While an attractive strategy to flood the market with shiny, cheap tickets, "Basic Economy" fares have never been a favorite among frequent flyers. Major carriers like Delta, American, and United have offered the no-frills seats -- which prohibit customers from taking a carry-on -- as a way of fending off competition from discount carriers, but one major airline is moving to make the Basic Economy experience a little less hellish by letting you keep your belongings.
American Airlines announced on an earnings call Wednesday it's new move to allow customers a free carry-on item in addition to the standard personal item in all Basic Economy seats. The policy change should make the objectively stressful commercial air travel experience slightly more tolerable, and make the fares more attractive to customers who have wised-up to the limited amenities in Basic Economy.
“Basic Economy is working well in the markets where we offer it, and we continue to see more than 60 percent of customers buy up to Main Cabin when offered a choice," AA President Robert Isom said on the call. "Removing the bag restriction will make Basic Economy more competitive, allowing us to offer this low-fare product to more customers.”
The change will start on September 5 for tickets purchased on that day and after, and apply to domestic short-haul flights, the airline announced. Delta Air Lines already made an identical switch, allowing its customers the same courtesy in April.
Many of the same headaches will still apply to Basic Economy: Namely, you can't pick your seat, and you can't make flight changes on the day of your trip. Changing your seat will also require a small fee. But the new move sees the airline shave off some additional costs that have been annoying parts of the Basic Economy ploy, such as a $25 fee for checked baggage on domestic trips.
American is probably smart to heed the very obvious fact that many customers on short flights don't want to check bags. The Basic Economy program, while clearly detailed on American's website, has confused customers who usually are more inclined to click on a paltry fare instead of read through airline policy fine print. Since the introduction of Basic Economy, earlier this year, the policy has allowed customers one personal item onboard the plane, which according to the airline can be "no larger than 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm)."
Here's to a tiny sliver of good airline news.