an airplane on the runway

American basic economy – It’s still basic, but at least it’s you got some choices…

Basic economy is the thing you really don’t want, but at the right price – try not to mind. Without the ability to assign a seat in advance, or make any changes to a reservation, basic economy is the roll of the dice that many travelers dread, but when fares are under $300 round trip to Europe, circa $20 in the USA, or even less in Europe and Asia, you make due.

Wouldn’t it be nice if basic economy was actually designed in a passenger friendly way, instead of throwing a bunch of things together, only some of which you may need? Like checked bags. Maybe you don’t need one, so don’t see any reason to pay for one, but you would like a seating assignment.

It only seems fair to give people more choice, and American Airlines is finally improving their semi dismal basic economy, with the ability to at least pay for seating assignments after booking, if you want one.

Per JT Genter at Award Wallet and View From The Wing, American’s trial of allowing passengers booked in basic economy to purchase advanced seating assignments  after booking was a positive one, and customers now have that choice, if they so choose.

To recap, the new American Airlines basic economy means…

  • You can (now) pay to select a seat immediately after booking.
  • You cannot make any changes and there are no refunds.
  • You earn only 50% of standard EQM/EQS in AAdvantage. 
  • You will board last, unless your credit card offers priority as perk.
  • You are not eligible for upgrades of any kind, regardless of status. 

an airplane on the runwayAnyone who purchases a basic economy fare on American Airlines for travel within the USA, Canada, Caribbean, Central America, Mexico or Europe can pay to assign a seat immediately after booking, rather than within 7 days when all the good seats are usually gone.

This allows passengers to avoid standard economy fares which can be a multiple higher, but still guarantee a seat which doesn’t make them regret travel. If you don’t want to pay, it’s business, or rather basic economy as usual. A seat will be assigned at check in and you get what you get.

Hot tip: it’s always worth glancing at the standard economy, premium economy and even business class prices before booking basic economy, since differences can sometimes be minimal, if any.

For travelers looking to earn elite status in the American Airlines AAdvantage Program, basic economy only awards 50% of the typical elite status points other economy fares would earn, which is an important consideration in the big ticket equation. If you don’t care about status, who cares, just book the cheaper ticket.

This is a positive move from American Airlines, and perhaps a trend of policies to come from airlines across the board, as they look to lure travelers back into airplanes. There’s typically been an inverse curve between customer happiness and the health of airline balance sheets, and with the latter on a downward trend, there’s real potential for previous perks being returned to passengers.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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