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American Allows Basic Economy to Pay for Seat Selection at Purchase

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Among the long, long list of reasons basic economy hurts travelers, the inability to pick your own seat is at the top. Airlines use the prospect of getting stuck in a middle seat between two strangers to convince flyers to pay up for a more-inclusive fare.

But in reality, most of the major airlines allow travelers to pay a fee to pick their own seat. And American Airlines' policy just got a lot better.

American now allows travelers buying a basic economy fare to pay for a seat assignment at any time from check-out to check-in. Previously, you could only pay for a seat within seven days of departure. J.T. Genter first reported the change.


Read our guide to American Airlines' basic economy fares – and how to beat them.

Basic economy is still a drag. But this is a great change that gives flyers more time to snag the seat they want rather than waiting until the cabin fills up – or getting assigned a seat at the gate.

This puts American in line with United, which also allows basic economy fares to purchase a seat assignment right away. Delta only allows you to pay for a seat within seven days of departure – but also gives flyers a window to pick a seat for free.

And in American's case, these seat assignment fees are pretty reasonable, starting at $10 or $11 for a standard aisle or window seat. Here's a look at the seat map for an upcoming flight between Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) and Miami (MIA).
airline seat map

If getting a seat next to your travel companion is your top priority, it likely makes more sense to buy a basic economy fare and pay extra for seat selection than paying the $70 additional airlines charge for a round-trip main cabin fare.

Thrifty Tip: Want an even better seat without paying for it? Read up on a strategy to get a Main Cabin Extra seat for free even when flying AA basic economy.

Bottom Line

This is a small but important change for basic economy fares on American. You can now pay for a seat assignment from check-out until check-in. And with reasonable fees to pick a seat, that's good news.

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.

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