When traveling, it’s pretty safe to say that almost everyone searches for an airfare with the same goal in mind: find the cheapest airline fares. Usually, that’s the basic economy fare.

Delta Air Lines was one of the first to create its basic economy fares, and airlines such as United Airlines and American Airlines have followed suit over this past year. These fares were originally created to compete with budget airlines like Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Air and JetBlue (just to name a few)2.

At this point, you might be asking yourself what, exactly, basic economy is. Well, it’s similar to your standard economy class, however with little to none of the perks that you would normally receive when flying standard economy. It’s by removing these perks that airlines are able to offer cheap flight fares to their passengers3.

Let’s take a look at some of the sacrifices you make when you choose to fly basic economy class.

 

Seat Selection

With normal airline fares, passengers almost always have the option to make their seat selection in advance, at the time of their booking –and if not at the time of their booking, usually 24 hours in advance, at the time of their check-in.

However, with basic economy fares, passengers are unable to select their seat at the time of their booking. Passengers flying with American and Delta can still select a seat at the time of their check-in, though if they’re flying with United, they won’t be allowed even this1.

Without advanced seat selection, business travellers are not guaranteed their seat on the plane and can easily be bumped to a later flight, right before they’re due to travel.

 

Boarding

Hopefully, you aren’t in a rush! Passengers flying basic economy are the last to board the plane and the last to disembark –and they can’t even pay an extra fee for early boarding2.

Business travellers looking to speed through the airport experience and get to their convention or meeting, choosing a basic economy fare will not be the best option and could actually end up being delayed.

 

Baggage

American and United Airlines’ basic economy passengers are severely restricted with their carry-on bag. Passengers who choose basic economy fares are allowed to bring one small sized carry-on bag onto their flight, however, it must fit under their seat since they aren’t granted access to the overhead bins.

And they’re serious about it! Those looking to board with a carry-on bag as well as a laptop case, purse, backpack, etc. must choose between the two –the other must be checked…at an additional fee. Therefore, business travellers looking to do some work on the plane will be forced to choose between their laptop and their personal items3.

 

Loyalty Points

Loyalty programs are where things become a little more complicated. While no airlines have removed the ability to earn points, some have restricted the type of points their basic economy passengers can accumulate.

If you’re a member of United’s MileagePlus program, you’re able to earn award miles with basic economy fares, but not Premiere qualifying dollars, which, when accumulated, lead to extra perks and bonuses. On the other hand, American and Delta still allow their passengers to earn elite points1.

As a result, it’s much less likely that basic economy passengers will receive complimentary upgrades, regardless of their member status.

 

Cancellation Policy

If you’re a business traveller that can sometimes experience delays or scheduling issues, choosing a basic economy fare will not be the best option, as those passengers are unable to change or cancel their ticket.

Overall, when comparing basic and standard economy fares, the savings amount roughly between $30 to $62. However, with the (numerous) additional fees that passengers can incur when flying basic economy, choosing a standard economy ticket might make more sense2.

So which should you choose? Well, we believe that, though you will have to pay a little more, by choosing a standard economy fare you will experience less stress and more comfort when travelling, which will allow you to maintain productivity while you’re on the road!

 

Sources

  1. Skift: Comparing Basic Economy Fares Among American, Delta and United by Grant Martin
  2. Consumer Reports: What You Should Know About Basic Economy Airfares by William J. McGee
  3. USA Today: Basic Economy: Are the savings worth it? by Rick Seaney

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