Basic Economy Survival Guide

Basic Economy has been expanding rapidly over the past few years as airlines try to compete with the ultra-low-cost carriers. Below are the fees and restrictions associated with the lowest economy booking for several different airlines. 

Domestic Basic Economy

 Carry On FeeChecked FeeAdvanced Seat SelectionTicket Change FeeCredit Card Perks
AmericanFree$25Not AllowedNot AllowedFree Checked bag; Group 5 Boarding
AlaskaFree$25FreeNot AllowedFree checked bag
DeltaFree$25Not AllowedNot AllowedFree Checked bag; Group 1 Boarding
Frontier$35$30$11$99 plus fare differenceZone 2 Boarding
JetBlueFree$25Free$75 (plus fare difference)Free checked bag
Spirit$35$30$22$90Preferred Boarding
SouthwestFreeFree (2 bags)Open-SeatingFree (fare difference)4 Priority Boarding Vouchers (SW Priority Card)
UnitedNot Allowed$25$10Not allowed.Free Checked bag; Group 2 Boarding (can bring carry on)

Notes: Seat selection fees vary based on routes, so I averaged the fees on a few different bookings. Frontier’s bag fees are discounted by $5 for 2.5 months out of the year ($30 for a carry-on bag and $25 for a checked bag). To use the credit card perks on United, you must buy your ticket with the United card. You can still cancel your flight for a basic economy fare if it is within 24 hours of booking and at least 7 days in advance of departure. 

 

International Basic Economy

 Carry On FeeChecked FeeAdvanced Seat SelectionFree Food and Drinks
AmericanFree$60$12Yes
British AirwaysFree$55$36+Yes
DeltaFreeFreeNot AllowedYes
IcelandairFree$55+FreeNo (free soft drinks and coffee)
LEVELFree$44$17No
NorwegianFree$45$30No
PrimeraFree$45$40No
UnitedFreeFreeFreeYes
WOW$50$70$10No

Notes:

  • Both WOW and Icelandair charge bag fees by segment, so you may be paying a much higher price for your bag.
  • Delta charges $25 for a checked bag to Mexico, Caribbean, and Central America. 
  • Delta and American only have basic economy on transatlantic routes, not transpacific.