Thank You

You will receive your first email soon.



5 Ways to Survive a Flight in Basic Economy

Recently, United and American joined Delta to offer an option called “basic economy” to compete with no-frills, low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier. As with all things, you get what you pay for, and in the case of basic economy, that’s truly just the essentials. Each airline has its own definition of what essentials are included, but the easiest way to scale expectations is to know that the only thing you’re getting is a seat—and an unassigned seat at that.

What Is Basic Economy? The Pros

There’s only one real benefit to basic economy: the price. And that it gives customers some buying power with the a la carte model—pay only for what you want, whether it be a pre-assigned seat or access to the overhead bin.

So, if you travel frequently, especially on shorter flights, this could be a good-value option, as long as you don’t mind just getting the basics. And let’s be honest, anything beats Spirit and Frontier, so you’re upgrading your overall experience, and at least Delta, United, and American typically have TVs and snack and beverage service.

Jeff Klee of makes a case that basic economy fares give people looking for low fares some more flight options, which is a pro for cheaper air travel overall. Low-cost carries typically only offer one or two flights daily in each market, and now there are tons more options. He also notes that basic economy fares let customers earn rewards points on these three major airlines, at a lower price.

What Is Basic Economy? The Cons

Basic economy fares set a problematic precedent though, proving to airlines that there’s a market for miserable, but cheaper travel. And the introduction of basic economy also reduces the number of traditional economy fares available.

There’s a negative trickle-down effect, too: Even if an airline decides to stick with the standard main cabin and business or first class cabin, it might still look to cut back on certain things like legroom, since now the industry bare minimum as a point of comparison has been lowered.

Other cons of basic economy fares include surcharges on basic amenities. If you’re not careful, you could end up spending even more than a standard fare by paying for things you actually want or need, like seat selection, upgrades, and carry-on bags.

You also lose flexibility and refund or change options with a basic economy fare.

How to Survive a Flight in Basic Economy

More from SmarterTravel:

Top Fares From