BA, American, Iberia and Finnair introduce basic economy.

A few months ago, I wrote about Delta and the other SkyTeam airlines introducing their basic economy products across the North Atlantic.  Well it seems the alliance between American, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair have also followed suit and will be introducing long-haul fares that don’t included a checked baggage allowance (as well as other restrictions).

What does this mean?

If you’re going to be buying an economy fare across the North Atlantic, on American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair, you’ll have the option to pick a fare that includes or excludes bags.

However, these fares also come with a whole host of restrictions and each airline calls them slightly different things.

Included

Not Included

Hand baggage allowance only (one carry on and one personal item) No free checked baggage
Allocated seating when check-in opens No free seat selection
Changes for a fee Non-refundable
A range of in-flight meals, snacks and drinks Last boarding group
Headphones and blankets No system-wide upgrades (AA only)
In-flight entertainment  
Collect miles/points

The restrictions in detail

No checked baggage allowance – Customers purchasing Basic/Light fares will still be entitled to an hand baggage allowance, comprising a carry-on bag and a personal item. If a customer requires a checked bag they may prefer the bundled upsell products which are inclusive of a 23kg/50lb checked bag allowance.  On BA, AY & IB, customers can pay for additional checked bags any time before departure online, by calling the call centre or at the airport (excludes mixed-metal/codeshare itineraries which can be serviced at the airport only). On AA, this can be done at the airport.

No free seat selection – Customers purchasing Basic/Light fares will be allocated seating when check in opens (or possibly at the gate on AA). Customers can pay for seating at any time before departure online for all carriers. Family seating rules will be applied to seat allocation, meaning children (refer to individual carrier website for exact definition) will be seated with an adult, when booked in the same reservation. Anyone over the age-limit for children is treated as an adult, so we may seat them separately. To ensure that a family group can sit together, customers may wish to pre pay for seating online.

Non-refundable – Customers purchasing Basic/Light fares are not entitled to any refund, other than the applicable, refundable taxes. However they are entitled to change their flights for a fee.

Final boarding group – Customers travelling on Basic/Light fares will be assigned to the final boarding group (except Finnair and Iberia which have a different boarding process).

Other restrictions:

  • On BA, AY & IB, Basic/Light fares can be combined with other fare types to create round trip and open jaw journeys. For example, a customer can purchase a Basic/Light fare outbound, and a Main/Standard/Optima fare inbound. AA Basic fares will not be combinable with other fare types to create round trip and open jaw journeys.
  • Basic/Light fares cannot combine end-on-end with short haul or domestic fares.
  • Fare attributes and restrictions can be found on each carrier’s website and in Amadeus Fare Families, Sabre Branded Fares and Travelport Rich Content & Branding.
  • In a multi-passenger PNR, all passengers must be booked on a Basic Economy/Light fare.

How does frequent flier status affect this?

In short, it’s complicated. This table shows how each different airline’s basic economy fare interacts with oneworld status.

Frequent Flier

In addition, AA elites will be ineligible for system-wide upgrades on AA flights when purchasing a basic fare.

There will be no change to the following, earnt frequent flyer benefits when a Basic/Light fare is purchased:

  • Premium check-in
  • Fast-track security
  • Lounge access
  • Priority boarding

There’s further detail in this PDF that British Airways have made available to the travel trade.

Thoughts

It was inevitable that the oneworld airlines would introduce these type of fares, especially after SkyTeam did.

However, it’s quite confusing, especially when elite status interacts with these type of fares.  Quite simply, it’s best to book the AA fares as oneworld emerald status means that you’ll still get three checked bags.

It’s clear that unbundling is here to stay – airlines will use this technique to get more money out of us and pretend they’re offering super cheap fares when in fact they’re not.

It’s simply a technique to rise to the top of search engine rankings with the cheapest headline fares, but then load on top a huge number of extras that means you’re paying more after adding on the extras that you need.

If you’re going to be booking an economy fare, especially via an online travel agent, look very carefully at the fine print to see what you are and are not getting.

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