Basic Economy Explained

Basic Economy Explained

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Basic Economy fares (saver on Alaska) have been around the airline industry for a few years now. This fare is offered by four major US airlines: Alaska (saver) American, Delta, and United. Discount carriers such as Southwest, Frontier, and Spirit have slightly different ticketing models, but may have similar discounted fares available. This fare is targeted at travelers who are looking for a no frills airline experience.

The Basic Economy fare has been a financial success for the airlines and works out great for some travelers. We can expect basic economy to stick around for a long time.

Before considering booking a Basic Economy fare then you should know some of the differences between this special fare and a traditional economy ticket. I have seen people caught off guard by the restrictions presented by Basic Economy.

Taxi Time

Here are some of the restrictions that Basic Economy travelers should expect:

\- Basic Economy ticket holders do not receive a seat assignment prior to checking in for the flight. This means you get whatever is available at check in time. If you are strongly opposed to middle seats, or want to sit next to someone in your party, Basic Economy may not be a good option for you.

Basic economy may not be a good option for families with small children. Parties are often not seated together, and may be spread all over the airplane. Avoid this fare if you want to sit with your kids.

\- Basic Economy passengers will board in the last boarding group. This means that there will likely be limited to no available overhead bin space available on full flights. If you need space to store your carry-on luggage you will want to avoid booking a Basic Economy ticket.

United Airlines does NOT allow Basic Economy customers to bring a regular size carry-on bag to the gate or on the plane. Passengers in Basic Economy on United are limited to just a small personal item and must check in all other baggage.

\- Passengers who are building status on an airline may receive fewer loyalty points or miles when booking a Basic Economy fare. If you have a goal of achieving or maintaining status on an airline then you may want to avoid Basic Economy.

\- Basic Economy tickets are not eligible for flight changes and are non-refundable after the 24 hour booking window. If you may want to change your flight then you will want to avoid booking a Basic Economy ticket.

Below is a breakdown of each airline's Basic Economy or Saver policy and restrictions on tickets from each airline website:

Alaska Saver Fare compared to Main Economy Fare

American Basic Economy Rules and Restrictions

Delta Basic Economy Rules and Restrictions

United is the only airline of the four to restrict Carry-On luggage

I like to book Basic Economy fares. The price is typically much lower than a standard ticket, and I don't mind having limited seating options or boarding the plane last.

My main concern when booking a flight is the total cost versus the travel time. I like to book nonstop flights whenever possible to avoid layovers. I do not stick with one airline. I do have a mileage account with every airline that I fly, all travelers should, but I am not concerned with earning status at this point in my travel career. I want the best value. If I consider booking a United flight then I need to add the cost of checking a bag since I travel with a carry-on and they don't allow me to bring it on the plane with a Basic Economy fare. 


Currently I am continuing my tour of all 30 MLB Stadiums. I am planning to visit several stadiums this spring and summer when the new baseball season gets started in a few weeks. I will certainly be booking some Basic Economy tickets as I continue my quest to visit all 30.

If you are looking to save some money on your next flight, consider booking a Basic Economy fare. You'll give up a few choices, but you may save a great deal of cash in the process. In my previous Basic Economy experiences I have ended up in really good premium seats since those were the only seats left! I saved money and got great seats! That's a win-win.

Have you had a good or bad experience with a Basic Economy ticket in the past? Will you book Basic Economy again? I'd love to hear your comments on this type of fare! Leave me a reply below.

Travel/Aircraft photos are from my personal collection and were taken by me.

Basic Economy fare descriptions were taken from:,, and

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