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The Expansion of Basic Economy Airfare

HomeNews hubTravel NewsThe Expansion of Basic Economy Airfare

More carriers are offering ‘Basic Economy’ fares to compete with low-cost operations like Southwest, WOW and Norwegian. Legacy airlines United, American and Delta already offer unbundled, low cost fare options, while Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, alongside their partner Iberian are implementing them this year. 

Created for customers who may be more cost-conscious, these lower-priced fares provide most of the same in-flight services and amenities that are available with standard Economy — such as food, beverages and in-flight entertainment. But what about the things that aren’t included? What restrictions should you be aware of before booking? These vary from carrier to carrier. And since American Airlines started introducing the fare class into select transatlantic routes, it can also vary within carriers. But existing basic economy fares on United, American and Delta, as the upcoming BA, Virgin and Iberia offerings have some things in common. Those being: 

Basic Economy in General

Assigned seating: The airline will assign you to a seat, although most allow you to change it for a fee at check in.

Group and family seating is not available: Basic Economy is not recommended for groups or even families who want to stick together.

Last to board: Basic economy passengers will be in the final boarding group. 

One personal item is allowed: You are allowed one small personal item that fits under the seat in front of you, such as a shoulder bag, purse, laptop bag or other item.

Locked in: Basic economy fares usually do not permit changes, although some airlines allow them for a fee subject to conditions.

Airline offerings:

Ultimately, there are many savings and advantages, in exchange for sacrificing some of the control and convenience of other fares.

United Airlines

  • No access to overhead bins
  • Single small carry-on only
  • Certain MileagePlus and Premier member benefits are not available
  • No flight changes or refunds without fee
  • You also won’t be eligible to purchase Economy Plus® or use complimentary, earned or mileage upgrades.

More information on United Basic Economy is available here.

American Airlines Domestic

  • Not eligible for upgrades
  • No Flight Changes or Refunds without fee
  • Last group to board
  • Fee for any checked luggage
  • Fee charged for seat selection

More detailed information on the American Airlines Basic Economy offering is available on their website here.

American Transatlantic

Will also board last, except for Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage credit card holders, who can access priority boarding

  • May take one large carry-on and one personal item under the same rules as current main cabin tickets
  • Fee for any checked luggage
  • Entertainment included
  • Fee charged for seat selection
  • No refunds or same-day changes.
  • Tickets can be changed on prior days for a fee
  • Not eligible for upgrades

Virgin Atlantic

  • Check In open 24 hours before flight
  • Fee charged for seat selection
  • Single small carry-on only
  • Complimentary beverage and snacks
  • Entertainment included

More information is available on Virgin Atlantic ‘Economy Light’ and other fare classes here.

British Airways

  • 50 lbs carry-on allowance
  • Fee for checked luggage
  • Single small carry-on only
  • Fee charged for seat selection
  • No flight changes or refunds without fee

More information is available on British Airways economy fare structure here.

Delta

  • Fee charged for seat selection
  • No flight changes or refunds without fee
  • Fee for any checked luggage
  • Single small carry-on only
  • Free entertainment
  • Complimentary beverage and snacks

More information on Delta Basic Economy is available here.

Iberia Airlines

Since Iberia is also owned by IAG, their Basic Economy fare is very similar to the British Airways offering.

  • Single small carry-on only
  • Fee for any checked luggage
  • Fee for seat selection
  • No flight changes or refunds without fee