American Airlines is launching a new discounted fare class called Basic Economy. It does away with free overhead-bin space for carry-on baggage, you board last, can’t pick your seat, and there are no changes or refunds. Members of American’s AAdvantage frequent flyer program will receive no free first class upgrades and elite status qualification is cut in half, though they will earn frequent flyer miles. Regular checked bags cost as well, just like with standard coach class tickets. Personal items like a backpack or purse are still allowed, though they must go beneath the seat in front of you.
AA joins United and Delta in offering the heavily discounted fares, which generally come with fewer perks — even in a domestic airline industry that is the butt of many jokes when it comes to customer service. But the point of these no-frills classes, according to airlines, is to offer cheaper flights (and make even standard coach tickets seem slightly more premium). First class costs more than coach, and coach is more expensive than these basic fares.
For American, the on-board experience — that is, once you’re in your seat — is identical to everyone else in coach. Free drinks and a snack, in the same seats. For AAdvantage elite members, there is one small bonus, however: they can still put a bag in the overhead bin, and still receive their standard free checked bag allowance. American says Basic Economy is necessary to compete on price with ultra low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier. Basic Economy fares go on sale next month in 10 markets, with expansion to additional markets coming later this year. Not all flights will offer the fare.