How to Make the Best of Basic Economy on American Airlines

Whether accidentally or on purpose, if you’re booked for a basic economy flight aboard American Airlines, you’ll pay the lowest fare, but you’re in for a lot of restrictions and if you’re not used to this class of travel, it’s going to be important to prepare to make the best of the bare bones experience. We provide you with the details of what you can expect when flying in a basic economy class, and tips on how to improve your situation.

Restrictions and locked into them

When booked for an American Airlines basic economy flight, you cannot cancel unless you do so within 24 hours of booking the flight. The carrier doesn’t allow upgrades, flight changes or refunds unless a traveling companion dies. You’re restricted from bringing a carry-on bag, you must pay for checked bags and you’re likely to be assigned a middle seat at check-in. You also earn fewer rewards miles and you’re in the last line to board the plane. It’s like being put at the back of the line for certain, and you literally are. While it may seem that you’re stuck with very few options, there is some hope of improving the situation.

You may qualify for exemptions to some restrictions

There is good news for anyone booked on American Airlines basic economy if they possess a credit card that offers AA elite status. Even if you’re booked for a basic economy fare with no upgrades, the card is like a get out of jail free card that can help you to boost your status. Although none of the cards will allow you to upgrade your ticket to a different class on the flight, you can enjoy at least some additional perks.

Which cards are eligible and what are the benefits?

The City AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard gives you the benefits of a first bag checked for free if the flight is domestic. You also get the perks of a carry-on bag and preferred boarding.

The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard provides Admirals Club access for you and up to 10 authorized users. The CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard lets you bring a carry-on item that is a maximum of 22 x 14 x 9 inches to store in the overhead bin, plus a personal item for under the seat. These are a few of the perks for having a card with elite status.

Avoid being the last to board

Boarding Perks are included with many of the AA elite status cards including Group 2 boarding with AAdvantage Executive Platinum and Oneworld Emerald, Group 3 boarding with AAdvantage Platinum Pro, AAdvantage Platinum and Oneworld Sapphire, Group 4 boarding with AAdvantage Gold and Oneworld Ruby plus normal checked baggage benefits, second and third checked bag free with AAdvantage Executive Platinum and Oneworld Emerald, first and second checked bag free with AAdvantage Platinum Pro, AAdvantage Platinum, and Oneworld Sapphire, and firsts checked bag free with AAdvantage Gold and Oneworld Ruby.

Escaping the worst parts of Basic Economy

There’s no way around the fact that Basic Economy aboard American Airlines is restrictive and inconvenient. Having a credit card with AA elite status can’t get you upgraded in class, but it can transform your experience and help to defray some of the worst negatives associated with this low fare ticket. The best thing that you can do when you discover you’re booked on a Basic Economy flight is to go through your credit cards to check their benefits. Look for AA elite status and refer to the benefits. You can easily find them online. If you’re not aware of precisely what you’re eligible for, the perks may not automatically be granted. Familiarize yourself with the benefits offered by the cards you carry and use them to your advantage.

Final thoughts

If you don’t currently have an elite status rewards credit card, and you’re a frequent flyer, it may be worth your time to compare the different options available and apply. While many of these AA elite cards charge an annual fee, some around $95 annually with a waiver for the first year, the benefits they provide will save you many times more the amount charged in the perks delivered when you have privileged status. It’s always a good idea to compare the available cards to find out which offers the best benefits for your particular lifestyle.


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