American Airlines issued a press release today announcing the introduction of its Basic Economy fares, matching the new fare class set out by Delta and United.
Basic Economy (BE) is a class of service right below traditional economy and is meant to compete with the Spirit Airlines of the world. You’ll get a discount on the traditional economy fare but, in exchange, give up certain privileges. Sure, the in-flight experience will be mostly the same (same seats, free beverages, free entertainment), but that’s about it. In particular:
- Your seat assignment comes at check-in. Want to choose your seat? You can pay to do so, 48 hours out.
- No upgrades, regardless of elite status.
- You’ll board last, which is okay, since you don’t get to put anything in the overhead (for free). Note: Elite members and credit card holders still get a bag and their regular boarding position.
- Tickets are “use it or lose it.” No stand-by, no same-day changes.
- You’ll get full redeemable miles, but only 1/2 the miles/segments toward elite status.
What Does It Mean?
To be clear, AA has no intention of reducing amenities for all of their passengers. The airline has spent too much time increasing benefits. But it cannot afford to offer its traditional product at the same price as the ultra-low cost carriers do. This pricing structure allows the airline to match the ULCCs, while maintaining a product advantage for traditional economy customers.
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