Airlines

Basic Economy Fares Compared: American, Delta and United Airlines

Qtrip Team

February 10, 2021

These days, the most pared back and bare bones airfare you can purchase is the Basic Economy ticket. Each of the legacy airlines offer a Basic Economy fare which is the least expensive way to go, while having restrictions and limitations that other classes of service do not. Let’s break down the differences and compare a Basic Economy ticket on American, Delta and United Airlines.

American Airlines

American positions its Basic Economy as a ticket for travelers who are motivated to find the lowest price. It promises a comfortable journey in the Main Cabin with free snacks, soft drinks and inflight entertainment, albeit with some important restrictions.

What’s Included:

  • Seat assignments for a fee at time of booking or free seat will be assigned at check-in
  • Seat width ranges from 16”-18” depending on aircraft, Pitch varies from 30” – 32” depending on aircraft
  • One personal item and one carry-on
  • Complimentary beverage and meal/snack service
  • Eligible for upgrades

What’s Not Included:

  • Generally speaking – no changes! The current Covid-19 situation has caused the airline to relax this rule, however. At least for the time being, you can change a ticket or even cancel without penalty
  • No seat changes once you’ve boarded (you can pay for an upgrade in advance)
  • Group and family seating (unless you purchase seat assignments in advance)
  • Free checked bags – you must pay fee depending on trip route

Delta Airlines

It’s right there in the name – when you buy a Basic Economy ticket, there are no frills. Just like American, Delta touts Basic Economy for customers looking for the best price.

What’s Included:

  • Seat assignments after check in
  • Seat width 17.2″, Pitch 30″
  • One complimentary carry-on bag and one personal item
  • Complimentary beverage and snack/meal service

What’s Not Included:

  • Changes to your ticket not allowed
  • No upgrades or Medallion perks
  • Checked bag fee depending on your trip route
  • No boarding priority
  • No refunds

United Airlines

United positions its Basic Economy as a ticket for the “price-sensitive.” It promises a journey with inflight services and amenities that come with United Economy fares, but with some important restrictions.

What’s Included:

  • Seat assignments after check in
  • Seat width ranges from 16”-18” depending on aircraft, Pitch varies from 31”- 34” depending on aircraft
  • One personal item
  • Complimentary beverage and meal/snack service

What’s Not Included:

  • No seat changes once you’ve boarded (you can pay for an upgrade in advance)
  • Group and family seating (unless you purchase seat assignments in advance)
  • Carry-on bags
  • Checked bag fee depending on trip route
  • No upgrades for Mileage Plus members

So, you might be asking yourself, which ticket offers the best value?

If you like to be able to choose your seat, you’ll want to go with American or United because you can pay for a seat assignment. Delta only assigns seats after check-in; you can’t buy your seat selection at all.

If a complimentary carry-on is important to you, you might want to skip United. They do not offer free carry-ons in most instances (select loyalty members and MileagePlus cardholders get that perk).

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, tickets that normally have restricted change and cancellation now have more flexibility. We’ll keep you posted should that change in the future.

You can also take a deeper dive into each airline’s fare classes. Check out our blog posts on American, Delta and United.

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Qtrip Team

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