Yet another way for airlines to nickle and dime us: the “Basic Economy” fare. It means different things depending upon the airline. United’s basic economy does not allow you to stow a bag in overhead (let alone check a bag) so you’ve got to pack very lightly. Dirck tried this out during a recent trip to Albuquerque (where he was staying with relatives so he could borrow clothes, if need be. Plus it was only a long weekend trip.) He did have to check in at the counter — he couldn’t get his seat assignments or boarding passes in advance online. And he got closely scrutinized by the counter person who seemed to think he was going to try to smuggle on a bag to go in the overhead. Meanwhile the ticket fare was by no means cheap (about $340) and both of his planes traveling to ABQ were delayed due to mechanical problems so he lost half a day of his trip. Thanks United.
I opted for American’s Basic Economy fare during a recent trip to New Orleans after I read the fine print and found out that I could bring a bag to stash overhead. The fare (a reasonable $240) was about $70 cheaper than the Economy fare, I think. I ended up buying advance seat assignments on both flights for about $9 per flight (two flights each way). I was in the last group to board, regardless — in the ominous-sounding “Group 9,” which wasn’t that big an issue except when it comes to finding overhead space to put a bag. I didn’t have this issue because Dirck had an Economy ticket (that his employer paid for) and had checked his bag so he took mine when he boarded with Group 6.
One irritating thing did happen when I tried to buy seat assignments on the way home. I went online, picked out a specific seat for each of my two flights at a specific price. But instead of giving me the seat I chose for the first flight (an aisle seat toward the front of the plane, so I could get out faster and make my connection) the automated system gave me a seat I never would have purchased (a middle seat way in the back). I was charged $16, rather than $18 for the two seat assignments. And there was no recourse. I tried calling the airline but they said I’d have to wait until I got to the airport and switch — which I did but the seat I originally selected was no longer available. I did switch to an aisle seat but way back in the plane. It’s a cockamamie system — as I complained to the American ticket agent, it would be like buying a specific book from Amazon and Amazon ending me a different book, at a different price, with no option to correct my order. Consumer be damned….