Air travel gets more basic
Posted: February 17, 2017
Can air travel get any more miserable than it already is? The answer is yes. And major airlines are happy to bring you this new experience. United will introduce its new experience called "Basic Economy" fare early next year, selling a ticket on certain routes that offers, well, nothing except getting you to wherever you are going.
Passengers choosing the fare are restricted to a purse and single personal item - as long as both fit under the seat in front of them. Forget wheeled carry-ons. Fliers on these tickets may use the overhead bin for coats and personal items, but only if space is available when they board. Good luck with that! They're in the last boarding group. The seat is assigned after check-in or at the gate, meaning family or friends are not likely to sit together. Ticket changes are not permitted.
Delta was the first to offer basic economy on a handful of flights in 2012, with some slight differences. Carry-ons are allowed, but Delta warns that "customers will board last (and) access to overhead bins may be limited." There are no refunds, so tickets are use to it or lose it. The fare is now available in thousands of markets.
American plans to enter this race to the bottom next year, too. The airlines' spin on this is that they are offering price-sensitive customers what they want. Frankly, we have not heard many customers clamoring for less or complaining that regular economy is just too luxurious.
Basic Economy is a way for legacy carriers to compete with discount airlines such as Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant, which offer bare-bones fares that undercut larger airlines but come with an array of add-on fees.
Basic Economy is also the next progression in the nickel-and-dime model, or as the airlines prefer to call it, a la cart pricing. The difference, though, between an la cart airline fee and a dinner menu is that at dinner, you are charged separately for an entrée, appetizer and dessert, but you still get your silverware, napkin, tap water and usually bread without paying extra.