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American Airlines will soon be removing one of the biggest downsides of domestic basic economy fares: not being able to carry on a full-size bag. When the change takes effect, it’ll pull American Airlines’ basic economy policy in line with Delta’s to allow a carry-on bag with basic economy fares, and it also aligns the airline’s domestic policy with its international basic economy fare policy.
In its press release announcing the change, which is set to take effect on September 5, American Airlines points to how this change makes its basic economy fares “more competitive with airlines that include a carry-on bag in their lowest fares.” While this will certainly be the case, it’s likely that operational reasons are also driving the change.
As someone who flies AA a lot and likes to arrive at the gate near the end of boarding, I’ve seen countless flights delayed due to Group 9 passengers’ carry-on bags. Basic economy passengers who might not remember the restrictions when they bought their ticket often delay the boarding process, arguing with gate agents about the size of their bag and/or taking up valuable time paying for their bags.
It’ll be very interesting to see how big of a change this makes to American Airlines’ basic economy-to-Main Cabin buy-up rate. Airline management have bragged to investors about how many passengers have opted to pay a higher Main Cabin fare to avoid basic economy restrictions. Without one of the biggest restrictions for general travelers removed, we can only imagine that this buy-up rate will fall. The question is just by how much.
Also, it’ll be interesting to see if American Airlines effectively factors the cost of the carry-on bag into its prices. While AA hasn’t kept its pledge to match low-cost carrier fares, it’s possible that the addition of carry-on bags will mean even more of a price premium over what the airline would otherwise have charged.
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