Recently, American Airlines and United Airlines both announced that they would be introducing a new flight class aimed towards budget travelers. Basic-economy class will be introduced in addition to their current classes, but is designed to compete with the offerings of other low-cost airlines.

“American Airlines now has something to offer every customer, from those who want simple, low-price travel to those who want an ultra-premium experience via first class,” American Airlines President Robert Isom said in a statement.

So what exactly does basic-economy have to offer? Well, it has the cheapest tickets among airline classes, that’s for sure – but that cheap price comes with a few sacrifices…



Unless a basic-economy passenger is a Premier member, primary cardmember of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card, or a Star Alliance Gold, they will not be allowed to bring a carry-on bag with them. Instead, they’ll only be allowed to bring a personal item (like a purse or backpack) that can be a maximum of 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches.

In addition, United will allow only passengers who qualify for free carry-on bags or have paid to check baggage to check in online.


Basic-economy passengers will not be allowed to preselect seating, make changes to their tickets after purchasing them, or upgrade to higher ticket classes. Plus, if a basic-economy passenger isn’t a rewards group member, they’ll be last to board the plane.



Unless a basic-economy passenger is an AAdvantage elite member or a primary cardmember of a qualifying AAdvantage credit card, they will also not be allowed to bring a carry-on bag with them and will be limited to a personal item. American Airlines’ personal item measurement, however, is larger than United, at 18 x 14 x 8 inches.


Passengers will not be allowed to preselect seating until check-in and if they want to choose where they sit on the plane, there will be a fee. Otherwise, their seat will be assigned to them during check-in. In addition, basic-economy tickets will be non-refundable and won’t be eligible for an upgrade.

The Good News

The good news for both United and American Airlines basic-economy passengers is that in-flight food, drinks, entertainment, and wi-fi will still be readily available to budget fliers.

“By offering low fares while also offering the experience of traveling on our outstanding network, with a variety of onboard amenities and great customer service, we are giving our customers an additional travel option from what United offers today,” United Airlines CCO Julia Haywood said in a statement.

Basic-economy fares will be available for American Airlines customers beginning in mid-February while United’s fares won’t be introduced until later this year.