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American Airlines had said in July that it wanted to roll out basic economy to all domestic routes “by the end of September,” but things turned out a little different: AA just introduced the fare class to its entire network on Tuesday morning.

No matter where you’re originating from or traveling to in the US, you’re likely going to have to pay more to get the same American Airlines “Main Cabin” ticket from before AA introduced basic economy in February. For AAdvantage elites, this means you’ll have to pay more to get a chance at an upgrade. For those looking to qualify for elite status, you’ll have to pay more to get full elite-qualifying miles/segments.

The silver lining is that basic economy isn’t appearing yet on all North American routes. I’m still finding overpriced non-basic economy fares on American Airlines’ Los Angeles (LAX) to Vancouver (YVR) route:

Also good news: it looks like domestic awards are still booking as standard Main Cabin fares and aren’t subject to basic economy restrictions. Since the cost for a cash Main Cabin fare just increased on many routes, Monday morning’s basic economy rollout actually just made AAdvantage miles a bit more valuable on domestic routes — at least where you can find MileSAAver AAvailability.

Now that AA flyers nationwide are affected by basic economy, it’s as important as ever to remember that getting an American Airlines co-branded card can defeat many of the negative aspects of basic economy. Just by having a co-branded card, you can carry-on a bag, check a bag for free and avoid being stuck in boarding group 9.

If you fly AA often and haven’t gotten a co-branded card, here are some to consider:

  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
  • AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard — with newly increased 60,000-mile sign-up bonus
  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

Bottom Line

We knew that American Airlines’ basic economy fares were going to roll out nationwide soon, but it’s a bummer that the airline rushed to complete this project so soon. With United promising to always offer a basic economy option, interestingly it’s Delta — which originated basic economy back in 2012 — that suddenly has the least ubiquitous basic economy fares of the big three US airlines. If you’re an AA flyer who’s doesn’t mind getting stuck in an airline-assigned seat, make sure to grab a co-branded card to defeat the other aspects of basic economy.

Know before you go.

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