Basic Economy). That's where the fun ends. Basic Economy fares won’t be assigned a seat until check-in or at the gate (hello middle seat) and you are also in the last boarding group. It’s also possible you won’t have space for your carry-on bag in the overhead bins in the last boarding group.

An easy way around this is by carrying one of the Delta co-branded credit cards which help you beat basic economy. Holding a Delta co-branded card gets you free checked bags and gets you priority boarding.


American Airlines

Starting on September 5th, 2018, American Airlines dialed back the restrictiveness of their Basic Economy fares. All Basic Economy fares on American now include a free carry-on bag. You still won’t be assigned a seat until check-in or at the gate and you are also in the last boarding group.

It’s also possible you won’t have space for your carry-on bag in the overhead bins in the last boarding group. However, you can beat this by carrying an American Airlines co-branded credit card. Holding a card will get you a free checked bag and priority boarding.


Bottom Line

It won't come as a surprise that all of the airlines mentioned above are customer focused and get a lot of love from passengers. While United continues to nickel and dime us by not offering free carry-on bags, there are still some holdouts. While a lot of these carriers have rolled out Basic Economy products, they are still offering free carry-on bags which is a small win for the consumer.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

2 Responses

  • I’ve always traveled with United, Continental before. I will not be traveling with them again. I need a carry on because I have a portable machine for my breathing. I’ve seen them toss those suitcases around and I don’t want it checked in. They are too expensive to be broken. I’m going to be checking with airlines that still allow a FREE checked in bag. Sorry UNITED. I need early boarding because it’s hard for me too walk and get around at times.

  • I was planning to travel to DEN with United Airlines. It seems they are the only major Airlines that charge fees for carry on . Because of that I choose another airline( AA) as they still offer no fees for carry on bag for all basic economy fares. United lost was AA gain….

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