While the aviation industry has allowed for many amazing things—mainly the ability to travel to opposite ends of the earth within 24 hours—it can still be quite costly flying. The average domestic cost of a ticket is approximately 400 dollars. For many, that is quite exorbitant, especially when traveling by air typically includes other hefty fees such as hotel fare.
And although the price of airline tickets has gone down considerably since the late 70s, airlines are looking to slash prices for flyers even more. Several airlines, from the legacy United and American to the new ultra low cost carriers Frontier and Spirit, have begun selling lower cost tickets to passengers. Named “basic economy”, these tickets are meant to be a far more affordable alternative to standard economy class tickets.
And while basic economy tickets are more affordable, they come with a bevy of drawbacks. The restrictions on basic economy vary from airline to airline, but they do have a few in common. For example, almost all major airlines do not allow basic economy passengers to use the overhead storage compartment—save for Delta—unless they pay an additional fee. Another restriction that seems to be consistent among airlines is the lack of ability to choose seating. Basic economy flyers, upon arriving at the gate, are assigned a random seat.
Because American and United have only recently unveiled their basic economy packages, the tickets are only available on certain routes, with more gradually becoming available.
The basic economy fares are, in essence, an a la carte style of flying. The restrictions set on most basic economy tickets can be lifted by small fees, like the aforementioned overhead bin usage fee. Passengers can choose what services or features they feel are most important to them.
Basic economy is more cost affordable, but are the lack of features worth the price? According to an NBC News article, some analysts do not think so. In the article, Airfarewatchdog’s George Hobica claims that it might be best to skip basic economy altogether. “If you’re bringing a larger bag on board or checking one, you may be better off just buying the regular economy fare. All the American Airlines routes announced are fairly short flights and thus under $200 fares, so the price difference may be just $50, or the cost of the checked bag,” he says.
Will these lower fare tickets catch on, or will they simply fade away as quickly as they came?