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4 catches with basic economy airfares

Major airlines like Delta, United, and American are adding “basic economy” seats to more and more flights, to compete with the growing threat from discount airlines.

But does basic economy really save your money, or could it be a false economy?

Sounds great, but some catches

Deep discount airlines have certainly shaken the airline industry.

Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit are taking traffic from the big carriers. Now WOW Air and Icelandair are slashing the cost of international flying, with $99 flights to Iceland and $150 flights to mainland Europe.

So Delta, United and American are fighting back with low-priced basic economy tickets.

But Consumer Reports magazine says while basic economy may save you $60 a seat over a coach seat on the same flight, you need to know about four key downsides.

Catches to know about include:

  • You can’t bring a carry-on suitcase. Many airlines only allow you to bring a “small personal item,” such as a backpack or a purse, or you will be charged extra. And if you forget and bring your carry-on suitcase to the gate, you’ll pay an additional fee for that, too!
  • No ticket changes are allowed. And most of the time, these tickets are non-refundable.
  • You cannot choose your seat in advance of the departure date (so you won’t sit with your traveling companions).
  • You can often expect to be the last to board the plane.

How it can cost more

Basic economy can actually end up costing you more in the long run.

AirfareWatchdog.com says airlines are raising their coach fares to compensate for the cheaper basic economy. They no longer have to be as competitive on a standard coach fares, now that they have a cheaper option.

So you may pay more than in the days when coach was the cheapest class. Doesn’t that stink?

Even so, the new basic economy seats may not be your best deal, even if those fares are $50 or $60 less that a coach seat on the same flight. You’ll have to pay for a carry-on suitcase, your checked luggage and other fees.

Before you book the cheapest seat you can find, make sure it’s really the cheapest seat, once you add all the extras, and all the perks you have to give up, so you don’t waste your money.

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