American Matches Basic Economy; Now Ranked As The WSJ’s Worst US Airline For The 2nd Year Running

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Delta currently sells basic economy fares. They award full redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles on those fares. But they aren’t eligible for seat assignments, economy comfort, flight upgrades, changes, cancellations, or standby. If you need to make a voluntary change you have to throw away your ticket and start again.

In November, United announced that they will start selling Basic Economy fares in Q1 2017. United added more restrictions to the ones above. Their fares won’t earn elite qualifying miles or lifetime miles. United also won’t allow large carry-ons unless you have elite status, a United credit card, or are traveling with a United elite member or cardholder.

American has announced that they will start selling basic economy fares on 2/10/17. It will be nearly identical to United’s version except that American will award 1/2 of the normal elite qualifying miles and will allow you to pay to choose a seat, but only within 48 hours of your flight.

These fares are intended to allow the network carriers to compete with Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit. People that want no-frills will be able to fly on a network carrier and still be able to earn miles, have access to roomier seats, free drinks, and more frequent flights in case of irregular operations.

The real question is will they just drive more people to fly on Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest, and Virgin America?

In other news, American took the crown for the worst US airline in the WSJs annual ranking for the 2nd year running:



That’s not much of a surprise. American is notoriously bad at cancelled flights and mishandling luggage, hence our London fiasco. My longest tarmac delays have also all been on American.

Delta runs a very good airline with a subpar mileage program

United runs a mediocre, but improving, airline with a good mileage program.

American runs a subpar airline with a mileage program that could be called a ScAAm these days.

Last year I compiled 23 bullet points asking “What exactly is American’s AAdvantage?” I don’t think the USAirways folks running American could answer that even if they tried.

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25 Comments On "American Matches Basic Economy; Now Ranked As The WSJ’s Worst US Airline For The 2nd Year Running"

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Jack out of the box

Does the free United CC qualify for free carry-on?


Also… does AA Basic Economy offer the ability to PAY for a carry-on, or at least a checked bag (at regular prices)?

nsx at FlyerTalk

It’s time to make American great again. Start by putting orange back into the logo. Back to the future. More legroom throughout coach, anyone?


I just flew AA F and returned Delta J.
They are not even comparable. Delta J is sooo much better.


No way to pay for carry on, but you can pay for regular checked bag. Basic economy has nothing to do with competing with low cost, and everything to do with allowing airlines to get people to pay more for flights by using scare tactics.

K from Monsey

I am so upset with American! I have around 250,000 points that I feel I’m stuck with. I used to get a trick to Israel for $100 (for fees only) with these points and have absolutely no idea how to best use these points. Can you advise me what to do?

R Escrow

This is amazing data.

Jack out of the box

@K from Monsey: I’m sitting in Israel with about double that. 🙁


Thanks for the report, Dan.
As someone with platinum status with AA due to their dominating my hometown airport (PIT) do you recommend I switch my status? Which airline would you try to get status with abs would they match my AA status?


My experience with AA is completely opposite. As a 25+ year AAdvantage Elite flyer I have had zero incidents that I would call unsatisfactory. Recently trying to redeem a very long haul award flight in J class I was unable to find a mileage award ticket to the connecting U.S. gateway so faced the prospect of having to pay for a revenue positioning ticket. When I called in to do so the agent found me a confirmed F class seat and ticketed that sector for me at no additional charge. A 17,000km flight in F/J for $46.00 and 80,000 miles. The published fare on that F sector was $750 at the time of ticketing. I have no complaints.


While you are correct to complain about the lack of award availability on American, the rest of your complaints are (sorry) mostly anecdotal nonsense. Travel is complicated; bad stuff occasionally happens on all airlines. Do they happen more often on American than, say, United? No way. And while Delta does cancel the fewest number of flights, none of the major US airlines cancels more than 1% of their schedule (except in the most horrendous of weather conditions).

It’s human to hold a grudge when something bad has happened to you on an airline, but it’s important to look at the big picture. The reality is that the three major USA airlines are all very much the same for consumers. A typical flyer will notice little to no difference between them. You should fly the airline that best meets your needs, with price (including frequent flyer awards) and schedule being the paramount considerations.

Jason Smith

American is the only airline that doesn’t allow you to pay for your checked in baggage online at check in. You can only pay for it at the airport. I guess they think it is a good use of their employees time to waste it taking baggage payments at check in at the airport.


I’m thinking about doing a status match with Delta. I have EXP with AA.


@iahphx Dose the WSJ have a personal grudge with American? I assume the rankings are based on actual data.


Are award tickets considered basic economy?


I used to fly mostly United and I couldn’t be happier since switching to American as my main airline, whether it’s the number of issues or the product itself.

The Wright Brother

Wow AA worse than Spirit, and, knowing the WSJ, that’s a data-based conclusion. I thought the only thing possibly worse than Spirit is Stalin.

dan bloom


so WSJ doesn’t know what they are talking about ?!?!

The Other Wright Brother

@The_Wright_Brother lol


Will the new basic fare rules apply to all purchasers or are exceptions made for folks like Executive Platinum customers?


United Basic Economy fules apply if I bought tickets before Q1 2017 but i’m flying Q1 2017?


@nsx at FlyerTalk:

Most airlines will match or challenge status. Try a match and see how it goes.

Clearly the WSJs hard data disagrees with you, as do the 23 bullet points I linked to in this post.

No exceptions, other than boarding group and carry-ons.




will mileage flights booked through AAdvantage or Avios be allowed carry-ons?


as Delta & AmericanAir block all Aisle/Window seats as preferred, both regular & basic economy fares means you get the same middle seat