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American Airlines is the latest to add ‘basic economy’ fares to international flights

American Airlines is the latest to add ‘basic economy’ fares to international flights


It’s less restrictive than some others, but fees can quickly add up

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The good news: flights to Europe on American Airlines might soon get a little cheaper! The bad news: that’s because American Airlines is following in the footsteps of other airlines by adding a tier known as “basic economy,” which lowers the price of airfare at the cost of some standard amenities many flyers are used to.

Starting in April, American Airlines will offer basic economy fares on trans-Atlantic flights, including those operated by British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair. The biggest tradeoff for basic economy ticket holders is that they won’t get a seat assignment until they check in to their flight. They can change the seat assignment, or pick their own seat beforehand, but for a fee. They won’t be able to upgrade their ticket after purchase, though, and won’t be able to make same-day flight changes or try to board an earlier flight on standby.

In addition, trans-Atlantic basic economy fliers will be allowed to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item on the flight but will be charged for any checked baggage. That means, unlike the basic economy restrictions on American Airlines’ short-haul domestic flights, fliers will be able to stash a bag in the overhead bin without a fee.

More broadly, American Airlines’ trans-Atlantic basic economy tickets are less restrictive than the domestic version, which is good. Just remember to double check which ticket you’re buying from now on if you’re using an aggregate service like Kayak or Expedia. Making flights more affordable sounds like a great idea, but the fees involved with getting around the restrictions of basic economy status might wind up costing some customers more in the long run. It’s a strategy that is paying off big time for airlines, which raked in almost $60 billion in fees worldwide in 2017.