The major airlines will change their reservation choices with a new option, Basic Economy fare class beginning 2017. American, Delta and United announced their new programs as an effort to be more competitive with low cost airlines such as Spirit, JetBlue and Frontier.
On the outset it looks great, but there will be even more hidden or choice pay-to-fly options associated with these fares. Even now, while reserving flights, I am finding less and less no charge seating options. The free options are showing up in back half of the aircraft with middle row seats. For window and aisle seats, your options are few and toward the last rows of the plane.
Each of the major airlines will have slightly different rules for their new fare class, so you need to be an educated consumer before you are wooed with what appears to be a bargain price flight. Cheap can become very costly.
The three major carriers share some similar rules and restrictions. Most notably, you will not be able to choose your seat prior to your flight. Your seat will be assigned to you at check-in. So, if you are traveling with family or friends, do not count on sitting together. These fares are non-refundable, non-cancelable, non-changeable. This means either use it or lose it. With traditional fares, if you need to cancel your flight, you can use your ticket within a year of purchase if you chose to pay the change fee plus any difference in fare. Also, you cannot make a same day reservation or standby reservation. Also, these fares will be very restricted. There will be a finite number of seats on each flight available.
Rules for United's Basic Economy will restrict passengers from bringing carry on luggage aboard. Anything personal item brought on board must fit under your seat. Your other luggage must be checked-in with the prevailing fee. If you look to accrue frequent flier mileage to achieve a higher status, your points with this ticket will not help you either.
On Delta, you will be able to use overhead bins for your carry-on luggage. However, since Basic Economy passengers will be boarding last, this may be a difficult task. If there is no room in the bins, you may have to check your carry on at an additional cost.
Suffice to say, take a very close look at the fares you choose for your flights. The difference between the basic economy fare and economy or economy plus fare may be just a few extra dollars and worth the investment for your next flight. Carefully calculate the luggage and personal carry on items you generally take when you travel. Consider the fact you may be in that tight middle seat for your 5 hour flight or in the very last row closest to the lavatory.