Details about American Basic Economy – No Carry-Ons, Group 9 Boarding?

Legacy US carriers are trying to compete with low cost carriers, and Delta and United have both launched “Basic Economy” product. Delta launched their Basic Economy product in 2012, which is Economy but with tons of restrictions. For example, Basic Economy fares aren’t eligible for upgrades, changes or refunds, and seat selection. However, customers are sill allowed to bring on full-sized carry-ons, and can earn elite-qualifying credits.

United introduced Basic Economy in November 2016, which comes with the same restrictions that Delta imposes. However, United is also prohibiting full-size carry-ons, and flyers will not earn elite-qualifying credits on United Basic Economy tickets.

Well, American has been reported to be launching their version of “Basic Economy” early this year, and it looks like some of the details are being leaked out. JonNYC on Twitter, who has an amazing track record on all things America, is sharing some of what American Airlines’ Basic Economy will look like. And it’s a bit unfortunate, since the early details seem to suggest that American’s Basic Economy will look a lot like United’s Basic Economy. 

Per JonNYC, here is what American’s Basic Economy will likely entail:

  • No full-size carry-ons (“personal item only”)
  • No advance seat assignments (no exception for elites)
  • No changes/refunds
  • Boards with Group 9 (presumably last, under a new boarding scheme)

It remains to be seen whether elites will earn qualifying dollars, miles, and segments on Basic Economy flights.

American Airlines Main Cabin onboard the 777-300ER. Source: American Airlines

American Airlines Main Cabin onboard the 777-300ER. Source: American Airlines

Basic Economy gives customers the illusion that they are getting a great deal. It’s a bit like Walmart’s strategy of putting things in bins, to create the illusion that the unorganized merchandise are at a discount, while in reality they are just full priced products. Airlines will argue that by taking away some of the “perks,” they can offer lower fares. However, I think in practice airlines won’t really be lowering fares to create Basic Economy; rather, they will be increasing the fares for non-Basic Economy.

What do you think of American Airlines’ rumored Basic Economy details?


  1. What basically ends up is that those who get window or aisle seats and have overhead bin space will pay a bit more, and those in middle seats and not using overhead bin space will pay a little less. I think that’s fair. The free market will dictate the overall price levels, but it makes perfect sense to price middle seat with no overhead bin space differently.

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