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As of today, United and American have both started selling their own versions of Basic Economy fares on select routes, with the plan to expand from there in the coming months. As of today United is selling their Basic Economy fares to their hubs from Minneapolis and American Airlines is selling theirs on the following routes:
- New Orleans (MSY) – Philadelphia (PHL)
- Orlando (MCO) – Charlotte (CLT)
- Charlotte (CLT) – Philadelphia (PHL)
- Miami (MIA) – Philadelphia (PHL)
- Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – Philadelphia (PHL)
- Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – Tampa (TPA)
- Baltimore-Washington (BWI) – Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
- Miami (MIA) – Tampa (TPA)
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL) – Phildelphia (PHL)
- Miami (MIA) – New Orleans (MSY)
Now that these fares are a reality, the next logical question is what does this do to award tickets? Will award tickets also put you in the last boarding group, only permit a small personal item for carry-on, and not permit advanced seat assignments?
Well, who knows that the airlines will think of next, but for today the answer is no, economy award tickets are not subject to the Basic Economy restrictions even on routes where Basic Economy fares are in play.
Economy award tickets on American and United are the same as they were before the Basic Economy fares rolled out, which is to say they still come with a full sized carry-on bag, advanced seat assignments, the ability to purchase E+ seats, etc. Award tickets already didn’t earn elite or redeemable miles and had their own fee chart for changes, and that will remain the same…or at least remains the same today.
If avoiding some of the Basic Economy hallmarks like the lack of advanced seat assignments has value to you and your family, then sometimes the scale may tip to using miles over paying the higher price for the regular economy fares since you will be doing a cost per mile calculation against the higher Main Cabin/Regular Economy fare instead of the lowest Basic Economy fare.
Of course on this particular route, your best bet isn’t 12,500 American miles, but rather 10,000 British Airways Avios.
I’m absolutely not a fan of the Economy Basic fares in large part because families are punished the most. Families with young kids not only have to purchase more tickets to get from Point A to Point B, but they often needs seats together for the safety and convenience of all involved. They will now be faced with the choice of either chancing it that their seats are assigned together at the time of check-in and causing more headache for everyone if they aren’t, or paying even more to fly than they did before. Based on some test searches, it is not uncommon for the “regular” economy fares to cost $40 more each way than Basic Economy tickets. For a family of four on a round trip journey this is an astonishing $320 swing essentially just to get seats assigned next to your kids and bring a full sized carry-on. That is crazy.
The good news is that United and American economy award tickets are not subject to the same restrictions as the Economy Basic fares…at least not for now.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.