American Airlines just expanded its cheapest, most restrictive fares to another region

Nov 6, 2019

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It’s been a little over two and a half years since American Airlines first introduced basic economy fares. After starting on just 10 domestic routes, it wasn’t long before the airline’s cheapest and most restrictive fares expanded nationwide. In spring 2018, AA added basic economy fares to Europe. Then, in September 2018, basic economy expanded to Hawaii and the Caribbean. But it’s been relatively quiet since then.

Unfortunately, that streak just ended. American Airlines confirmed to TPG that basic economy fares were added to select South America routes this week.

Basic economy fares are now available on both nonstop and connecting routes to Santiago, Chile (SCL) and Lima, Peru (LIM) from Chicago (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA) and New York City (JFK/LGA/EWR).

As far as expanding to other South American routes, an American Airlines spokesperson confirmed that the airline is “always evaluating new markets for Basic Economy but do not have any additional South America news to share at this time.”

The basic economy restrictions on these South American routes match the restrictions on European basic economy fares. Passengers will be allowed to bring a carry-on bag as well as a personal item. However, basic economy fares won’t be eligible for upgrades, advanced seat selection will be subject to a fee and passengers will be assigned group 8 boarding. As with other basic economy fares, American Airlines and Oneworld elites will retain their priority boarding and checked bag benefits.

While credit cards can help you defeat basic economy, the complimentary first checked bag benefit on American Airlines co-branded credit cards is limited to domestic itineraries. That means having a AA credit card won’t help you gain back a checked bag benefit on these South American basic economy fares.

As basic economy theoretically allows legacy airlines to answer low-cost carriers, it’s understandable to see American Airlines adding basic economy to Lima, Peru — where it’s facing stiff price competition from Spirit Airlines. The decision to add basic economy on routes to Santiago, Chile is less clear, but an AA spokesperson noted that American Airlines’ major South America partner LATAM has offered its Promo product from time to time in that market, which is equivalent to American’s Basic Economy offering. The addition comes shortly after LATAM announced that it’s leaving AA’s Oneworld alliance following an investment from Delta.

To learn more about basic economy restrictions, check out our guides on what you need to know about basic economy on American Airlines, Delta and United — as well as our survival guides to flying Spirit and Frontier.

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