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Over the past decade, more and more airlines have started offering basic economy tickets. These are simple, low-cost tickets that offer zero thrills. Basically, you get what you pay for. American Airlines started offering basic economy tickets in 2017, following other legacy carriers like Delta and United.
In this article, we'll go over everything you need to know about American Airlines' Basic Economy tickets.
What is American Airlines Basic Economy?
Basic Economy tickets are the lowest-priced tickets available from American Airlines. Because of the low price point, some limitations and restrictions apply to these tickets. Your seat is still in the main cabin, and you'll enjoy benefits like free drinks, snacks, and in-flight entertainment offered to the passengers next to you (who may have paid more for their seats). However, you lose out on benefits like free checked bags and choosing your seats ahead of time.
American Airlines Basic Economy Restrictions
American Airlines Basic Economy tickets offer fewer perks than standard Main Cabin tickets. While both provide seats in the main (economy) cabin of the plane, Basic Economy tickets have the following rules:
- Seat selection is not included in your ticket. Instead, you can pay an additional fee to choose your seat. Otherwise, seats will be assigned at random during check-in. To keep families together, the system will assign children under 15 a seat with at least one adult in their party.
- Basic Economy fares will board last. You'll board in group 8 or 9, depending on your destination. However, elite members and AAdvantage credit cardholders will board in the group they normally board with when holding any other economy ticket.
- The only option for changing your ticket is on the day of your flight. Fees will apply. Otherwise, you're stuck with the ticket you booked.
Comparing American Airlines Basic Economy to Main Cabin Tickets
Maybe you're trying to decide if the money you're saving by booking a basic economy ticket is worth it. Let's look at the differences between ticket types.
First, the most notable difference is that a Main Cabin ticket includes your first checked bag free for transatlantic flights, transpacific flights, and flights to South America (excluding Guyana and Suriname). Basic Economy tickets do not.
Second, a Main Cabin ticket includes the ability to change your flight ahead of time, while a Basic Economy ticket does not. Third, seat selection is free for Main Cabin tickets. Basic Economy ticket holders will have to pay an additional fee to select their seats ahead of time.
Basic Economy Baggage Restrictions
There are some important baggage rules to be aware of when booking a basic economy ticket with American Airlines:
- You're allowed one carry-on and one personal item. The carry-on must fit in the overhead bins, and the personal item must fit under the seat in front of you. This is the same as Main Cabin tickets; however, because you will board last, the overhead bins may be full, and you may be required to gate-check your bag.
- Checked bags will be charged at $30 per bag, per way for domestic, Mexico, Haiti, Guyana, Suriname, Caribbean, and Central American flights. Prices are $45 per bag each way to Panama and South America, and $75 per bag, per way for transatlantic and transpacific flights. These prices are for the first checked bag only. You can check the American Airlines website for the price of checking more than one bag.
However, you can still enjoy your free checked bag perks if you hold an American Airlines co-branded credit card. That may be one of the chief reasons to hold a card with AA.
Mileage Earnings on American Airlines Basic Economy
In 2021, American Airlines overhauled its AAdvantage program and made it easier than ever to earn Loyalty Points and gain elite status. Loyalty Points are now the only metric for earning status with American Airlines, and even basic economy tickets qualify. Travelers flying on an American Airlines Basic Economy ticket will earn two base miles and Loyalty Points per dollar spent. Basic economy tickets used to earn the same as standard economy tickets, but this reduction in 2022 means you won't earn the five points per dollar that other AAdvantage members with no status earn. However, it's better than nothing.
Benefits of Being an Elite Member or Cardholder
Some of the downsides to American Airlines Basic Economy tickets can be overcome by being an AAdvantage elite status member or holding an AA credit card. Here are some of the benefits you'll add onto your trip:
- First checked bag free, plus additional bags free depending on your status, for eligible AAdvantage status members and AAdvantage cardmembers when traveling on flights operated by American Airlines.
- Standard boarding group privileges. This includes Group 5 boarding for most cardmembers, and Groups 2-4 for Elite members, depending on your status.
- Complimentary Preferred and Main Cabin Extra seat benefits, based on AAdvantage status.
- Complimentary confirmed same-day flight changes, available for AAdvantage Executive Platinum and AAdvantage Platinum Pro members.
- Regular access to upgrade privileges, including systemwide upgrades.
Since you'll enjoy your regular checked bag benefits and priority boarding privileges with an American Airlines credit card, it's worth checking out this post: Which Citi American Airlines AAdvantage Credit Card is Right for You?
American Airlines Basic Economy tickets are some of the best on the market. For comparison, United Airlines doesn't include a carry-on bag in its Basic Economy ticket. Although you're giving up some perks when flying on basic economy tickets, they're still a great choice for travelers who only need a carry-on bag and don't need the flexibility of other ticket fares. They're also great for cost savings for those of us who hold a co-branded card that circumvents some of the basic economy ticket restrictions.
Do you buy basic economy tickets? Or are the restrictions/reduced earnings too much for you?
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