Dawn Gilbertson; USA Today
American Airlines’ basic economy tickets now come with one less restriction.
Travelers are allowed to bring a standard carry-on bag in addition to a personal item that fits under the seat in front of them. Until Wednesday, travelers were only allowed to bring on a personal item. Bags that did not fit under the seat were checked at the gate for a charge of $50.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said in July that the tweak is designed to allow the airline to “become more competitive.” One problem: American’s basic economy fares weren’t showing up in flight results on travel sites where travelers can search for flights with free carry-on bags and other amenities.
“There are now filters on things like Google search that ask you if you want to bring a carry-on, and if you say yes, the American flights don’t show up nearly as high as they did before because it adds $20 to our fare,” Parker said on the airline’s earnings conference call. “Nothing wrong with that. It’s accurate. But when you get yourself in a position in this business where price-sensitive customers find themselves with lower fares on truly competitive airlines like that, we have to take that into consideration.”
Delta Air Lines already allows passengers buying basic economy tickets to bring a free carry-on.
“We put this product out with a slightly different model than others had done in the past,” Parker said. “We think the right thing to do is to get in line with the competition.”
President Robert Isom said American’s basic economy revenue has fallen short of expectations as a result.
American’s no carry-on bag policy has confused and angered many passengers, even though American clearly spells out the fine print during the booking process. Passengers are often caught unaware at the gate when American agents require those with a standard carry-on bag to pay a fee to check it. There has been a $25 surcharge at the gate on top of normal bag fees for those flying on a basic economy ticket.
Even with the change, customers flying on America’s basic economy fares shouldn’t necessarily expect to make it onboard with a bag that must be stowed in an overhead bin. Basic economy customers are the last group to board, meaning there’s a good chance that most of the overhead bin space will already be full.
American’s move leaves United as the last of the big three U.S. airlines to prohibit carry-ons for its cheapest-fare flyers.