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Lufthansa Will Start Selling Basic Economy Fares to and from Europe

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Basic economy continues to spread to long-haul international flights. Germany’s Lufthansa and its subsidiary airlines – including Austrian, Swiss and Brussels Airlines – will start selling basic economy fares between Europe and the U.S. this summer, the airline group announced Tuesday.

These are the bare-bones, no-frills fares that come without checked bags and seat selection. It’s important to note that you can add-on those features for extra fees. Basic economy passengers on Lufthansa Group airlines will still be allowed carry-on luggage for free.


The Basics of Basic Economy to Europe

Competition from low-cost airlines like Norwegian and WOW air is heating up. So it was only a matter of time before these bare-bones fares spread to more and more traditional carriers. The Lufthansa Group is just the latest to go down this path, and more will almost certainly follow.

Lufthansa is calling these “Economy Light” fares, touting them as a cheaper option to fly between North America and Europe on Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Brussels, and Eurowings. Economy light passengers can have a carry on (up to 17.6 pounds) and otherwise get the same economy experience. Of course, you could purchase a checked bag or select your seat separately.

The airline group hasn’t said exactly how much those add-ons will cost. However, the chances are, if you need both a checked bag and advanced seat assignment, you’d be far better off just buying a regular economy ticket.

It’s unclear exactly when these basic economy fares will go on sale. The airline group just says “summer 2018.” When it does, it will join American Airlines and its Oneworld alliance partners like British Airways and Iberia in selling basic economy for flights across the Atlantic. Delta and Skyteam partners Air France/KLM and Alitalia did the same, though those flights are only available from select markets.

The lower price upfront may be alluring, but it’s important to crunch the numbers for yourself to figure out if basic economy makes sense. Take this Delta flight from Detroit to London as an example.


Lufthansa basic economy


It’d cost you $130 more for a regular economy fare – a standard price spread between the two offerings on Delta and other airlines.
Seeing as Delta charges $60 per person each way for a checked bag, it could make sense to just buy the main economy fare. And if picking your seat is important to you, it’s a no-brainer to pay the bigger fare.

That math likely holds true no matter which airline you’re flying. So be sure to do the math yourself before buying a basic economy fare.

Thrifty Tip: Want to beat Delta basic economy fares on flights in the U.S. or abroad? Holding an American Express co-branded Delta credit card helps you beat basic economy. 


Bottom Line

More choice is good, but you still have to make the right choice. If you’re traveling alone and always pack in a carry-on, these basic economy fares can make sense. But if not, consider buying up to the regular fare.  These developments generally roll out across an entire airline alliance. So we wouldn’t be surprised to see United announce a basic economy offering for flights to Europe in the coming days or weeks.


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