The Dangers of Basic Economy

Becky was ecstatic to book the lowest possible fares for her family. The Robertson family of four was on a tight budget and Becky thought airfare was a great place to cut corners. But booking Basic Economy could cost you more than money, as Becky would soon find out.


Excited to begin their long-awaited vacation, the Robertsons got to their gate early but were surprised and somewhat miffed to learn that they would be in the last boarding group.

When they finally attempted to board, the gate attendant let them know that Basic Economy did not allow carry-on luggage. The Robertsons were stunned as they only brought carry-on luggage in an effort to save money. What were they supposed to do? The flight was leaving in 25 minutes, so their only option was to pay a checked bag fee PLUS a $25 gate handling fee, not to mention the awkwardness of feeling the condescending stares of everyone in line behind them.

The nightmare was just beginning.

With a knot in their stomachs and their faces red from the embarrassment, the Robertsons finally boarded the plane. Because Basic Economy on this airline does not allow for any pre-assigned seating, their seats were arbitrarily assigned just before boarding from the leftover vacancies. Mr. Robertson squeezed into his seat, 29B, a middle seat near the toilets. Claire Robertson discovered that she was also in a middle seat, in row 32.

To her horror, her children were also in middle seats, one in row 34 and the other in row 35. Try as she might, no one was interested in swapping seats with her so she could sit by her kids. And with the flight ready for takeoff she had no choice but to settle into her seat and hope for the best. Needless to say, the rest of their vacation was tainted by this experience and with the dread of doing this all over again on their return flight home.

With Basic Economy there are some important restrictions. Restrictions can vary by airline and some of those rules are changing as the airline gets feedback from travelers. But here are some areas to watch out for:

Potential charges for carry-on baggage

No seat selection options

No upgrades allowed

Possibly no changes allowed

Likely the last to board the plane

For whom is Basic Economy best suited?

Short flights

Traveling with friends

Solo travelers or people that don't mind sitting alone

Individuals with only a personal item

For whom is Basic Economy not suited?


Long flights

People who like to choose their seat