No More Upgrades & Much More! AA Finally Releases Basic Economy Fares & What That Means

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American Airlines Basic Economy Fare Restrictions

American Airlines Basic Economy Fare Restrictions Announced

In a move that surprises absolutely no one, American Airlines has announced the rollout of new “Basic Economy” fares. These fares are largely designed to compete with low cost carriers such as Frontier and Spirit and are far more restricted.

According to American, “Basic Economy fares will go on sale in February in 10 select markets, with the first flights occurring shortly thereafter and expansion to additional markets expected later this year. Not every American Airlines flight will offer Basic Economy fares.” Expect these fares in markets with greater competition, especially from low cost carriers.

Basic Economy Fares come with the following restrictions:

  • 1 item that fits under the seat (no access to overhead bins)
  • Seats assigned at check-in
  • Fees to choose a specific seat
  • No upgrades no matter your elite status
  • No flight changes or refunds at all
  • Last group boarding

Here is how these restrictions compare to their normal economy fares:

aa basic econ
Courtesy American Airlines.

Elite Status & EQMs

One other thing of note is that these fares earn full Elite Qualifying Dollars and redeemable miles, however they only earn 1/2 the EQMs of a normal fare. This means that you will qualify for elite status slower and of course your elite status doesn’t matter for upgrades or choosing seats ahead of time either.

You can find the full press release along with FAQs about Basic Economy on the AA website.


We simply don’t live in the same generous world of aviation loyalty that we used to. Given the rollout of similar fares from other airlines, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Will this actually lower fares for customers or just make American force elites and other customers to pony up for higher costing tickets?

Only time will tell, but these fares combined with American’s horrible operations (in my experience), the Citi Prestige devaluation and the AAdvantage devaluation make flying on AA less desirable now than ever. What do you think?

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  1. I believe American plays games with how Executive Platinum upgrades are done on international flights. The day prior to departure there are 11 upgrade seats available, the day of departure none. I doubt there were 11 ExPlat people traveling from PVG to LAX on my flight. Is American offering to platinum members to upgrade with a copay before a systemwide ExPlat? Any other ExPlats been cheated out of systemwide upgrades when there are plenty of unsold seats the day before departure?

  2. So, not too bad for cardholders with no status (or hopes for status). Although a checked bag may still cost $25 with the card? Perhaps the standard bag fee is waive, but I’d have to pay $25?

  3. No shocker on this. I just wonder how they are going to control the overhead bins. How is a Fa going to know if Mr. or Ms. Group 9 is a discount fare person?

    • I assume you will not be allowed to bring the bag onto the plane if you have a basic economy ticket. Since you will be the last group to board, it would be very easy for the gate attendants to make sure that people in the last boarding group are not carrying a bag big enough for the overhead bins on board.


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