The latest missile in American’s war against their customers was fired today: American Airlines is rolling out restrictive, useless, punitive, miserable Basic Economy tickets to trans-Atlantic flights.

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The details about the new stupid loser ridiculous Basic Economy trans-Atlantic fares

American’s press release has all of the nonsense spin you’d expect, which makes me feel bad for the poor corporate comms people who will have to deal with the blowback today (I love the corporate comms people at American by the way, they’re good people), but here’s what it boils down to:

  • Boarding: Basic Economy will board last, although those with priority boarding will continue to board when their credit card/status says they can
  • Carry-on: Thankfully you can still carry on a bag on these stupid tickets
  • Checked bags: You will have to pay for a checked bag on a trans-Atlantic flight with a Basic Economy ticket.  In a move that makes no sense and will make the boarding experience even more of a trainwreck, American is incentivizing people to try and carry on as much as they can.
  • Seat Assignments: nope, you’ll be given a seat assignment at check-in unless you want to pay.
  • Tickets: No same-day standby and no same-day flight change
  • Upgrades: None.  No systemwide upgrades, no miles+copay
  • Status Earning: 50% qualifying miles and segments on American flights

This is an assault on the customer experience and a slap in the face to their loyal frequent flyers.

Why are you so angry?

Basic economy tickets suck.  They are simply there because seemingly every airline executive greedily covets towards Spirit Airlines and their profits.   Let me say that again: the executives of the largest airline in the world, which is currently making the most profit in its history, wish they could be more like Spirit Airlines.

Airlines will say Basic Economy “allows them to keep prices lower” but really all it does is make other fares higher while at the same time moving revenue from airfare to fees (which are taxed differently).

American executives lead by copying other airlines.  Delta rolled out Basic Economy for international fares so American is rolling it out too.  Cowardly American executives bow down to industry analysts on Wall Street and do their bidding instead of having the courage to listen to their customers.

This hurts frequent flyers the most

American is at war with their frequent flyers.  Ever since The Letter went out shortly after American’s bankruptcy asking their frequent flyers to remain loyal, American has stopped at nothing (and have been incredibly creative in their carnage) to devalue every single aspect of the once industry-leading AAdvantage program.

While most are focusing rightly on how hostile and punitive these basic economy tickets are, frequent flyers need to know that their systemwide upgrades are now less valuable.  You now have to spend a certain amount of money to use your systemwide upgrades, which you no doubt remember were cut in half from 8 to 4 a couple of years ago.  You have fewer SWUs and have to pay more to use them.

Frequent flyers also now have to spend a certain amount of money (determined by American) to earn full elite-qualifying miles and segments.

Top-tier frequent flyers also lose their ability to use Same-Day Flight Change if they need to get home earlier.

Do these things make sense for American?  Sure they do, but don’t try to frame this as anything but a pure all-out assault on the benefits they promised.

Final thoughts

If we wanted to fly Spirit Airlines we would fly Spirit Airlines.  If we wanted to fly Norwegian Air we would fly Norwegian Air.  American is not good at being Spirit.  American is not good at being Norwegian.  American executives need to start thinking about what it means to “be” American Airlines and recapture the brilliance they used to have.

I know quite a few American employees.  They’re hard-working folks who care about the people they interact with and want American to recapture its former greatness.  I feel bad that they have to represent the loser executives who are running roughshod over the customer experience.


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