This is When AA Basic Economy Fares Are a REALLY Bad Deal! - Running with Miles
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This is When AA Basic Economy Fares Are a REALLY Bad Deal!

Written by Charlie

Basic economy airline tickets may not be that great of a deal when you find out what you are missing. But, here is one basic economy ticket that is a REALLY bad deal!

Advertiser Disclosure

If you have tried to book tickets on United or American Airlines recently, you may have found yourself being alerted with a pop up to notify you that the price you are trying to book is for basic economy. A basic economy fare eliminates a lot of things that people are used to having when booking domestic flights on these airlines, things like seat selection, mileage earning, and the ability to take a rollerboard on the plane (amongst other things).

This is When AA Basic Economy Fares Are a REALLY Bad Deal!

If you think that sounds a lot like airlines such as Spirit and Frontier, you are correct! To make it even more noticeable, you will be boarding the aircraft on United and AA as the absolute last group. I mean, at least Spirit and Frontier passengers know that many have booked cheaply but United and AA will make sure everyone on board knows you booked the cheap tickets. 🙂

What Will You Lose With Basic Economy?

If you are an elite member or a credit card holder with that airline, there are a couple of things you can bypass – like being able to take a regular sized carryon on board. But, you will still not be eligible for upgrades, flight changes, etc.

bad deal basic economy

United’s basic economy offering vs regular economy

You will need to compare the fares between basic economy and regular economy to see if you are getting the best deal for your flight. When they are about $20 apart, it might make more sense (especially as an elite member ) to just go ahead and grab the regular economy ticket. But, if you are traveling with a family (like we were on a recent booking), that extra $20 can add up very quickly! At the same time, I really do not want my family to be split up all over the plane (even Ryanair allows free seat assignments for children, with a paying adult).

basic economy bad deal

A typical basic economy vs regular economy AA window

When Basic Economy Is An Even Worse Deal!

But here is one instance when the basic economy fare is even more of a bad deal than it might already be! Our family needed to book tickets from Orlando to Phoenix next year and we were hoping to grab the tickets on AA (to take advantage of the non stop flight). Here is the price we were offered:

basic economy bad deal

The cheap fare for Orlando to Phoenix

Not bad, right? However, based on my previous searches, I knew it would likely be an extra $20 per ticket to purchase the basic economy tickets.

Nope! I was, in fact, being given the price for regular economy – a full $40 per person cheaper than basic economy! If you look at that route for the next several months, it is the same for many of those flights.

basic economy bad deal

AA was “offering” me basic economy at an even worse price than regular economy!

Good News for Sale Fares?

What in the world?! On one hand, I would assume that the $59 regular economy price is a sale they are running and that offers some good news! Namely, that AA may offer sale prices on regular economy tickets vs running them as discounts to the basic economy prices. On the other hand, why even offer basic economy on those flights?! Are they really going to get someone to choose to pay more for less?

At any rate, we got exactly what we wanted at the nice, low price of $59 per person. Not a bad deal at all – especially when compared to the bad deal of basic economy on that flight!

Moral of the story? Do not be so quick to push that basic economy button before you check out the regular fares or scroll down the page!

Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

3 Comments

  • That’s interesting from an IT/programming point of view; “computer doesn’t do what you want it to do – it only does what you tell it to do”
    So in this case there’s inventory across the fare codes and the system just pulls it up as it would like anything with the glitch of a final sanity check against special or “sale” fare etc

  • I think you have some typos in this paragraph, as you mention basic economy both times, when I believe one instance should be “regular economy”:
    Not bad, right? However, based on my previous searches, I knew it would likely be an extra $20 per ticket to purchase the basic economy tickets.

    “Nope! I was, in fact, being given the price for basic economy – a full $40 per person cheaper than basic economy! If you look at that route for the next several months, it is the same for many of those flights.”

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