American Airlines' Basic Economy

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In the modern day competitive world of airfare, with no-frills low-cost airlines competing with legacy carriers, there is a definite change—more and more legacy carriers are offering a “basic” economy fares; you get a seat, and that is about it. American Airlines is the latest to announce the introduction of basic economy fares, in the wake of other carriers such as United and Delta.

American Airlines Introduces New Basic Economy Fare

What Are the Details of American Airlines' Basic Economy Fare

The new basic economy fare from AA will offer fewer perks than standard main cabin tickets. The key differences are:

  • No large carry-ons are permitted onboard; passengers will be allowed to bring one small personal item that can fit under the seat in front of you. Bringing a large bag that needs to be checked at the gate will be charged a $25 fee. Elite members and holders of AA co-branded credit cards will be exempted from this, as well as maintaining access to their standard checked baggage allowance
  • You will not be able to reserve your seat in advance; you can pay for an assigned seat within 48 hours from the date of departure. Otherwise, seats will be assigned at random by AA’s internal system. To keep families together, the system will try and keep children under 13 seated with an adult
  • Basic Economy fares will board last. However, elite members and co-branded credit cardholders will board in the group they would have boarded with regularly if they were holding any other economy ticket
  • Upgrades and same day flight changes or standby are not allowed
  • No changes are permitted at all even for a fee
  • The basic economy tickets will earn 100% EQDs (Elite Qualifying Dollars), and only 50% EQMs (Elite Qualifying Miles) and EQSs (Elite Qualifying Segments)
  • For Transatlantic Basic Economy travel, a $75 1st bag fee applies for tickets issued on/after April 21, 2020.
American Airlines Basic Economy Infographic
American Airlines Basic Economy Infographic

Comparisons to Delta and United

These fares provide a relatively similar experience to what you'd get with Delta and United. Better than United, but not as good as Delta. United members only earn award miles and no credit towards elite status. Delta members will earn award and elite miles when using basic economy fares, and they're not limited from bringing a bag for the overhead bin — but still, no seat selection/changes/upgrades.


This move by American was to be expected and keeps with the trend undertaken by most legacy carriers. We guess these new basic fare classes are intended to enable airlines like AA, Delta and United to compete with low-cost carriers — will it happen, though? We're skeptical at best.

Source: American Airlines

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  • In case we have Gold status as well as the Citi credit card, does it help us get 2 free checked bags instead of 1 when booking basic economy?

  • I’ve only ever flown domestically, so maybe different destinations/planes offer a different view, but I’ve always been in a one-cabin plane with everyone else and never understood the difference between the different tickets and their prices. We’re all in the same space breathing the same air, yet some people are flying for less than others and it always confused me. Never understood the boarding groups either. Now I’m starting to understand a little better. So what’s the difference, then, between main cabin and business class?

  • Bobby Bowman says:

    Just traveled on a basic economy ticket with American (2 passengers on same reservation). Both legs of the journey split the seat assignments so that neither of us were allowed to seat together. Have not experienced this on similar “basic economy” fares on United, Spirit, or Frontier. Have other passengers experienced the same situation.

  • Seems like they will nickle and dime you in any way they can.

  • Wow. Absolutely NO changes, even with a fee. How consumer (un)friendly. Can’t believe how AA has changed over the years/decade. 🙁

  • says:

    With status I really don’t want to give up some of my perks to save $10. I’ll pass

  • Personally, I prefer the old bundled fares. I doubt I will take this option.

  • Wow, you can’t even reserve a seat until the last 48 hours, and there is an extra fee. Only seats left will probably be center seats. And if you have to ask how much the fee is, you probably can’t afford it.

    Guess it could be good for tiny/skinny people who have an AA credit card so that they can still bring something with them on their travels without paying a fee.

  • If you’re pinching pennies on your airfare, why fly American (or Delta or United for that matter). With basic fares you get nothing, no chance of elite levels, may as well go with the airline offering the lowest fare at the best time of day. They are not loyal to you, why should you be to any one of them?

  • Another “enhancement” from legacy airlines. Bring on the foreign competition I say.

  • Just more reasons in my “pro” column to get another card..

  • No surprise the airline companies are reviewing their price-policies.
    Anyway, the bad thing in the American basic economy is the fact you can’t bring with you a cabin luggage, even though it’s not clear if you can (and put it under the seat).

  • Is the first checked bag free with all AA credit cards? I have the Citi AA Gold WorldElite Master Card and was wondering if this card will get me a free checked bag and priority boarding. Thanks!

  • Wow! Everyday AA is more looking like a Low Cost Airlines. Since January, travels MÍA-CCs-MÍA dont bring anymore meals included In The fare

  • I do think this is a great idea offering low fares where you only get under seat space for a bag. If a few people choose this option it might make the whole baggage storage issues easier, and stop luggage needing to be gate checked sometimes.

  • I do have a Citi AA card so I can avoid most of the fees but the major concern for me is the seat assignment. Most of my travels are with family and breaking up group is definitely not acceptable. 🙁

  • I guess the sweet spot on this would be to book last minute on a pretty empty plane. Though, it all depends on the price.

  • This sounds like the Spirit business model.

  • This is awful Once again giving less and less to the occasional traveler. We had gone from no food being served to no luggage allowed.

  • The basic economy strategy will still exist but luckily just a couple of days ago the DOT put forth a potential new piece of legislation that would make declaring the price of all of the ancillary fees (baggage fees, ticket change fees, seat selection fees, check-in fees, fee differences at the airport instead of online) MANDATORY during the purchase of the ticket to an extent even more than now. So while the airlines will break the fare down into its separate elements those prices will still have to be readily visible to the consumer during the ticket purchase process which should help make buying a basic economy fare a lot more straightforward and will help to prevent people from being caught off-guard by fees they didn’t know about

  • If the basic economy fares are actually substantially lower than the regular main cabin fares, then I think this is a pretty good option for those of us who don’t travel with large carry-ons and don’t care about seat assignments.

  • the downhill slide of the travel experience continues. pretty soon we will be placed in coffin-like boxes and loaded my some machine. Ultimately we’ll get a sleeping drug injection and then shrink wrapped and stacked like cordwood.

    Seriously, I expect to start paying for chair rental in waiting areas, soft drinks on flights and access to intra-airport conveyances (escalators, moving sidewalks, trams, etc.) in the near future.

  • So now I have another reason to think about keeping AA card open

  • Unless the price difference is really all that drastic I can only see this being useful in very limited situations.

  • This seems like a push to get AA card holders. The $95 annual fee could easily be justified with the overhead bin for the large personal item, free first checked bag and the group 1 boarding. Might be worth looking into if you have the credit card. Otherwise, pack light and get used to the middle seat by the lav!

  • Is the First Checked bag free with AA credit card?

  • I suspect most of us who read this site and others aren’t going to be the type to book this fare. That said, there may be some benefit for those out there who are just needing a cheap flight somewhere, and aren’t necessarily concerned about comfort, amenities, etc. Will it work? We’ll see. In the end the market will speak.

  • Not that bad you still earn reduced millage.


    It seems that this option might be attractive if you are a holder of a AA co-branded credit card. You would still board with group 1 or 2 and you can have a overhead bin carry-on with no fee.

  • ADAM PARSONS says:

    Hope their basic E doesn’t become as bad as BA..

  • This is consisten with the debundling of the airline ticket and the travelling experience into a myriad ancillary revenue streams

  • I wonder how much the total will be if you add all the stuff they remove? I’m thinking it will be higher than the “normal fare” after all the fees (w/ taxes) get added to the basic economy fare.

  • Not bad if you have status or a card, but a double edged sword here – hard to maintain status since you aren’t earning full miles. If these tickets only save a few bucks wouldn’t be worth it unless you only fly a few times per year and don’t care about miles. In this case, an airline credit card would still give you good seats, boarding and carry ons.

  • if have aa credit card, then will not be much difference with regular economy. The next question is, how much less is basic economy gonna be…

  • Personally, it’d be hard for me to book basic economy. Booking this fare seems that you’d likely end up in a middle seat somewhere in the back.