The new “Basic Economy” fares being rolled out by US airlines are expected to cost about the same as the carriers’ former economy fare but with fewer perks attached, according to a report by The New York Times.
American Airlines was the latest major US carrier to debut the new class of service, which offers a seat on the plane but not much more — Basic Economy passengers on American can’t carry bags on board or select their seats in advance, for example. United Airlines and Delta offer similarly structured fares.
Airlines contend that the fares are designed to compete for travellers who might otherwise choose to fly with discount carriers like Spirit Airways, Frontier Airways, or Allegiant Airlines.
But analysts say the basic economy fares may offer little or no cost savings when compared with the economy-class seating they replace on the bottom rung of airlines’ seating hierarchy.
“The same product is going to be more expensive,” George Hobica, president of airfarewatchdog.com, told The New York Times.
In some cases, travellers may do better paying for a regular economy ticket than purchasing a basic economy seat and adding service a la carte.
For example, the Times reported, a round-trip United Airlines flight on May 9, 2017 from Minneapolis to Denver was priced at $136 for basic economy and $176 for standard economy. Add the cost of checking a bag ($25 each way) and the cost of flying basic economy winds up costing more ($186).