- Last group to board, no full sized carry on allowed (“personal item only”).
- No residual ticket value for changes, no same day changes or standby, use it or lose it.
- Seat assignments at check-in or for an extra charge 48 hours before travel.
- No upgrades.
- 100% of redeemable miles and elite qualifying dollars (which are earned based on fare), but only 50% elite qualifying miles and 50% elite qualifying segments.
- No re-accommodation on other airlines if your flight goes mechanical, and bottom of the list for automatic re-accommodation on other American flights.
These fares are now on sale for travel starting March 1. These are not new lower fares. These are new restrictions on the lowest fares American already offers.
Here are the 10 launch markets although the cities these fares are in will grow:
You’ll see a simple search for Charlotte – Philadelphia shows Basic Economy clearly. Surrounding days where the lowest fare is higher than $133 aren’t offering Basic Economy.
They provide the restrictions on Basic Economy fares right on that page. Click and get a popup:
Note though that this is misinformation, while Basic Economy customers do not get to bring on a full sized carry on, there is no policing where you put your personal item. You absolutely can store it in the overhead bin if there’s room. Once you’re on the plane your “Scarlet B” goes away, flight attendants aren’t supposed to treat you any differently than other passengers in back.
If you choose the Basic Economy fare, American will warn you. Delta was criticized for this, calling it “hate selling” but this is exactly what American should do — make sure that customers know what they’re buying (and try to get customers to spend more).
American’s implementation seems perfectly reasonable but I was interested to see how it’s being handled through online travel agency sites like Expedia. American has the good fortunate here that Basic Economy capabilities have been built out since Delta paved the way.
When I search for the lowest fares, there’s no warning about what I’m buying on Expedia.
Above the fold there’s a little note that this is Basic Economy, however I’m congratulated not warned.
Scroll down to book and it’s clear there are more restrictions, but without digging in the only notable one is lack of seat choice.
Looking at the details there’s a bit more, but they reveal you can’t have priority boarding — not that you’re last to board and nothing about inability to bring on a full-sized carry on.
I think customers doing their bookings through Online Travel Agency sites are going to be doing a lot of complaining at the gate, and swearing off the airline in the future. American’s brand is really in the hands of the sales channels here, and it’s not being well-represented.
Former Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza used to say that nearly all of the complaints the airline received came from customers booking through other channels, not through Spirit’s website, because they were setting customer expectations appropriately. He seemed to revel in customer complaints, they underscored how cheap a product Spirit was offering.
But American Airlines does have a brand, and customers aren’t being told through Expedia the full weight of the restrictions on these fares.
Right now these fares are only available in non-stop markets. Perhaps it’s not worth connecting on Delta to get both the cheapest fare and a carry on bag. As these fares spread to routes where there’s greater legacy airline competition we’ll see how American really does with them. At that point literally no one should buy one of these fares from American, and probably shouldn’t buy up to a more expensive one on American either.
Remember that co-brand credit card holders and elite frequent flyers still get priority boarding and full-sized carry ons when booking these fares.
Update: Expedia now appears to have added ‘no carry on bags’ to their list of restrictions on this fare. I don’t think the comparison of fare types is as clear there as it is at AA.com, but at least the information of what’s being sold is available during the booking process.