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Bad News: American Basic Economy Fares Now Nationwide

[UPDATE] American Airlines basic economy fares allow a free carry on bag as of September 5th, 2018. See our post here


To compete with ultra low cost carriers such as Frontier & Spirit, the US legacy carriers (American, Delta, United) have rolled out new fares which include few of the benefits we're used to. Amercan's new Basic Economy fare does not include overhead bin space or seat selection.

United rolled out nationwide basic economy fares in June and Delta followed suit in July. The last holdout had been American Airlines, which has offered normal Economy fares until yesterday. The dreaded fares have now been rolled out nationwide. Basic Economy is a terrible fare, which has now replaced your normal economy fare, which included carry-on and seat assignment (for the same price).


American Airlines Basic Economy

American was testing basic economy fares in several smaller markets but the fare has now rolled out nationwide. Similar to United, American basic economy fares do not allow carry-on or seat assignment. At least American fares still earn elite credit (albeit reduced).

  • Seat assignment at check-in
  • Still allows a free carry on bag as of 9/5/18
  • Fees to choose a specific seat (within 48 hrs of departure)
  • No flight changes or refunds
  • Not eligible for upgrades
  • Board in last group

American started offering the basic economy fare for customers to have more “choice”. The reality is the new basic economy fares are now the same price as the old economy fares which included seat assignment and carry-on. The whole basic economy concept is just a way to squeeze more money out of passengers. You will now have to pay additional fees to get what you had before.


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Warning on AA.com when purchasing a BE fare


Careful when searching!

If you are searching with Google Flights, you will be notified of an American basic economy fare. If you book through AA.com you will have the option to upgrade to a normal “Main Cabin” fare (for a fee).


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Google Flights search


Priceline is even trickier. They barely give you any warning at all (except the small highlights below) and I expect many customers will buy their ticket without realizing they are getting a basic economy fare. If you try to bring a carry-on aboard, American will charge $25 at the gate. I feel terrible for the gate agents who have to enforce this new rule.


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Sample Priceline Fare


AAdvantage Elites & AA Credit Card holders

AAdvantage elite status members and Citi / AAdvantage or AAdvantage Aviator Mastercard cardmembers are exempt from certain restrictions. Check out the specifics here.

Elites and AA credit card holders can:

  • Take 1 item free of charge to store in the overhead bin
  • Keep your priority or preferred boarding privileges
  • Keep your checked bag benefits

Award miles and elite qualification

  • Award miles and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) earned based on ticket price
  • Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) earned at a reduced rate of 0.5 per mile/flight segment flown


Bottom Line 

I no longer post American Airlines Basic Economy domestic fares to this site as we have the minimum expectation of carry-on bags on domestic flights. Make sure to watch out for those basic economy fares next time you’re searching for a cheap flight. A great way to avoid some of the worst parts of the new Basic Economy fare is to pick up an American Airlines credit card. If you would like to apply for a card, make sure to visit our Top Credit Cards section.

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