Basic economy fares are being marketed as a passenger friendly option for affordable air travel. That sounds great doesn’t it? I can’t say I’d market it any differently, since it certainly sounds a lot better than a fare that virtually guarantees the middle seat, while also guaranteeing no savings whatsoever. Here’s everything you need to know about basic economy fares and how they’re changing the way we travel. 

The Pros

Basic economy fares unbundle perks that some travelers simply don’t want or need, like checked bags, meals and or seating assignments. Budget carriers have specialized in these fares, stripping things down allowing for incredibly cheap, frill fee travel and it’s worked, they’re consistently the most profitable airlines. Basic economy fares are a PRO on routes where budget carriers operate, because it forces major airlines to drop prices or lose butts in seats. That’s a good thing and for those that don’t want the frills, it makes travel more affordable.

The Cons

Not every route is operated by a budget carrier and with the success of budget carriers, major airlines are now playing the basic economy fare game, just without dropping the prices! What the heck! Major airlines are now stripping away the ability to select seats, charging for bags and depriving flyers from elite benefits or the ability to collect miles on routes that they dominate, and they’re not even dropping prices accordingly. Essentially, on flights where all the above such as meals, bags, seats used to be free, they no longer are and if you want them you’ll pay extra. Yes, more than you used to pay for the same exact seats and flights. All three major US airlines are launching basic economy fares, essentially saying we only care about your loyalty when you pay extra for it. That’s NOT how I see loyalty…

The Middle Seat…

The idea of paying major money just to snag a seat is ludicrous to many. Smart travelers research the best seats on their flight in each cabin and immediately select the best available seat before monitoring the seating assignments to see if an even better one pops up. With that in mind, those on basic economy fares, who can only get a seat at check in or gate are going to be playing with a loaded deck, where all the aisle and window seats are loaded or cost extra. That sucks. 

What You Can Do…

I’m all about points, miles and loyalty, but if my preferred airline is trying to gouge me and strip benefits, I’ll happily fly a competitor, suck it up, pay the extra ten bucks for a seat (presuming it’s cheaper than the major airline fare) and make due. Voice your displeasure with your airline if you find their policy or pricing abhorrent, do your best to know what you’re buying before paying and save your miles.