American Airlines Unveils a Cheaper Ticket with a Big Catch: Here's What You Need to Know about 'Basic Economy'

United commercial airliner cabin man woman overhead luggage bin suitcases
Photo: Jeff Greenberg/UIG via Getty

American Airlines is offering you a cheaper ticket, but it’ll cost you.

The airline announced today that it is introducing a Basic Economy fare in ten markets starting in February that will be similar to the one that United Airlines recently unveiled. While this lower price ticket offers the same in-flight services, there’s one benefit that’s notably missing: access to the overhead bin.

“One personal carry-on item that fits under the seat (such as a purse or small backpack) is allowed,” a press release on their website reads. “No overhead bin luggage may be brought on board.”

The release goes on to say that larger carry-ons must be checked at baggage. And, if the personal item a passenger brings on doesn’t fit under their seat, they will be charged a regular checked bag fee ($25 for the first bag), plus a $25 gate service charge.

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“We hope that limiting carry-ons to a personal item will result in fewer bags in overhead bins,” the statement reads. “For Basic Economy customers, planning ahead to check a bag at the ticket counter or kiosk ensures a smoother travel experience without worrying about bin space.”

In addition to a lack of storage space, further restrictions make it likely the Basic Economy customer will land in the middle seat. A chart shared by the airline, below, dictates that these ticket holders will be assigned a seat at check-in and board in the last boarding group.


“Basic Economy customers will comprise the last boarding group and will be seated in the Main Cabin,” the release says. “Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage credit card members will continue to receive Priority or preferred boarding even when purchasing this fare.”

The goal with adding Basic Economy to their travel portfolio, according to American Airlines president Robert Isom, is to have an suitable option “to offer every customer, from those who want simple, low-price travel to those who want an ultra-premium experience via First Class.” He goes on to say that, “this new fare product also gives American the ability to compete more effectively with the growing number of ultra low-cost carriers.”

Maybe the money saved on tickets can go toward buying a bigger backpack.

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