4 big catches with basic economy airfares

Don't Waste Your Money
Posted at 11:29 AM, Aug 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-31 11:58:27-04

Major airlines like Delta, United, and American are adding "basic economy" seats to more and more flights, to compete with the growing threat from discounters.

But does basic economy really save your money, or could it be a false economy?

Sounds great, but some catches

Deep discount airlines have certainly shaken the airline industry.

Frontier, Allegiant, and Spirit are taking traffic from the big carriers. Now WOW Air and Icelandair are slashing the cost of international flying, with $99 flights to Iceland, and $150 flights to mainland Europe.

So Delta, United, and American are fighting back with low priced basic economy tickets.

But Consumer Reports magazine says while basic economy may save you $60 a seat over a coach seat on the same flight, you need to know about four downsides.

Catches to know about include:

  • You can't use the overhead bin. All carry on luggage has to fit in the small space under your seat, or you will be charged extra.
  • No ticket changes are allowed.
  • You cannot choose your seat in advance of the departure date (so you will typically be placed in the rear of  the cabin).
  • You can often expect to be the last to board the plane.

How it can cost more

And from the "doesn't that stink" file, how basic economy can end up costing you more in the long run. says airlines are raising their coach fares to compensate for the cheaper basic economy. They no longer have to be as competitive on a standard coach fares, now that they have a cheaper option.

So you may pay more than in the days when coach was the cheapest class. Doesn't that stink?

AirfareWatchdog says for all those reasons, the new basic economy seats may not be your best deal, even if those fares are $50 or $60 less that a coach seat on the same flight.

Before you book the cheapest seat you can find, make sure it's really the cheapest seat, once you add all the extras, and all the perks you have to give up, so you don't waste your money.


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