American Airlines Won't Let Lowest-Fare Passengers Use Overhead Bins

When you're forced to gate-check your bag thanks to your later boarding group or end up with tragically little legroom, it's more than easy to feel like flying in economy class is already a basic, no-frills experience. And yet, major airlines are now offering even simpler fares with even fewer features, if you're willing to trade your sanity for saving some cash. The latest is American Airlines

On Wednesday, American officially introduced its new "Basic Economy" fare, which essentially strips away most of the features -- a free carry-on bag, seat selections, among others -- that you're likely used to getting from a major carrier in exchange for a lower price. The airline joins rivals United and Delta in offering the new fares, which are seen as a response to increasingly popular budget airlines like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant.

Just like United's Basic Economy tickets, American's allows you bring a personal item on board, but forbids full-size carry-on bags you'd put in the overhead bins. If you end up brining a carry-on bag to the gate by mistake, American said it will charge you not just the applicable checked bag fee, but an additional $25 "gate service charge" per bag, too. In other words, be careful when you book, folks. You're only exempt from the policy if you're an Elite-level frequent flier or have American's credit card.

Oh, and you'll also have to be OK with getting your seat assignment at check-in (unless you pay a fee within 48 hours of the flight), not being able to make changes or upgrades to your tickets, and boarding the plane last, of course. 

American said it will start selling the Basic Economy fares in "select markets" on February 10th and expects the new ticket class to expand to additional markets sometime later this year. However, not every American Airlines flight will offer the cheaper fares, the company said in a press release.

Here's everything you can expect in the new class, according to American's website:

Seat assignments: Made automatically and only when customers check in. Paid seat assignments can be purchased 48 hours before the flight.

Upgrades: Not permitted, regardless of elite status level.

Bags: One personal carry-on item that fits under the seat (such as a purse or small backpack) is allowed. No overhead bin luggage may be brought on board. Larger carry-ons such as a rollerboard bag must be checked at the ticket counter for the applicable checked-baggage charge. Basic Economy customers who bring more than an under-seat personal item to the gate will incur regular checked baggage charges plus a $25 gate service charge per bag.

Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage credit cardmembers will be allowed to bring one personal item, one rollerboard, and they maintain their current free checked bag allowance.

Boarding: Basic Economy customers will comprise the last boarding group and will be seated in the Main Cabin. Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage credit cardmembers will continue to receive Priority or preferred boarding even when purchasing this fare.

Tickets: Non-refundable, non-changeable. Use it or lose it. No same-day flight change or same-day standby.

AAdvantage: Full AAdvantage miles and Elite Qualifying Dollars may be earned when purchasing these fares; however, only one-half Elite Qualifying Mile will be earned per mile flown, and one-half Elite Qualifying Segment per segment flown.

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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and has yet to fly without a carry-on bag. Send news tips to and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.