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As of yesterday you can now book American Airlines’ basic economy fares for a handful of routes. These fares went live on their website earlier in the day. Most of the routes offering basic economy are out of AA’s Philadelphia, Dallas, and Miami hubs. If you aren’t aware of the differences between American’s basic economy and main cabin, read PWAC’s recent rundown on the new fare class.

Basic economy flights are available from Dallas to PHL, BWI, and TPA. From Philadelphia, you can book basic economy to MSY, CLT, FLL and MIA. From Miami you can book to TPA and MSY. The final route is CLT to MIA.

From what I’ve found, the price difference between American’s basic economy fares and ‘normal’ main cabin fares is underwhelming. I was hopeful that the new basic economy fares would make the legacy carriers more competitive with low cost carriers, but the prices I’m seeing aren’t quite poised to do that. I guess I’ll have to eat crow on my previous predictions regarding United’s and AA’s basic economy (SEE: Will there be an upside to United’s basic economy fares?).

The price for a DFW-PHL hub-to-hub basic economy flight is underwhelming. American’s basic economy fare is $75 vs Spirit’s $51 for a one-way flight on March 22. A round-trip is a solid $40 more expensive. This might justify flying AA over Spirit if you fly AA a lot (even though you aren’t eligible for upgrades), but for a non-AA flyer, I probably wouldn’t even consider it. I’d rather save the cash.

The price difference between basic economy and main cabin is similarly underwhelming. I searched several dates for the CLT-MCO route, and every time the flight priced out at $20 less than the main cabin price, when available. Ditto for the previously mentioned DFW-PHL route. It makes me wonder if this will be AA’s standard price difference?

aa basic econony clt-mco

A mere $20 savings doesn’t make me too excited. I’m also puzzled that American has released basic economy on a couple routes with zero LCC competition, such as the Charlotte to Orlando route I searched (update: the writer failed to perform due diligence by searching more than a couple days of the week. A reader pointed out that Frontier offers CLT-MCO service).

One bright spot

I love that Google Flights *does* note if you are about to book a basic economy fare with American. Actually, I just love Google Flights in general (SEE: 6 reasons Google Flights is the best search engine). The fact that you are booking a basic economy fare is pretty clear, indicated by the baggage restrictions.

google flights aa basic economy


I’ll probably stay away from American basic economy. In select situations it might make sense, but overall I find the roll-out of these “cheap” fares to be underwhelming. I like to travel with a single carry-on if at all possible, and the new fare type makes that pretty much impossible.

We’ll see if the price point improves at all as American rolls out more of these fares. I’m certainly not holding my breath, though.

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