Basic Economy fares appear to be here to stay, and customers aren’t happy. The Big 3 airlines of American, Delta and United are giving us less and charging us more. Is it worth saving $20-$40 on your next flight?
I’ve been asked that question twice in the past few months by two different news anchors. Just a couple of months ago, I sat with Leland Vittert of Fox News discussing this question. You can see us debating the merits of Basic Economy. Leland argues that airfare is a great value, being able to fly across the country and back for a couple hundred dollars.
When I spoke with Arthel Nevill yesterday (again on Fox News), she asked a similar question. Can Basic Economy fares be a good deal for some folks? Here’s what we discussed:
Just like Leland, I think Arthel asked good questions here. And, Basic Economy fares are good for some passengers. But, it’s important to ask what your goals are for a particular trip. If you’re headed out for a wedding, business trip or a cruise, Basic Economy fares likely aren’t worth the savings. You may be at the back of the line if there’s a disruption in your travel, and you’re going to be severely limited in what you can bring onboard.
Basic Economy Is A Fare Increase Of Sorts
Since American, Delta and United have been matching cheap fares from low-cost carriers, people really aren’t saving more money today versus last year by booking Basic Economy. It’ll certainly cost you less money to buy Basic Economy, but the airlines make it painful to do so. That forces more people out of those cheapest tickets into a slightly more expensive one.
The airlines get their price increase. But, along the way they create customer confusion. In today’s travel climate, confusion leads to anger. That leads to nasty videos going viral on the internet.
The Final Two Pennies
Buying a Basic Economy ticket really isn’t all that different from flying a low-cost carrier. I flew Frontier last year. As I joked back then, I didn’t die. If you buy a Basic Economy ticket, chances are everything will work out okay. Before Basic Economy, the Big 3 used to be able to tout the fact that they had more benefits and a robust network to get you to where you’re going. Those were compelling reasons to book with them instead of the likes of Spirit and Frontier.
Now you don’t get those extra benefits the legacy carriers are offering. And you might not have the same priority to get on a different flight on their network when things go wrong. The risk might be worth the $400 I saved on my Frontier flight. But, it probably isn’t worth that $20 discount the airlines are giving you.
That’s precisely what the airlines are banking on.
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