This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Just more than one year ago, American Airlines launched basic economy fares on ten domestic routes. That spread to all domestic AA routes last September. Now, the basic economy scourge is expanding to transatlantic flights.

American Airlines announced Thursday that basic economy fares will start being sold on transatlantic routes in April of this year. This move will come at the same time that AA’s partners British Airways, Iberia and Finnair will also start selling basic economy fares.

Here’s a quick overview of the new transatlantic basic economy fares:

  • Boarding: Group 8 boarding — exceptions for elites and co-branded cardholders
  • Carry-on bags: one carry-on bag and one personal bag (same as before), including on domestic connections
  • Checked Baggage: No checked baggage allowance — except for elites. Fees for the first checked bag haven’t been unveiled yet.
  • Seat assignments: Assigned at check-in, unless purchased in advance
  • Upgrades: No upgrades (systemwide, load-based factor upgrades, etc.)

Some good news and some bad news in here. The loss of a free checked bag stings, but at least Oneworld is allowing basic economy passengers to still bring a full-size carry-on bag as well as a personal item. So, light packers will be able to avoid baggage fees — even on domestic connections, as specifically noted by American Airlines:

Customers flying on a domestic Basic Economy leg connecting to a trans-Atlantic Basic Economy ticket will travel under the rules of the international ticket, including the carry-on bag allowance.

The bad news for general flyers is the loss of a seat assignment and a checked bag. American Airlines elites retain their priority boarding but lose the chance to use any upgrades and earn fewer elite-qualifying miles.

With the ever-growing expansion of low-cost carriers and ultra-low cost carriers flying across the Atlantic, it was inevitable that legacy airlines would respond with basic economy restrictions. Delta already had a mild version of basic economy, which recently got worse with the elimination of a checked bag. Aer Lingus added its “Saver” fares. And now we are seeing Oneworld’s foray into the transatlantic basic economy market.

Overall, the restrictions could be worse. However, as we know from AA’s presentations to its investors, basic economy means a hidden price increase — where passengers have to pay more for the same services as before. After all, AA alone expects basic economy to generate $1 billion of incremental revenue per year.

So, when you see those same American Airlines $400 round-trip fares to Europe starting in April, know that they could be coming with fewer benefits than they do now. You could have to pay for the checked bag and seating assignment, which currently come with those cheap tickets.

Update 1:01pm: We reached out to an American Airlines spokesperson about elite checked baggage allowances. The airline is “not confirming those additional details today,” pointing to the April launch time period as when more details can be shared.

The best beginner points and miles card out there.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.