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.
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).
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:
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.
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!