The policy change low-fare American Airlines customers need to know about

|
The restriction American Airlines doesn't want low fare customers to know about
Image Credit: Dreamstime
Team Clark is adamant that we will never write content influenced by or paid for by an advertiser. To support our work, we do make money from some links to companies and deals on our site. Learn more about our guarantee here.
Advertisement

Basic economy has been a profit boon for American Airlines and other carriers. For fliers, the option offers cheap flights on old guard, dependable airlines. For American and other airlines, basic economy gives them the chance to compete with the ultra-low carriers on air travel search sites.

But relatively few people know what they’re really signing up for when they buy a basic economy fare. On its website, American says this about basic economy: “If you want our lowest price, try our Basic Economy fare. There are some restrictions but you’ll still get a comfortable seat in the Main Cabin and enjoy free snacks, soft drinks and in-flight entertainment.”

The restriction American doesn’t want low-fare customers to know

Turns out one of those restrictions is pretty major: If there’s a problem with the plane, like a long delay or a cancellation, basic economy passengers will not be a priority when it comes to being re-accommodated. That rebooking policy was brought to light recently by air travel blogger Gary Leff who runs the site View From the Wing.

That’s not to say you’ll be stranded, but American Airlines ticket and gate agents have been instructed not to bend over backward for low-fare travelers. As a result, if non-elite status passengers need flight changes that need non-American planes, that’s when things get dicey.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about American Airlines before you fly

When American Airlines debuted basic economy in February 2017, a memo to airline partners outlined the rebooking rules for fliers, saying, “In the case of irregular operations, non-elite customers will be re-accommodated on American or joint business partner airlines only; re-accommodation of elite customers will not change.”

The restriction American Airlines doesn't want low fare customers to know about
Photo credit: Screenshot via americanairlines.co.uk

The ramifications of American Airlines’ policy mean that low-fare customers, except in cases where managers choose to do otherwise, won’t be rebooked on rival carriers. Meanwhile, some AAdvantage members and other elite passengers will get the benefit of flying on Delta Air Lines, United or another carriers.

To be fair, Delta quietly rolled out a similar policy earlier, which American seems to have emulated.

So, with all this, you can see why money expert Clark Howard says basic economy is the airlines’ attempt “to try to make flying as miserable as they possibly could.”

He says about the major carriers: “They’ve been bragging to Wall Street that when people get burned by basic economy, the next time they go to book a flight they may click on that airline because they see a low fare and then they sell them up to a higher one.”

Here are some more travel-related articles you might enjoy from Clark.com:

Advertisement
Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer. You can reach Craig at [email protected]
View More Articles
  • Show Comments Hide Comments