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In an announcement to the travel industry British Airways has confirmed that it and its fellow transatlantic joint venture partners will offer “unbundled fares” on select transatlantic routes from as early as next month. In plain speak this means that oneworld Basic Economy fares are about to be unleashed on the flying public.
In keeping with the nomenclature we’re rapidly becoming accustomed to the American, British Airways and Iberia fares will be called “Basic” while on Finnair they’ll be called “Light“. The fares we’re used to right now (regular Economy Class fares) will be called “Main” on American Airlines, “Standard” on BA and Finnair and “Optima” on Iberia.
The airlines say that they’re introducing these fares as an alternative to the existing full-service fares to “allow customers the choice to personalise their journey and only pay for the elements they require“.
This is the same narrative we’ve heard every other time Basic Economy fares have been rolled out on a route and it’s mainly nonsense – Basic Economy fares are being introduced to charge passengers more for the services they already receive.
What Is/Isn’t Included In Transatlantic Basic Economy Fares?
Unlike with the transatlantic low-cost carriers (Norwegian, WOW, etc…) these Basic Economy fares will include meals and the hand baggage allowance (one regular carry-on and on personal item) remains unchanged….but there are quite a few exclusions too.
No checked baggage allowance – On BA, Finnair and Iberia customers will be able to pay for additional checked bags any time before departure online, by calling the call centre or at the airport (excludes mixed-metal/codeshare itineraries which can be serviced at the airport only).
For passengers flying with American Airlines additional checked bags will only be available for purchase at the airport.
Note: wheelchairs, mobility aids and children’s pushchairs/safety seats can still be checked-in free of charge
No free seat selection – Customers who purchase transatlantic Basic Economy fares will be allocated seats when check in opens (this may occur at the gate for American Airlines passengers).
Customers will be able to pay for seating at any time before departure online for all carriers.
Per the information I’ve seen:
Family seating rules will be applied to seat allocation, meaning children (refer to individual carrier website for exact definition) will be seated with an adult, when booked in the same reservation. Anyone over the age-limit for children is treated as an adult, so we may seat them separately. To ensure that a family group can sit together, customers may wish to pre pay for seating online.
No refunds – Passengers buying a Basic Economy fare will not get any refunds if they cancel their tickets (with the exception of taxes). Flights can be changed for a fee.
Basic Economy passengers board last – Passengers who buy transatlantic Basic Economy fares will board in the last boarding group. This will not apply to Finnair or Iberia who board passengers differently to American and BA).
Main/Standard/Optima Fare Benefits
As far as I can tell that’s pretty much the status quo so nothing appears to be changing for regular Economy Class fares.
Mileage Earnings, Elite Earnings & Elite Benefits
This will be quite crucial to a lot of readers and some of the news won’t be all that surprising.
- British Airways, Iberia & Finnair flyers will continue earning credit towards elite qualification at the existing rates (because those rates already penalise the cheaper tickets)
- American Airlines flyers will see their AAdvantage earnings drop by 50% to 0.5 EQM/mile flown
- The number of frequent flyer miles (or Avios) earned will be calculated in the same way as it is today.
- American Airlines will keep their checked baggage allowance
- British Airways Executive Club members will not be able to benefit from their checked baggage allowance when booking a transatlantic Basic Economy fare.
- American Airlines & British Airways elites will keep their seat selection benefits.
Here’s a BIG rule that won’t surprise many but will still be disappointing:
AA elites will be ineligible for system-wide upgrades on AA flights when purchasing a Basic fare
On the positive side of things there are a few things that won’t be changing and oneworld elites will still be able to benefit from the following when buying a transatlantic Basic Economy fare:
- Premium check-in
- Fast-track security
- Lounge access
- Priority boarding
Good to see lounge access not being stripped out (as that was once a rumored possibility)
Considering Delta and its SkyTeam partners are already selling transatlantic Basic Economy fares this isn’t exactly surprise news and most of the new rules are in line with what I would have expected.
I’m more than a little surprised that American Airlines AAdvantage elites will get to keep their checked baggage allowance on transatlantic Basic Economy fares (that’s a big bonus of AA status for those with families and makes me thankful for my lifetime AAdvantage Platinum status) but there really isn’t too much other good news to hold on to.
Lower elite earning rates on AA (they couldn’t get much lower on the other airlines anyway) and no checked baggage allowance for BA elites are two unfriendly changes but, considering how short-haul Basic Economy fares work here in the US and over in the UK, neither of these is a surprise.
In a perfect world Basic Economy fares would be lower than the Economy Class fares we have now (as passengers are being offered less) and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing at all…..but that’s not how Basic Economy fares work.
In the real world Basic Economy fares simply take the place of the existing fares – there’s no real price decrease – so passengers find themselves with fewer benefits than before while still paying the same as they in the past.
That’s called using smoke and mirrors to rip-off customers.
I’m thankful that hand baggage allowances haven’t been cut and that my elite status will still see me keep a few benefits that are being stripped out by the new transatlantic Basic Economy fares but, overall, this is still a negative change (albeit one that was always going to come).