a row of seats with monitors on them
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Bags? Sure. Benefits? No.

Mark your calendars – come April, flights won’t likely get any cheaper, but your benefits will dwindle when booking the cheapest fares across the Atlantic ocean with more and more airlines. American, British Airways, Finnair and Iberia have announced official plans to join their robust transatlantic competition in the race to offer passengers fewer benefits on their lowest priced   “deals”. If you’re a fan of checked bags, good seats and other perks, you’ll want to steer clear of these tricky new offerings.

a close-up of a couple of suitcasesBasic Yes, Cheaper No

Basic economy is marketed as a way to offer customers lower fares. Airlines use the word “choice” to make it sound like you’re more in control of your travel wallet, with new ways to save. Reality check: you’re not. We eventually bought into this ideology for short flights, but it does not wash for long haul transatlantic. Airlines really just want to charge more for perks you presently receive. We can understand cutting checked bags as some “lite” fares have done, but subjecting passengers to embarrassment like mandatorily boarding last is simply cruel. The things included in your ticket are disappearing and the things you need to pay extra for are now everywhere. The cheapest fare you see is probably not the deal you want. You’re essentially being forced to pay up or suffer.

What’s Changing

A race to the bottom? Lufthansa, Alitalia, AerLingus, Delta, Air France, TAP Portugal, American, British Airways, Iberia, KLM and Lufthansa either offer basic economy or will within a month. When this happens, passengers won’t receive a checked bag and will board last. Many of these airlines will also prevent passengers from selecting a seat assignment before check in begins, effectively guaranteeing a middle seat on a 6+ hour flight.

a seat in a planeNo Upgrades

Translation: value your business, but only when you overpay. Customers on American Airlines, even elite frequent flyers will not be able to use any tools to upgrade these fares. British Airways frequent flyers will also lose their standard checked baggage allowance. It’s been amended to “none at all” on these fares. Seat selection will remain free for British Airways elite members. This sets a unique and dangerous precedent. An airline which is willing to cut guaranteed benefits at any moment makes loyalty a one way street.

Europe Or America Without Luggage?

We’ve got brilliant tips for traveling without checked luggage, but for an extensive trip to Europe or the US of A, it could certainly prove difficult. Forcing people to shell out an estimated extra $75 per ticket to check a bag or avoid a terrible seat will make transatlantic travel more difficult for many. On busy flights, boarding last could mean treacherous work for even getting a carry on bag to remain in the cabin! We’re not fans of these changes. We understand that other airlines have already done so, but a race to the bottom is not an admirable one to win.

How will these changes affect your purchases and loyalty decisions?

HT: ViewFromTheWing

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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  1. This is all very sad…but, in the end the airlines will pay the price and lose customers.

  2. I mean people fly Norwegian all the time and those fares don’t come with checked luggage…

  3. I’ll just fly Norwegian. I’ve flown them a couple of times and I know what I’m getting. The 1st time I flew with them I didn’t fully understand what was included and what wasn’t. The 2nd time around I was more prepared so I paid extra so I can check in a bag, choose a seat and get meals and drinks because it was a longer trip so I needed more things than my carry on can hold. My usual trips to Europe are only around 4 days so a carry on will be fine and maybe just pay extra to choose a seat. I think it’s much more simple than trying to remember what i get and what i don’t get with basic economy. As for collecting miles/points, they make it so hard these days it’s almost not even worth it.

  4. This is of course made a lot easier for the airlines because the regulators allowed these airlines : British Airways, American Airlines, Iberia and Finnair to route share across the Atlantic. The revenue from any flight across the Atlantic is shared between these 4 no matter which one the passenger flies. Do you think this is a cartel that allows them to fix prices? or effectively increase prices, by taking away what they all previously gave free?

    The airlines already did this with seating. To get the Economy seat quality I used to get iincluded in my ticket very very few years ago, I now have to Pay Premium Economy. Which increases my ticket price by 100% quite a lot of the time.

    Because they all work together, this is so much easier for this big group of airlines to achieve. Consumers can;t fight them because they’re all in it together. Is this consumer choice? Or is this a cartel that the regulators need to break up.

    1. I totally agree. And from what I’ve read from Lufthansa and KLM-AF are going to be doing the same. They’re doing this I think to counter Norwegian’s rapid expansion but Norwegian. I used to favor the legacy carrier but now they’re taking away what made them different from LCC.

  5. That will be me not flying BA anymore when my Exec membership drops later this year. Time to find another airline to use!

    If you want budget, you fly budget! Airlines copying budget airlines = poor business model and loss of loyal customers. You should stand out and be different.

    Double standards, they increase benefits in certain areas, promote them and then do this. It’s not always pheasible to fly in a higher class than economy or necessary.

    This is where budget airline excel, people want cheap fares and will sacrifice certain things. If BA, American are trying to win budget airline business this could be the end of them! Especially as budget airlines are looking to expand beyond economy!

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