Last week, numerous articles lamented the recent rise of "last class" airplane seats. The discussion included suggestions that major airlines now offering cheaper tickets with less perks are treating passengers "like cattle" in a class "worse than coach."
This, fellow travelers, is simply not true. In fact, those new "last class" tickets are probably one of the greatest things happening in air travel right now. Here's why.
1. "Last class" tickets eliminate perks that you weren't going to use anyway.
The tickets being referred to as "last class" are Delta's basic economy ticket, which debuted in 2012, and American Airlines' "no frills" fare, which will debut in 2016. Airlines don't use "last class" to describe these tickets: It's merely an unofficial term (and an overly dramatic one at that). There's no word yet on what exactly the American fare will entail, but Delta's basic economy ticket is the exact same a regular economy class ticket, with three important stipulations: You can't change your flight after booking, you can't upgrade your seat to a higher class, and you can't choose your seat until the day of the flight. With the exception of choosing your seat at the time of booking, were you really going to do any of that anyway? No, you weren't. So why pay for it?
2. They allow you to fly on a major airline (more perks) for the price of a budget one (less perks).
In the U.S., budget airlines like Spirit and Frontier offer cheap base fares but proceed to nickel-and-dime passengers for extras like drinking water, printing boarding passes at the airport and storing carry-ons in the overhead bin. Buying one of Delta or American's low-cost fares will allow you to fly comfortably on a major airline, at a similar cost to budget ones. "Airlines are adding these lower, unbundled fares to compete with low-cost carriers," The Points Guy editor Zach Honig told HuffPost. As such, their prices will be competitively low, too. There is a chance American's new "no frills" tickets could subtract some in-flight amenities like free drinks, but if Delta's program is any indication, the in-cabin experience will be the same as regular coach class once you sit down in your seat.
3. And they're strategically designed to benefit last-minute travelers.
Business travelers, for example, often book last-minute trips and thus wind up with less-than-savory aisle seats. Delta's basic economy fares are meant to fix this: Preventing basic economy passengers from choosing their seats until flight day gives business passengers (or anyone wanting a window seat at the last minute) more time to book a regularly-priced ticket and choose an open seat of their liking, Delta's managing director of merchandising Andrew Wingrove told HuffPost. Under this system, the business passenger (who pays more) gets a prime window seat for a typical price, and the basic economy passenger (who pays less) gets their pick of the leftovers -- which could include a window seat but might not -- for a cheaper price. Yes, plane seats are trending smaller overall, especially on Delta. But paying a cheaper fare doesn't mean your seat will be smaller than your neighbor's. And let's be honest -- if you're going to get stuck in the last row's middle seat because you're booking a last-minute trip, wouldn't you prefer the option to pay less for it?
You'll find Delta's basic economy fares on select Delta routes. American's "no frills" fares will roll out in 2016. Also check out JetBlue's tiered fare system, where travelers can opt-in to perks like checked bags and same-day flight changes.
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