Say Goodbye To The Overhead Bin With American Airlines' New 'Basic Economy' Ticket

This could get ugly. 🙈
Alexander Hassenstein via Getty Images

Flying cheap? Please fasten your seat belts, and do NOT touch the overhead bins.

American Airlines announced it will begin selling “Basic Economy” tickets ― a “no frills” version of its regular Main Cabin tickets ― in select markets starting Feb. 10.

Contrary to earlier rumors, these cheaper tickets will come with the same seats, entertainment and snacks that other main cabin travelers get in the main cabin. But, they’ll come with a few other key differences:

NO carry-on bags. Fliers who purchase the cheaper Basic Economy tickets won’t be allowed to stow anything in overhead bins. Instead, they can carry one personal item that fits under the seat in front of them, or check bags for a fee ($25 for the first bag, $35 for a second).

― NO seat choice. Whereas regular customers can choose their seat when purchasing tickets, Basic Economy fliers will be assigned a seat at check-in. They can purchase a seat assignment in Main Cabin Extra or Preferred seats 48 hours before the flight, for varying fees.

― NO flight changes. Tickets won’t be refundable or changeable, not even for a fee. (Typically, you can change your flight for a fee of about $200.)

― Last to board. Basic Economy fliers will be in the last boarding group, unless they have a special credit card or Elite status (which, by the way, will be harder to earn if you buy Basic Economy fares).

The upside of Basic Economy tickets, of course, is that they’ll be generally cheaper than regular Main Cabin tickets. How much cheaper remains to be seen, but we do know the move is intended to keep American’s prices competitive with budget airlines like Spirit that offer frills-less tickets at rock-bottom prices. (This Spirit flight from New York City to Chicago, for example, costs about $46 for the base fare. A similar itinerary on American currently costs about $107.)

The change will be good news to some: By removing options like overhead bin space and seat choice, American is allowing travelers to book a potentially Spirit-priced seat on a bigger, nicer American plane ― if they don’t mind dealing with fewer conveniences.

“The idea is to give customers a choice in the kind of ticket they want to purchase,” a company press release reads.

American is the last of the three major airlines to offer this choice: United and Delta already offer Basic Economy fares.

Welcome to the future of air travel. Feel free to leave your rolling suitcase behind.

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