Tag Archives: air fares

Where Luxury Lacks, Savings Abound with “Basic Economy” Fares; United to Test Low-Cost Option at MSP

 

Guest Post by Annie Flodin

As one of three major U.S. airlines committed to offering travelers low-cost tickets with fewer amenities, United will soon test its basic economy fares in Minneapolis.

And while signs point toward these fares becoming a regular fixture in commercial aviation – mainly as a way for larger airlines to compete with low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier – flying has certainly transformed over the last several decades.

Having worked as a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines in the 1970s and 1980s, when donning more fashion-forward uniforms and serving meals on china in first class were the norm, my mom says flying was more “glamorous” back then.

But now, she says, plane rides almost feel more like bus trips, which isn’t too surprising with the rise of discount airlines, and more recently with these low-cost fares. Delta is already offering the no-frills option, and recently American announced that they’ll begin offering basic economy fares in 10 select markets starting this month.

United first announced plans to offer basic economy fares last November, and in mid-January, President Scott Kirby said they would debut at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “When you think of the number of flights coming in, the number of customers choosing United, and the airports… MSP was a great market to test this in," United Spokesman Jonathan Guerin said.

United basic economy fares provide the same onboard experience as standard economy with a few exceptions, most notably: you can’t choose your seat and full-sized carry-on bags are not permitted. But you are allowed one personal item that you must store underneath the seat in front of you.

Brett Snyder, who runs the popular Cranky Flier blog, sees basic economy as a good way for legacy airlines to offer low fares while stripping out amenities for those who don’t need them. “While this might mean an increase in the lowest selling fare that allows for carry-on bags and advance seat assignments, those fares aren’t really sustainable today,” he said.

And it’s no surprise that basic economy has received some pushback. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently voiced his concerns in a press release, citing the cheap fares as just another way for very profitable airlines to nickel and dime passengers. Through an upcoming FAA bill, he’ll push for new customer protections that “undo unfair policies” such as “banning” the free use of overhead bins.

The only issue is – the major airlines aren’t banning the free bin space because they’re not making you purchase a basic economy fare… it’s simply another option. These days, customers want choice and they want control, and that’s exactly what these fares are providing.

“There will always be pushback anytime the airlines do anything, even if it’s not bad,” Snyder said. “The reality is that you really shouldn’t buy these fares if you want a carry-on or a seat assignment, and the airlines will tell you that multiple times before you buy the ticket,” he added. “But people will still make that mistake and then complain.”

Another concern has been how airlines will keep track of those flying on basic economy fares. For United, Guerin said it shouldn’t be difficult, as it will be noted on your boarding pass and you’ll be in the last boarding group. This provides several opportunities for airport employees and gate agents to see if you have a full-sized carry-on, which will need to be checked and will be subject to the standard checked-bag fee. For domestic flights, you’ll pay $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for your second. But basic economy passengers who arrive at the gate with a full-sized carry-on will also need to pay a $25 gate handling fee.

United’s basic economy fares will go on sale during the first quarter of 2017, for travel during the second quarter. They’ll be available for routes between MSP and the airline’s seven U.S. hubs, eventually rolling out into other domestic markets.

Ultimately, while flying may not be the lavish experience it once was, it’s clear that the airlines have done their research in targeting this price-sensitive niche. Many people are just looking to get from point A to point B on the cheap, and now they have options outside of simply choosing a low-cost carrier.

Editor’s note: Annie will be contributing to the blog as I work with her to help her make the move into aviation writing. I’m happy to have her on the Aviation Queen team.

IMG_4438Annie Flodin is a seasoned communications professional and aspiring aviation journalist. She and her husband Scott live in Minneapolis with their two cats. In her free time, she enjoys plane spotting, writing, and spending time outdoors. She blogs at The Great Planes, and you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter: at @thegreatplanes.

Story Links From My About.com Air Travel Page

Regular readers know that I’ve cut back on posts here because I’m in my second year as the Air Travel Expert for About.com. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe you guys might be interested in some of the posts I’ve done over there, so I’m going to highlight three posts a week going forward.

Post one is my primer on how travelers can snag those rock-bottom air fares caused by airline “glitches.” In this post, I offer links to web sites, Facebook groups, air travel forums and folks on Twitter who are the ones that get the word out about fares like the Christmas present from Etihad that thousands of folks took advantage of.

With all the bad weather and flight cancellations that follow it, I wrote a post of 10 things travelers can do when they’re faced with delays and cancellations. Tip – smartphones are key in this process.

Finally because I’m a girl who loves a good meal at the airport, check out these five restaurants that are so good they actually make you forget you’re dining in the middle of a terminal. And there are many more than five — I could have written a post just on the great selections in JetBlue’s JFK Terminal 5 alone!

 

Why American Air Was Right To Get Rid Of Bereavement Fares

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Boeing 757. Photo courtesy of American Airlines

The Internet and my aviation geek chat has been abuzz ever since the newly merged US Airways and American Airlines announced that bereavement fares would no longer be offered.

For the uninitiated, airlines used to regularly offer last-minute discount air fares in cases where a family member has died.  I myself have used bereavement fares three times in my life, and I was grateful. That being said, I’m glad that the new American Airlines has ditched these fares.

Many times when a death happens, it’s a surprise. Having planned three funerals in my life, it’s also not cheap. There’s the coffin, flowers, handling of the body, the church/place for the ceremony, the services, and the repast, among other things. So here’s my question: Would it ever occur to you to ask any of these vendors for a bereavement discount?

They are all businesses participating in the capitalist system that need to be paid the going rate in order to stay in business. And like it or not, airlines are also businesses that have shareholders and need to look at the bottom line. And as sad as a death is, and as cold as it seems, it’s not the airlines’ fault that someone died and you have to pay the going market rate for a ticket.

If you really need a ticket, go to someone like Hotwire or Priceline. Or go to an exchange where folks sell frequent flyer miles. Or consider driving, if that’s an option. Again, I’m one who has taken advantage of bereavement fares.  But most airlines don’t even offer these fares anymore. So I’m with American on this one.