American Airlines rolled out Basic Economy fares this year. You don’t get a seat assignment in advance. And unless you’re an elite frequent flyer or co-brand credit card holder you don’t get to bring a full-sized carry on onboard, either. Elite’s can’t get extra legroom seats, and they can’t upgrade.
The idea is to make travel unpleasant enough that most customers will spend more to avoid the restrictions. That works sometimes when it’s $20 more, although some customers may ditch American for Southwest, JetBlue, or Alaska where there aren’t these sort of restrictions. That’s especially true where a family sitting together matters and American loses not just one sale but four or five.
Basic Economy fares are a price increase, albeit one that makes the air travel experience more complicated and more difficult to navigate through.
And sometimes they get greedy and probably really shoot themselves in the foot in the process, like when they want an extra $371 one way per person to avoid these new restrictions.
After paying an extra $371 extra the only seats you can have are middle seats unless you want to pay extra again.
I don’t know about you, but I’d just take a connecting flight on Southwest. Better yet, take Spirit Airlines non-stop and buy up to ‘the Big Front Seat’ and save a couple hundred bucks compared to that American Airlines middle.
American Airlines wants to maintain price, while competing for the most price sensitive travelers. So they offer a cheap Spirit-like price with Spirit-like restrictions (but without the option to upgrade to a domestic first class style seat for tens of dollars more) along with a more traditional price.
The problem is that it doesn’t work. They destroy their brand (maybe they’ve already done that). They anger customers. And they chase them away. And at the end of the day what do they have? Unhappy people paying Spirit Airlines prices.