American Airlines has extended its base economy fares to new destinations and updated its baggage policies. The changes aim to “simplify the shopping experience for travelers and ensure consistency across the airline’s network,” the airline says. However, there is still a lot to be confused when it comes to US policies on baggage and change fees.
This expansion of the basic economy is also bad news for travelers who may need to change flights and for American Airlines loyalists who want to gain elite status.
Let’s dive into the good and the bad about the recently announced changes.
Expansion of the basic economy to new destinations
For the first time, American Airlines is deploying basic economy rates to markets in Asia, Oceania, India and Israel. From now on, passengers on the cheapest American Airlines flights to these regions will no longer be able to change or cancel (previously the cheapest flights were technically the main cabin fares). The only benefit: You’ll still get one free checked baggage on these routes with American Airlines’ new base economy and baggage fares.
Unfortunately, these basic economy fares plus baggage are not extended to other international markets. American Airlines has confirmed that base economy fares to Europe and South America will not include free checked baggage. You will therefore have to pay up to $ 75 per trip for your first piece of checked baggage on these routes.
Standardized baggage policies in the premium economy
Before these changes, the baggage policies on American Airlines premium economy fares differed by route. Now, American is simplifying baggage policies for all premium economy class flights: for flights issued on or after February 23, 2021, all premium economy passengers will receive two free checked bags.
This was the checked baggage policy for most premium economy class tickets, but prior to this change, premium economy flights to Hawaii and Alaska only included one free checked bag. Passengers on flights to Hawaii and Alaska ticketed on or before February 22, 2021 will still be charged a $ 40 fee to check in a second bag.
In the future, American Airlines passengers can check in two pieces of checked baggage free of charge when:
Ticket in business class or premium economy class.
Fly as an eligible elite member (AAdvantage Platinum Pro, AAdvantage Platinum and Oneworld Sapphire members).
Qualifying first class passengers, senior elites, and serving U.S. military personnel can check (at least) a third piece of baggage for free.
Non-standard policies in economics
American Airlines now offers four different types of economy fares, each with its own baggage allowance and change fee policy:
Basic economy fares (non-modifiable, no free checked baggage).
Basic rates in economy class and luggage (subject to change at an additional cost).
Main cabin fares (subject to change without checked baggage allowance).
Main cabin fares (subject to change with checked baggage allowance)
American Airlines’ base economy fares on domestic flights and most short-haul international flights cannot be changed and do not come with free checked baggage. But you can take large hand luggage on board.
For long-haul international flights, baggage fees depend on the destination. If you are traveling in basic economy class to Europe and South America, you will need to pay $ 75 each way to check one baggage. In contrast, travelers in Asia or Oceania on the new American Airlines Economy Base Fare Plus Baggage will receive one checked baggage free of charge.
Main cabin fares in the United States, Canada, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean (with a few exceptions), Guyana and Suriname can now be changed at no cost. However, you will need to pay for checked baggage at these rates. International long-haul main cabin fares are also generally subject to change, and these include free checked baggage.
As you can see, the updates still leave a lot of baggage and change the fee policy differences depending on where you’re traveling and what fare you’re booking.
The bad news for the American Airlines elites
American Airlines’ expansion of base economy fares to all regions is bad news for those who want to win Elite AAdvantage Status. Prior to this change, economy fares to these destinations were the primary cabin fares. This meant that AAdvantage members could book the cheapest flights to regions like Asia and Australia and earn full elite status credits. And since the flights to Asia and Australia are long, travelers could earn a lot of credit on the flights.
With the introduction of Basic Economy Fares in these regions, travelers who wish to achieve elite status from American Airlines will have to “buy” the main cabin to earn elite status credits. This is because American Airlines’ base economy fares no longer qualify for earning Elite Qualifying Miles, Qualifying Elite Dollars, or Qualifying Elite segments as of January 1, 2021.
The bottom line
American Airlines says these changes to baggage fees simplify its travel experience and “make it easier for customers to choose their travel experience.” However, these changes actually introduce great confusion for those who fly economy class.
With American’s addition of another variety of Economy fares – Basic Economy plus Bag – there are now four types of Economy fares to know and understand, each with their own bag and fee change policy. Additionally, elite status will be more difficult to earn as basic economy class flights will no longer earn status qualifying miles or dollars.
That said, American Airlines has standardized baggage policies for premium economy fares. Going forward, Premium Economy Class travelers will receive two pieces of checked baggage free of charge, regardless of where they fly.
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