Fly On The Cheap

American Airlines introduces new fare to foil low-cost carriers

American Airlines introduces new fare to foil low-cost carriers

American Airlines
American Airlines is trying to foil low-cost airline competitors. Photo courtesy of American Airlines

American Airlines has a new cheapie fare designed to compete with low-cost airlines such as Spirit and Frontier. Called the "Basic Economy" fare, American describes it as a "no-frills" ticket that gives customers the option to pay for the services they want.

Basic Economy fares will go on sale in February in 10 select markets, with the first flights occurring shortly thereafter and expansion to additional markets expected later this year. Not every American Airlines flight will offer Basic Economy fares.

As for which 10 select markets, a spokesperson said that the airline is not releasing that information yet. AA, you'd best get chopping on that, because February is only a few days away.

The fare will still come with free entertainment options, soft drinks, and snacks, and the same seats.

Seat assignments will be made automatically and only when customers check in. Paid seat assignments can be purchased 48 hours before the flight.

Upgrades are not permitted, regardless of elite status level.

Customers get only one personal carry-on item that fits under the seat such as a purse or small backpack; no overhead bin luggage is allowed. Larger carry-ons such as a rollerboard suitcase must be checked at the ticket counter for the applicable checked-baggage charge. Basic Economy customers who bring more than an under-seat personal item to the gate will incur regular checked baggage charges plus a $25 gate service charge per bag.

The goal is to limit carry-ons and reduce the number of bags in overhead bins.

But if you're part of the Elite crew or an eligible AAdvantage credit card holder, you can bring one suitcase for free along with your personal item.

Basic Economy customers will board last and will be seated in the main cabin. If you're part of the Elite crew and an eligible AAdvantage credit card holder, you can still get Priority or preferred boarding even when purchasing this fare.

Tickets are nonrefundable and nonchangeable. Use it or lose it. No same-day flight change or same-day standby. Nyet!

You can earn full AAdvantage miles when purchasing this fare. But you only get half-credit Elite Qualifying Dollars, i.e., one-half Elite Qualifying Mile per mile flown, and one-half Elite Qualifying Segment per segment flown. Boo.

American clarifies that this is not a new discount, but a new set of attributes for their lowest fares.

They won't say how many Basic Economy seats will be available on each flight. "The number will vary depending on the same factors that affect pricing generally," they say. Let's guess it'll be like the current Advantage miles, i.e., about two seats per flight. Just kidding, it's probably like four.

They'll introduce Basic Economy in 10 markets and gauge customer interest.