RUMOR: American Airlines To Roll Back Carry-On Restrictions On Basic Economy Tickets?

Amidst the craziness of a couple of family vacations and scaring the bejesus out of my wife, I missed an interesting development about Basic Economy.  You should know what Basic Economy is by now.  But, just in case you don’t….

What’s Basic Economy?

These are new-ish fares the airlines came up with a couple of years ago.  They aren’t cheaper, even if the airlines told us they were.  They are more restrictive.  In some cases, you don’t get a seat assignment.  In others, you might not be able to bring on a full-size carry-on bag.  And, the delight for consumers is that different airlines offer different restrictions.  The airlines essentially created a product they don’t want you to buy.

Changes Coming?

View From The Wing reports a rumor that American Airlines will start allowing a full-size carry-on bag with Basic Economy fares.  He seems pretty certain of the change and Gary is usually spot-on with such things.

The interesting thing wrinkle here may be that the change is happening because of operational difficulty rather than customer push-back.  Basic Economy tickets are “use it or lose it” type tickets that don’t have flexibility.  This makes them less popular with business travelers.  Occasional travelers are frequently looking for the absolute cheapest fare.  And, occasional travelers are less likely to be familiar with the booking process.  So, maybe more of them are showing up with bags to the boarding gate, only to be refused?  And, that could be slowing down departures.

I Don’t Buy It

Regardless of what Gary details, I don’t think D0 can really be the reason here.  Sure, that could be the reason that American is telling their employees.  They may even believe it.  But, if checking bags for a handful of customers (or even a couple dozen customers) at the gate is causing flight delays, there are ways to deal with it.  For starters, the airline could force Basic Economy customers to appear at a ticket counter to get their boarding pass.  An agent there could inspect their baggage to make sure it complies well before the gate.  This might annoy customers, but the airlines already do plenty of that.

The Final Two Pennies

If they were really committed to Basic Economy, if it was really contributing noticeably to profitability, I don’t think the airlines would improve it.  The whole point of the product is to make us not want to buy it.  Improving basic economy just means more people buy it.  And, that’s bad for the airlines.  Because, as this latest report seems to indicate, Basic Economy customers involve more touch points for the airline at the airport.

I guess you could argue that the airlines could spin the improvements as a better product than Spirit or Frontier.  But, Spirit is adding Wi-Fi on their flights.  And, Frontier really isn’t that bad.

The post RUMOR: American Airlines To Roll Back Carry-On Restrictions On Basic Economy Tickets? was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. Pushing that conversation about forcing a checked bag (and collecting payment) to the last boarding group at the gate 5 minutes before the door closes was never a recipe for long-term success. Especially since at least half the time I’ve noticed the agents offering to check bags “as a courtesy” just to entice people to get rid of their bags and hopefully speed up boarding.

Leave a Reply