What is Basic Economy?

What you need to know about Basic Economy

In recent months, the three major US airlines have announced a new class of fare called “Basic Economy.”  Intended to offer lower cost airfare to compete with low-cost carriers such as Southwest, JetBlue, and Spirit; these fares come without some features that have always been considered included.

  • No seat assignment

    Basic Economy fares do not come with a seat assignment.  Seats are assigned at check-in or at the boarding gate based on the availability, meaning that you are most likely to get a middle seat, a seat that doesn’t recline, or a seat at the back of the plane near the bathroom.

  • Families may not be seated together

    Because seats for Basic Economy fares are the last to be assigned, there may not be two or three seats together. This means that people traveling together, even families, may not be able to sit together.

  • No ticket changes or refunds

    Basic Economy tickets cannot be changed, even for a fee, and are not eligible for refunds. If your plans change and you cannot take the flight you booked, you will forfeit the entire cost of your ticket.

  • Lowest boarding priority

    Passengers traveling on Basic Economy tickets will be the last to board the aircraft.

  • No full-sized carry-on luggage

    Boarding the aircraft in the last group may not be all that bad considering that passengers traveling on Basic Economy fares are prohibited from using the overhead bins. These tickets restrict carry-ons to one personal item, usually no larger than 18 x 14 x 8 inches.

  • No frequent flier benefits

    Even if you’ve earned the top frequent flier status with an airline, that won’t matter if you’ve booked a Basic Economy fare. You will be eligible for upgrades, you will not get your free checked bag benefit, you still cannot get an assigned seat or priority boarding, and you will not earn frequent flier miles for the flight.

For more details on the restrictions of specific Basic Economy fares, visit your airline’s website:

American Airlines
Delta Airlines
United Airlines