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Basic Economy

Basic Economy

Our lowest Main Cabin fare around the world

Book a Basic Economy fare to get our lowest price. There are some restrictions, but you'll still enjoy a comfortable seat in the Main Cabin, free snacks, soft drinks and inflight entertainment.

Basic Economy fares cannot be combined with other fare types.

Book a trip today

The basics about Basic Economy fares

Changes and cancellations.

Basic Economy fare tickets cannot be changed*. However, you have up to 24 hours from the time you first buy your ticket to cancel and get a refund if you booked at least 2 days before departure. After 24 hours, refunds are not allowed.

Read about 24 hour cancellations

*If your trip originates in Europe (except Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), you can change your Basic Economy ticket for a fee.

You can bring 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item on board the plane. Carry-on requirements apply to all customers, including AAdvantage ® status members.

  • Carry-on bag: This bag must fit in the overhead bin above your seat
  • Personal item: This item must fit under the seat in front of you
  • Basic Economy fares do not include free checked bags**

In addition to your 1 personal item, you can also bring instruments, pets and special items that meet our guidelines, but you will be charged a standard fee for these items.

No other items can be carried on; they must be checked at the ticket counter.

Need more information about bag policies?

  • Carry-on bags
  • Checked bag policy
  • Traveling with pets
  • Special items and sports equipment

**Doesn’t apply to AAdvantage ® status members. Eligible AAdvantage ® credit cardmembers are exempt only when flying within the U.S. and Canada on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines. For travel to / from Asia, India, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel for tickets issued on / after June 7, 2023 there are no free checked bags and for tickets issued on / before June 6, 2023 Basic Economy has 1 free checked bag.

You can choose a specific seat at any time for a fee. AAdvantage ® members can choose complimentary seats based on their status. Otherwise, seats will be automatically assigned for free at check-in. We cannot guarantee that companions on the same ticket will be seated together.

Families traveling

If you’re a family traveling with children under 15, and do not already have seats assigned, our system will search for seats together automatically before the day of departure. We’ll try our best to keep you together, but if seats are limited, we’ll assign seats so children under 15 are next to at least 1 adult.

Traveling with children and infants

When you’ll board

Basic Economy passengers board last, typically in Group 9. Overhead bin space is usually full by then, so plan to check your carry-on bag and bring only 1 personal item on board. Customers who need special assistance and families with children under 2 years old can ask to board early at the gate.

AAdvantage ® status members, AAdvantage ® members who reach 15,000 Loyalty Points during the qualification year or eligible AAdvantage ® credit cardmembers may board in the group shown on their boarding pass.

Boarding process

Same-day travel

If you have a change of plans, you can make same-day confirmed changes on select flights for a fee, with some exceptions. You can also stand by for a flight at no charge.

AAdvantage® members

AAdvantage ® status benefits may vary for flights marketed and / or operated by our partners.

AAdvantage ® status members can upgrade from Basic Economy fares for themselves plus 1 companion traveling on the same flight, if they bought their ticket at least 24 hours before departure. Upgrades are only available on flights marketed and operated by American within / between the U.S. (including Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean and Central America.

Complimentary upgrades

AAdvantage ® status members and eligible Citi ® / AAdvantage ® or AAdvantage ® Aviator ® Mastercard ® cardmembers are exempt from certain restrictions.

  • Upgrade privileges
  • Complimentary Preferred and Main Cabin Extra seat benefits based on AAdvantage ® status
  • Complimentary confirmed same-day flight changes for AAdvantage Executive Platinum ® and AAdvantage Platinum Pro ® members
  • Priority or preferred boarding privileges
  • Checked bag benefits*

*Eligible AAdvantage ® credit cardmembers may check 1 free bag when traveling to domestic destinations on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines.

Eligible cards

  • Citi ® / AAdvantage ® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard ®
  • Citi ® / AAdvantage ® Platinum Select World Elite™ Mastercard ®
  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage ® Platinum Select World Elite™ Mastercard ®
  • Citi ® / AAdvantage ® Platinum Select ® American Express ® Card
  • Citi ® / AAdvantage ® Platinum Select ® Visa Signature
  • AAdvantage ® Aviator™ Silver Mastercard ®
  • AAdvantage ® Aviator™ Red Mastercard ®
  • AAdvantage ® Aviator™ Business Mastercard ®

Award miles earn based on ticket price (includes base fare plus carrier-imposed fees; excludes government-imposed taxes and fees) on flights marketed and operated by American.

Basic Economy tickets issued on or after January 1, 2023, for travel starting March 1, 2023 will earn award miles at a rate of 2 miles per dollar in addition to Loyalty Points. Status members bonus percentages will apply to the base mileage rate of 2 miles per dollar on American and other select partner airlines.

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How much is seat selection on American Airlines Basic Economy?

September 30, 2023 | Travel Pedia

Am I guaranteed a seat with basic economy American Airlines?

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Is it worth it to upgrade from Basic Economy to economy?

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  • Decide where you want to sit. ...
  • Use SeatGuru. ...
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  • Be friendly at check-in. ...
  • Book with an airline that blocks middle seats. ...
  • If all else fails, ask on the plane.

What happens if you are not assigned a seat on a flight?

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The Guide to American Airlines Seat Selection

JT Genter

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

Table of Contents

American Airlines seat selection fee

How to select seats on american airlines flights, how to avoid paying american airlines seat selection fees, when can you get a refund of american airlines seat selection fees, final thoughts on american airlines seat selection.

Seat selection is complimentary for many seats on most American Airlines tickets. However, as you can tell by that convoluted sentence, American Airlines seat selection isn't free for all passengers.

So, how much does American Airlines charge for seat selection? We’ll answer this question and explain how you can avoid paying an American Airlines seat selection fee.

» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now

The cost to select a seat on American Airlines ranges from free — for standard seats except when booking basic economy fares — to over $160 for an extra-legroom seat on a long-haul international flight.

American Airlines seat selection fees vary based on several factors — including the flight length and what type of seat you want. Window and aisle seats are generally the most expensive. Meanwhile, a middle seat in between two preferred seats might not cost anything.

» Learn more: The complete guide to American Airlines partners

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

American Airlines travelers can select seats during the flight booking process or after purchasing a flight. If you're just starting a flight search, we recommend logging into your AAdvantage account first. That way your information will be auto-filled, and you'll be able to maximize any frequent flyer perks you have. More about that below.

Say you want to travel from Denver to London. First, you'll need to select your flights. During the search process, you can preview available seats by selecting the "seats" link in the search results. This can give you an idea of the number of available seats for your group. However, the price for selecting seats won't be listed yet.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

After selecting your flights, reviewing fare upgrade options, entering your information and declining the option to buy miles, you'll finally be able to select seats for your flight.

If you booked a basic economy fare , you'll have to pay for a seat selection no matter the type of seat. In the example below, prices to choose a seat range from $9-$24 depending on which one you select.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

If you booked a standard economy fare, you can select any standard seat for free. Or you can pay for preferred and extra-legroom seats — in this example, the cost ranges from $10-$22 for a preferred or Main Cabin Extra seat.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

You won't be able to select seats on flights operated by partner airlines — even if the flight has an American Airlines flight number. Instead, you'll have to complete the booking to get the partner confirmation number (also referred to as a PNR or record locator). Then, you can contact that airline for seat assignment.

If you booked an American Airlines flight through another airline, you’ll need your American Airlines confirmation number. Once you have this, head to the American Airlines homepage and click the "manage trips/check-in" tab.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

Enter your last name and the confirmation number to find your trip. Then, you'll see your seat selection options.

The most reliable way to avoid paying a seat selection fee is to have elite status through American Airlines or through an eligible partner airline, such as Alaska Airlines or British Airways . Additionally, you can redeem AAdvantage miles to pay seat selection fees.

Preferred Seating

All tiers of AAdvantage elite status get complimentary access to preferred seating — standard-legroom seating in preferred areas of the cabin — from the time of booking. Similarly, elite members of oneworld Alliance partner airlines get complimentary access to preferred seating on American Airlines, even at the lowest Ruby tier.

Main Cabin Extra

In addition to extra legroom, Main Cabin Extra seats also grant travelers early boarding and complimentary snacks and drinks — including beer, wine and spirits.

AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum elites get complimentary access to Main Cabin Extra seats from the time of booking. Gold elites can select Main Cabin Extra seats free of charge within 24 hours of departure.

Similarly, Alaska MVP Gold, Gold 75k and Gold 100k elite members can select Main Cabin Extra seats from the time of booking. Alaska MVP members must wait until 24 hours before departure to select Main Cabin Extra seats for free. However, basic economy fares aren't eligible for this benefit.

» Learn more: The guide to American Airlines elite status

Using AAdvantage miles

If you can't use elite status to avoid American Airlines seat selection fees, you may be able to redeem AAdvantage miles to pay for them. Like the cash cost, the mileage cost depends on factors such as the length of the flight and the location of the seat in the cabin.

The redemption rate for seat selection fees is typically about 1 cent per mile. That's not a great rate. NerdWallet values American Airlines miles at 1.7 cents each. Still, this could be an appealing redemption option if your mileage balance is too low to redeem miles for flights.

You'll need to have enough AAdvantage miles in your account to cover the entire cost of the seat selection fees. Otherwise, you'll either need to select a seat that costs fewer miles or buy more miles. Travelers don't have the ability to buy a single seat with a combination of miles and cash.

» Learn more: Easiest ways redeem American Airlines miles

Upgrading to a Main Plus ticket

Travelers who pay for a Main Plus ticket get complimentary access to preferred and Main Cabin Extra seats. This option isn't free. However, the extra cost may be worth it to get an extra checked bag, preferred boarding and complimentary seat selection.

American Airlines seat selection fees are generally nonrefundable. However, you can get a refund of your seat selection fees in a few specific situations.

For example, American Airlines will refund your seat selection fees if you opt to upgrade to business or first class, pay more for another seat on the same flight, cancel your flight within 24 hours of booking (if you booked at least two days before departure) or cancel your flight and purchase seats on a rebooked flight.

You'll also get a refund when American Airlines cancels your flight — or if American delays your flight long enough to miss a connecting flight on which you purchased seats — and doesn't provide a comparable seat on the new flight.

American Airlines seats can generally be selected during booking or after booking your flight. However, you'll need to avoid basic economy fares to get free seat selection. And you'll only get free preferred or extra-legroom seat selection if you have elite status or use miles to pay the fee.

If you’re having trouble making your American Airlines seat selection, check to see if your flight is operated by a partner airline. If so, you'll need to retrieve the confirmation code for that airline and contact the airline to choose a seat.

(Top photo courtesy of American Airlines)

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023 , including those best for:

Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

2x-5x Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

75,000 Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

1x Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

70,000 Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

1x-5x Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

60,000 Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

Everything you need to know about flying basic economy on American Airlines

Katie Genter

Basic economy fares are often the least expensive fares you'll find. If you've booked a basic economy fare on American Airlines, you may have some questions. Specifically, you may wonder what restrictions you face and whether there are ways to avoid these restrictions. This guide aims to answer all of your questions.

New to The Points Guy? Sign up for our daily newsletter to stay up to date on points, miles and credit cards.

What's basic economy?

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

American Airlines' basic economy is the carrier's lowest-priced main cabin fare. It comes with some restrictions on baggage, seating, boarding order and your eligibility to change. This guide will answer common questions about these restrictions.

American Airlines waives some basic economy restrictions for elite members and holders of eligible AAdvantage Aviator or Citi / AAdvantage credit cards. I'll discuss these exceptions in sections dedicated to elite members and cardholders near the end of this guide.

Related: Comparing basic economy fares across US airlines

Can I check a bag?

Yes, but it's going to cost you:

  • Within the U.S. and Canada : $30 for the first bag, $40 for the second bag, $150 for the third bag and $200 for each additional bag.
  • To/from Mexico : $30 for the first bag, $40 for the second bag, $200 for the third bag and $200 for each additional bag.
  • To/from the Caribbean : $30 for the first bag (waived for travel to/from Haiti and departing Cuba ), $40 for the second bag (waived for travel departing Cuba; $70 for travel to/from Haiti), $200 for the third bag and $200 for each additional bag.
  • To/from Central America : $30 for the first bag, $40 for the second bag ($65 for seasonal travel to/from Honduras), $150 for the third bag and $200 for each additional bag.
  • To/from South America : $45 for the first bag ($30 for travel to/from Colombia, Ecuador and Guyana), $65 for the second bag ($40 for travel to/from Ecuador and Guyana; $55 for travel to/from Colombia), $200 for the third bag and $200 for each additional bag.
  • Transatlantic : $75 for the first bag, $100 for the second bag and $200 for each additional bag.

The costs for checked baggage are the same for basic economy and Main Cabin fares on most routes. Notable exceptions that waive the first checked bag fee for Main Cabin fares include transatlantic flights, flights to/from South America (excluding Guyana) and flights to/from Panama. See the chart for checked baggage fees on American's website for more details.

Related: How to avoid checked baggage fees on major domestic airlines

Can I bring a carry-on?

Yes, your ticket allows one personal item and one carry-on item . Your personal item must be no larger than 18 by 14 by 8 inches and should fit under the seat in front of you. Meanwhile, your carry-on bag must fit in the overhead bin and cannot be larger than 22 by 14 by 9 inches.

Related: Keep calm and carry on: Our 13 favorite travel carry-ons

Can I select a seat?

Yes, but it will cost you. You can choose a specific seat at any time during or after booking for a fee.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

If you don't choose to pay to select a seat, American Airlines will automatically assign you a seat for free at check-in. American Airlines has the following policy for families traveling in basic economy:

If you're a family traveling with children under 15, and do not already have seats assigned, our system will search for seats together automatically before the day of departure. We'll try our best to keep you together, but if seats are limited, we'll assign seats so children under 15 are next to at least 1 adult.

Basic economy seats aren't different from other standard seats in coach. Instead, they're the seats that aren't selected by other passengers before you check in. Contributor Brian Biros recommends not picking a seat in hopes of scoring a free upgrade. After all, you might luck into a preferred seat or a Main Cabin Extra seat. But I recommend paying to select seats if you really want a window or aisle seat , need extra legroom or want your group to sit together.

Related: A beginners guide to American Airlines economy seats

When can I board?

Basic economy passengers generally board in the last boarding group , which is Group 9 for flights within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and Group 8 for flights to/from Europe, South America and Africa. You may be required to gate-check your carry-on bag, but doing so will be free. However, if you are an AAdvantage member, you'll board in Group 6 .

Related: Why I always board last, no matter where I'm sitting on the plane

Can I change my flight?

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

Although American Airlines has removed most change fees , the carrier excluded basic economy. American Airlines doesn't allow any changes to basic economy fares within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. And although American Airlines allows travelers to make changes after paying a fee when traveling to/from Europe, South America and Africa, the American Airlines fee chart lists a charge of up to $750 for voluntary changes to an international ticket before the day of travel. So, the change fee almost certainly won't be worth it.

American Airlines' global coronavirus waiver no longer applies to basic economy airfare. Note, however, that if you're an AAdvantage Member, you can apply the value of any unused ticket booked between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021, to any trip before Dec. 31, 2022 (also note that you have to book the ticket before Sept. 30, 2022).

Related: How to avoid airline change and cancellation fees

Can I cancel my flight?

No, except if 1) you cancel the ticket within 24 hours of purchase, 2) American changes your flight schedule by 61 minutes or more, 3) you or your traveling companion dies, or 4) because of military orders. In these cases, American Airlines may refund the purchase price to your original form of payment if you can provide valid documentation.

However, thanks to American Airlines' global coronavirus waiver , you can cancel basic economy tickets booked between March 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, for any reason.

Related: Leniency in basic economy: TPG readers share success stories and tips

Do I still earn miles?

Yes! For travel after Jan. 1, 2022, basic economy fares earn award miles and Loyalty Points.

Related: Where to credit your basic economy flights for maximum returns

Does having a cobranded credit card help?

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

Yes, having one of the eligible cobranded American Airlines credit cards can improve your basic economy experience . As a holder of one of these cards, you'll get the following benefits even when flying on a basic economy fare:

  • First checked bag for free for you and up to a set number of companions on the same reservation on domestic American Airlines-operated itineraries (the eligible number of companions varies by card).
  • Group 5 boarding, except for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (see rates and fees ), which provides Group 4 boarding.

Note that you only need to have an eligible card — you don't have to purchase your ticket with the eligible card. So you can get the boarding and baggage benefits of a cobranded American Airlines credit card even when you pay for your ticket with a card that provides travel protections such as trip delay protection and baggage delay protection .

If you're looking for a card that provides Group 4 or 5 boarding and your first checked bag free on domestic itineraries, consider getting one of the following cards:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® : $595 annual fee but includes Admirals Club access when flying American and its partners.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (see rates and fees ) : $99 annual fee (waived for the first 12 months).
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® : $99 annual fee (waived for the first 12 months).
  • AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard : $99 annual fee.
  • AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard : $95 annual fee.

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select card, AAdvantage Aviator Red card and AAdvantage Aviator Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: AA, Delta and United lounges have limited access to customers flying with them: Here's what to do

Does having elite status help?

Yes, having AAdvantage or Oneworld elite status helps. Specifically, elite members get the following benefits even when flying on a basic economy fare:

  • Normal boarding group .
  • Standard checked baggage benefits .
  • Usual upgrade privileges including systemwide upgrades and standard mileage upgrades .
  • Complimentary preferred and Main Cabin Extra seat benefits based on elite status.
  • Complimentary confirmed same-day flight changes for AAdvantage Executive Platinum and AAdvantage Platinum Pro.

In short, if you have AAdvantage elite status, it might make sense to book basic economy if the fare is significantly lower.

Related: Credit cards that can help you earn airline elite status

Bottom line

American Airlines' basic economy fares come with restrictions. But, travelers with elite status or an eligible American Airlines credit card can escape many of the inconveniences of basic economy . Specifically, these passengers receive their customary baggage allowance and boarding zone provided by their elite status or eligible credit card.

In particular, having a credit card such as the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard provides the first checked bag free on domestic flights and Group 5 boarding. So, you could get enough value to justify the card's annual fee after saving checked baggage fees on just a couple of domestic flights.

Related: Why now is the perfect time to reconsider basic economy fares

Worried about a middle seat with that basic economy ticket? Reserve a seat ⁠— for a fee

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

Two days before my American Airlines flight from Chicago to Las Vegas in June, I checked the airline's website to see how much they wanted for a seat assignment.

Yes, a seat assignment.

I was traveling on a basic economy ticket , and those no-frills tickets don't come with an advance seat assignment and carry other restrictions. The airline assigns you one at check in, so you never know where you'll end up on the plane.

Basic economy passengers who are afraid of getting stuck in a middle seat, or being separated from their traveling companions, have the option of selecting a seat for a fee. It's no different than the system used by discount airlines Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant , whose bare bones fares inspired major airlines to add basic economy tickets. 

The window for buying a seat with a basic economy ticket varies by carrier: United allows the purchase of a seat assignment during booking, while Delta and American only sell seats to basic economy passengers a week before the flight. Until July 2, American only allowed purchase 48 hours in advance on domestic flights. (American passengers buying international basic economy tickets can buy a seat when booking.)

My ticket to Las Vegas fell under the 48-hour policy. At that time, American's seat map showed a few options: a handful of $9 seats, including a couple of aisle seats and a couple of window seats and a few rows of "preferred'' seats closer to the front of the plane but without any extra legroom or other perks. The going rate for 17D, a "preferred'' aisle seat: $31. The priciest choice: $62 for an aisle seat in the exit row, one of American's Main Cabin Extra seats featuring more legroom and free drinks. 

There were no high-pressure tactics to get me to buy one. A note at the top of the seat map said: "If you don't want to pay for your seats now, we'll assign seats after you check in.''

I passed on all, as I usually do, on principle. (I also refuse to pay for Southwest Airlines' early bird boarding, one of the airline's versions of a seat fee.)

As a solo traveler, I've had good luck snagging an aisle seat on the basic economy flights I've booked. Until this trip.

The bad news greeted me when I checked in online: A middle seat. For 3 ½ hours. 

I wasn't worried about arm-rest hogs as much as I was about jumping over someone every time I had to use the restroom.

I didn't want to take my chances on a seat change at the airport on a Saturday in the middle of summer travel season , so I paid for a seat last minute. The $9 seats were long gone. I sprung for one of the Main Cabin exit row seats with free drinks they had peddled a couple of days before. It was a whopping $46, cheaper than it was when initially offered but still a fortune on a flight that was $200 one way in basic economy. The only reason I paid and didn't suck it up in a middle seat: I discovered remaining airline fee credits so I was reimbursed for the charge. (But that's another story.)

Lesson learned: Buy a seat the first time it's offered if a middle seat is going to ruin your vacation. Otherwise, save the money. My advice is exactly the same when you encounter seat-selection fees on a regular economy ticket. The fees are  everywhere, and the prices are on the rise .

Basic economy seat fees: four things to know 

1)  You don't have to pay for a seat assignment.  Airlines will assign you a seat for free when you check in online or get to the airport. You might not like the seat, and you will likely be separated from anyone traveling with you. Airlines say they block seats together for basic economy passengers traveling with young children, but travelers report varying success; ask at the airport or play the "will you trade seats with me?'' game on the airplane. The latter is becoming more difficult as passengers who have paid a fee for a particular seat (basic economy or regular economy) are reluctant to give it up.

2)  Seat fees vary by airline, flight, route, row and other factors. For a basic economy ticket from Los Angeles to Chicago in September, United last week was quoting seat fees from $12-$51 per person one way. The low end got you a middle seat or a window seat near the back of the plane, with an aisle seat there fetching $18. The $51 fee was an aisle seat in row 15. No extra legroom or other perks. 

Delta was charging a flat $29 one-way fee for a seat assignment on an Atlanta-New York flight this week.

American wanted $10-$43 one way for seats on a Dallas-Las Vegas flight this week.

3)  Do the math . Basic economy tickets are designed for price-sensitive travelers. Airlines do their best to scare passengers from buying them during booking, with pop-up windows and alerts galore about the restrictions, including no seat assignment, and listing the price difference over a less-restrictive regular economy ticket.

The gap between basic economy and regular economy varies widely. Sometimes the savings are well worth it, even with seat fees. In other cases, hefty seat fees can eat up any savings over a regular economy ticket.

Take the United flight from Los Angeles to Chicago: The fare difference between basic economy and regular economy was $80 round trip. Paying $13 each way for an aisle seat would still put you ahead $54. (Note, though, that United is the only airlines that forbids basic-economy passengers from bringing a standard carry-on bag . Only personal items that fit underneath the seat are allowed, and the policy is strictly enforced.)

Conversely, paying Delta $29 each way for a seat assignment on the Atlanta-New York trip would wipe out the $40 round trip savings between basic economy and regular economy.

My one-way American basic economy ticket from Chicago to Las Vegas was $35 cheaper than regular economy. A $9 seat fee would have still made it a deal, the $45 I ended up paying, not so much. 

One challenge here for ticket shoppers: only United lets you see the basic economy seat fees in advance on its website (though American does if it's an international flight.) So if assigned seats are critical to you, do the math using samples from this story..  

4)  Buying a regular economy ticket instead of a basic economy ticket does NOT guarantee you will get your pick of seats without paying a fee.

In their side-by-side comparisons of basic economy versus regular economy tickets on their websites, American, United and Delta each tout the opportunity to select your seat as a benefit of regular economy tickets. 

Read closely though and you'll see the qualifiers: American says "fee may apply,'' Delta says you can select "available seats'' and United says "complimentary seat assignments are offered when available.''

Depending on the flight and how far in advance you book, your only choices might be a free middle seat, or there may not be two seats together. The flights I spot-checked had free seats available when buying a regular economy ticket, but plenty of the seats were for sale.

Seat fees have become so prevalent, many travelers mistakenly think they are getting more legroom, a cushier seat or other perks by paying the fee. Those perks are reserved for travelers paying an even higher fare or seat price.

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Complete Guide to American Airlines Basic Economy

AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. Terms Apply to the offers listed on this page. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers .

Over the past decade, more and more airlines have started offering basic economy tickets. These are simple, low-cost tickets that offer zero frills. Basic(ally), you get what you pay for. But you may be wondering what the American Airlines basic economy experience is like.

American Airlines started offering basic economy tickets in 2017, following the footsteps of legacy carriers like Delta and United. Here's everything you need to know about American Airlines basic economy tickets.

Page Contents

What Is Basic Economy on American Airlines?

American airlines basic economy restrictions, american airlines basic economy vs main cabin, american airlines basic economy carry-on policy, american airlines basic economy baggage policy, mileage earnings on american airlines basic economy, benefits of being an elite member or cardholder, bottom line.

Basic economy tickets are the lowest-priced tickets available from American Airlines. Because of the low price point, some limitations and restrictions apply to these tickets.

Your seat is still in the main cabin, and you'll enjoy the same benefits like free drinks, snacks, and in-flight entertainment offered to the passengers next to you (who may have paid more for their seats). However, you lose out on benefits like free checked bags and choosing your seats ahead of time, and you won't earn as many AAdvantage miles as you would with a main cabin fare.

American Airlines basic economy tickets offer fewer perks than standard main cabin tickets. While both provide seats in the main (economy) cabin of the plane, basic economy tickets have the following rules:

  • Seat selection isn't included in your ticket. Instead, you can pay an additional fee to choose your seat. Otherwise, seats will be assigned randomly during check-in. The system will give children under 15 a seat next to at least one adult in their party to keep families together, but putting the whole family together isn't guaranteed.
  • Basic economy travelers will board last. You'll board in groups 8 or 9, depending on your destination. Elite members, AAdvantage credit cardholders, and those who have accrued 15,000 Loyalty Points in the qualification year will board in the group shown on their boarding pass, typically meaning with the first few groups.
  • The only option for changing your ticket is on the day of your flight. If you try to change your flight, fees will apply . American allows basic economy travelers to stand by for a flight at no charge, should that be necessary.
  • If you cancel your flight, you won't get a refund or a travel credit. The only exception to this rule is if you cancel within 24 hours of booking — and this only applies if you booked at least two days before departure.

If you're on the fence about booking a basic economy ticket, let's look at the differences between ticket types.

First, the most notable difference is that a main cabin ticket includes your first checked bag free for transatlantic flights, transpacific flights, flights to Haiti, and flights to South America (excluding Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname). If you've booked a basic economy ticket, checked bag fees otherwise start at $30 per way.

Second, a main cabin ticket lets you change your flight ahead of time, while a basic economy ticket does not. If you need to change your basic economy flight, same-day confirmed changes start at $50. Or if something comes up and you can't take your flight and need to cancel your basic economy booking, you'll forfeit what you paid for the flight unless you cancel in the 24-hour grace period after booking.

Third, seat selection is free for main cabin tickets. Basic economy ticket holders will have to pay an additional fee to select their seats ahead of time. Depending on where your flight is going, you could pay upwards of $150 (or more) for the ability to choose your seat.

AAdvantage credit card holders and elite status members can circumvent some of these restrictions, which we'll cover shortly.

Related:  Do American Airlines AAdvantage Miles Expire?

Luggage Restrictions

There are some important baggage rules to be aware of when booking a basic economy ticket with American Airlines.

You're allowed one carry-on and one personal item. The carry-on must fit in the overhead bins, and the personal item must fit under the seat in front of you.

This rule is the same as the one for main cabin tickets, but there's one thing you'll want to note. Because you'll board last, the overhead bins may be full, and you may be required to gate-check your bag, which can be a hassle at times.

Checked bags start at $30 per bag per way for most domestic flights but can cost as much as $75 for long-haul international flights. Depending on where you're going and how many bags you check, you'll want to be keenly aware of how much bags will cost. American's bag fees are posted on its website here .

However, even in basic economy, you can still enjoy your free checked bag (when flying domestically) and earlier boarding perks if you hold a co-branded American Airlines credit card . This perk alone may be one of the chief reasons to hold an American Airlines credit card.

Even in basic economy, you'll earn AAdvantage miles and Loyalty Points on your flight, but at a different rate than those in the main cabin.

Travelers flying on an American Airlines basic economy ticket will earn AAdvantage miles and Loyalty Points at 2X per dollar spent. If you hold AAdvantage elite status , you'll still earn a bonus, but it will look different from what it usually does in the main cabin. Here's an example.

Let's say you book a $100 flight as an AAdvantage Gold member. You'll earn 2X AAdvantage miles and Loyalty Points per dollar spent, plus a 40% bonus. Essentially, you'll earn miles and Loyalty Points at a rate of 2.8 per base fare dollar. In this example, you'd earn 280 redeemable AAdvantage miles and 280 Loyalty Points. Compare that to the 7 miles / 7 Loyalty Points per dollar earned with main cabin tickets.

Related:  Why I’m No Longer Crediting Flights to the American Airlines AAdvantage Program

If you're an AAdvantage elite status holder or a co-branded credit cardholder, you might not find basic economy too restrictive. Here are some of the benefits status holders and cardholders can enjoy:

  • First checked bag free, plus additional bags free depending on your status. This applies to eligible AAdvantage status members and AAdvantage cardmembers when traveling on flights operated by American Airlines. However, note that AAdvantage cardmembers only get a first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries.
  • Standard boarding group privileges. This includes Group 5 boarding for most cardmembers, and Groups 2–4 for elite members, depending on your status.
  • Complimentary Preferred and Main Cabin Extra seat benefits, based on AAdvantage status.
  • Complimentary confirmed same-day flight changes, available for AAdvantage Executive Platinum and AAdvantage Platinum Pro members.
  • Regular access to upgrade privileges, including systemwide upgrades.

Related:  Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard Review

American Airlines basic economy tickets are some of the best on the market. For comparison, Delta doesn't even let you earn miles on basic economy tickets.

Although you're giving up some perks when flying on basic economy tickets and earning fewer AAdvantage miles and Loyalty Points on flights, these tickets still are a great choice for travelers who only need the basics and don't require flexibility. AAdvantage credit card holders can take advantage of perks offered by co-branded cards, which also offset the limitations of basic economy tickets.

Do you buy basic economy tickets? Or are the restrictions/reduced earnings too much for you?

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Upgrades with AA miles is important to many. Do you lose this on a BE ticket without status?

Basic economy tickets are still eligible for complimentary elite upgrades and systemwide upgrades. However, basic economy tickets can’t be upgraded with miles: https://awardwallet.com/blog/upgrade-american-flights-aadvantage-miles/

In case we have Gold status as well as the Citi credit card, does it help us get 2 free checked bags instead of 1 when booking basic economy?

I’ve only ever flown domestically, so maybe different destinations/planes offer a different view, but I’ve always been in a one-cabin plane with everyone else and never understood the difference between the different tickets and their prices. We’re all in the same space breathing the same air, yet some people are flying for less than others and it always confused me. Never understood the boarding groups either. Now I’m starting to understand a little better. So what’s the difference, then, between main cabin and business class?

Just traveled on a basic economy ticket with American (2 passengers on same reservation). Both legs of the journey split the seat assignments so that neither of us were allowed to seat together. Have not experienced this on similar “basic economy” fares on United, Spirit, or Frontier. Have other passengers experienced the same situation.

Seems like they will nickle and dime you in any way they can.

Wow. Absolutely NO changes, even with a fee. How consumer (un)friendly. Can’t believe how AA has changed over the years/decade. 🙁

With status I really don’t want to give up some of my perks to save $10. I’ll pass

Personally, I prefer the old bundled fares. I doubt I will take this option.

Wow, you can’t even reserve a seat until the last 48 hours, and there is an extra fee. Only seats left will probably be center seats. And if you have to ask how much the fee is, you probably can’t afford it.

Guess it could be good for tiny/skinny people who have an AA credit card so that they can still bring something with them on their travels without paying a fee.

If you’re pinching pennies on your airfare, why fly American (or Delta or United for that matter). With basic fares you get nothing, no chance of elite levels, may as well go with the airline offering the lowest fare at the best time of day. They are not loyal to you, why should you be to any one of them?

Another “enhancement” from legacy airlines. Bring on the foreign competition I say.

Just more reasons in my “pro” column to get another card..

No surprise the airline companies are reviewing their price-policies. Anyway, the bad thing in the American basic economy is the fact you can’t bring with you a cabin luggage, even though it’s not clear if you can (and put it under the seat).

Is the first checked bag free with all AA credit cards? I have the Citi AA Gold WorldElite Master Card and was wondering if this card will get me a free checked bag and priority boarding. Thanks!

It is not / you card will not.

Wow! Everyday AA is more looking like a Low Cost Airlines. Since January, travels MÍA-CCs-MÍA dont bring anymore meals included In The fare

I do think this is a great idea offering low fares where you only get under seat space for a bag. If a few people choose this option it might make the whole baggage storage issues easier, and stop luggage needing to be gate checked sometimes.

I do have a Citi AA card so I can avoid most of the fees but the major concern for me is the seat assignment. Most of my travels are with family and breaking up group is definitely not acceptable. 🙁

I guess the sweet spot on this would be to book last minute on a pretty empty plane. Though, it all depends on the price.

This sounds like the Spirit business model.

This is awful Once again giving less and less to the occasional traveler. We had gone from no food being served to no luggage allowed.

The basic economy strategy will still exist but luckily just a couple of days ago the DOT put forth a potential new piece of legislation that would make declaring the price of all of the ancillary fees (baggage fees, ticket change fees, seat selection fees, check-in fees, fee differences at the airport instead of online) MANDATORY during the purchase of the ticket to an extent even more than now. So while the airlines will break the fare down into its separate elements those prices will still have to be readily visible to the consumer during the ticket purchase process which should help make buying a basic economy fare a lot more straightforward and will help to prevent people from being caught off-guard by fees they didn’t know about

If the basic economy fares are actually substantially lower than the regular main cabin fares, then I think this is a pretty good option for those of us who don’t travel with large carry-ons and don’t care about seat assignments.

the downhill slide of the travel experience continues. pretty soon we will be placed in coffin-like boxes and loaded my some machine. Ultimately we’ll get a sleeping drug injection and then shrink wrapped and stacked like cordwood.

Seriously, I expect to start paying for chair rental in waiting areas, soft drinks on flights and access to intra-airport conveyances (escalators, moving sidewalks, trams, etc.) in the near future.

So now I have another reason to think about keeping AA card open

Unless the price difference is really all that drastic I can only see this being useful in very limited situations.

This seems like a push to get AA card holders. The $95 annual fee could easily be justified with the overhead bin for the large personal item, free first checked bag and the group 1 boarding. Might be worth looking into if you have the credit card. Otherwise, pack light and get used to the middle seat by the lav!

Is the First Checked bag free with AA credit card?

Yes, it is.

I suspect most of us who read this site and others aren’t going to be the type to book this fare. That said, there may be some benefit for those out there who are just needing a cheap flight somewhere, and aren’t necessarily concerned about comfort, amenities, etc. Will it work? We’ll see. In the end the market will speak.

Not that bad you still earn reduced millage.

It seems that this option might be attractive if you are a holder of a AA co-branded credit card. You would still board with group 1 or 2 and you can have a overhead bin carry-on with no fee.

Hope their basic E doesn’t become as bad as BA..

This is consisten with the debundling of the airline ticket and the travelling experience into a myriad ancillary revenue streams

I wonder how much the total will be if you add all the stuff they remove? I’m thinking it will be higher than the “normal fare” after all the fees (w/ taxes) get added to the basic economy fare.

I think this is the fear that many have — at least I do.

Not bad if you have status or a card, but a double edged sword here – hard to maintain status since you aren’t earning full miles. If these tickets only save a few bucks wouldn’t be worth it unless you only fly a few times per year and don’t care about miles. In this case, an airline credit card would still give you good seats, boarding and carry ons.

if have aa credit card, then will not be much difference with regular economy. The next question is, how much less is basic economy gonna be…

Personally, it’d be hard for me to book basic economy. Booking this fare seems that you’d likely end up in a middle seat somewhere in the back.

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American Airlines Basic Economy Seat Fee

Travel Tips

When it comes to budget travel, then some airlines are competing with each other in the aviation world. On the verge of attracting maximum passengers, some airlines forget the part of customer retention. And when it comes to basic economy fare then many airlines are such that they not only reduce their fare charges but also do not care about the passenger services.

If you do not want to fall prey to such tactics of the airline and want affordable travel then you have landed at the correct place. This article will help you end your research as we will be suggesting you such an airline that is affordable and does not compromise with services even in basic economy. 

We suggest you to choose American Airlines basic economy fares to make your trip a memorable and comfortable one.

What Do You Get with Basic Economy Fare of American Airlines! 

When flying with American Airlines and choosing Basic Economy as the cabin class then you come to know about its various features and services. Some of them are mentioned below.

  • Baggage : Passengers are allowed to get carry-on bags and personal items free but need to pay $30 for checked baggage. 
  • Seat Selection : Generally seats are automatically assigned. If anyone wants to select the seat then the fee starts from $10-12 . 
  • The passengers are not allowed to make any changes or cancellations except 24 hours booking. 

There are many other functions and services offered in the basic economy class of American Airlines. At the same time, passengers who wish to get the desired seat can pay American Airlines basic economy seat fees and choose the desired seat and travel satisfactorily. Now, if you want to know how to get the basic economy seat on American Airlines then you can follow the steps below.

Know-How to Pick a Seat in Basic Economy When Flying By American Airlines!

  • There are times that when choosing the Basic economy as the cabin, there are no seats left hence no options to select the seat. And they are automatically assigned in that case, 
  • But, with American Airlines, there is still an option to pick the seat upon paying some amount of fee. 
  • Starting from the seven days before the departure date, American Airlines allows passengers to manage their reservations. 
  • To select the aisle seat, passengers need to pay $13 as the fee. And the same stands for the window seat. While $12 needs to be paid for a middle seat. 
  • You also need to check that your American Airlines flight should not be a non-stop flight as in this case you need to pay separately for each segment of the seat. 

With the help of the above information on how to pick a seat flying American Airlines' economy, you get the idea of how to select the seat. In case, you need any further help then you can contact the American Airlines manage booking . This customer service is 24/7 active on various platforms. 

So, we conclude that you will be satisfied with travelling in the basic economy class of American Airlines.

How Can You Reserve A Seat On American Airlines?

Do you wish to make a reservation for a seat on an American Airlines flight? Passengers who have purchased a flight ticket with American Airlines have the option of selecting the seats in advance. Travelers on American Airlines have the option of choosing their favorite seat on a flight that they have purchased for a reasonable cost. Do you want to know how to book seats, as well as how much does it cost to reserve a seat on American Airlines? Below you will find all of the relevant information.

How Do You Book American Airlines Seats?

Seats on American Airlines flights can be reserved by a passenger in advance using a variety of options and a straightforward process. Follow the steps below to find out that how do I reserve seats on American Airlines.

  • Launch your browser and navigate to American Airlines' official website.
  • Then, on the American Airlines main page, navigate to the My Trips area.
  • Next, in the My Trips area, enter your booking Number in the designated field.
  • Then, on the allotted section, provide the passenger's last name.
  • Afterwards press search to see a summary of your scheduled flights.
  • After that, go to the single flight and look at the seat assignment.
  • Then, depending on the flight's availability, select a desired seat.
  • Proceed to the payment of the advance seat reservation charge.
  • After that, save your booking once you've reserved a seat on your American Airlines flight.

What Does It Cost To Reserve American Airlines Seats?

In case you do not reserve a seat when booking your American Airlines trip, your seat will be assigned to you at the airport for free. The details regarding American Airlines seat selection fee are listed below.

  • Seat selection on American Airlines flights is offered for a price starting at $9 to $10 one way at the time of reservation
  • If a traveler does not reserve a seat in advance, the American Airlines will assign it to them automatically.

What Is The Seating Policy For Covid On American Airlines?

Flying currently does not appear to be the same as it has in the past. In comparison to previous years, airlines are only obtaining a fraction of the total number of passengers. Airlines have implemented certain policies in response to the COVID pandemic. If you require more information about American Airlines seating policy COVID, please see the points listed below.

  • Following the COVID pandemic, American Airlines is not reducing seating capacity on its flights.
  • At the same time, if seats on a flight are available, travelers may be re-seated by American Airlines once boarding is completed to provide for more spacing.
  • Travelers on full flights can request to be moved to a different flight at no cost, according to American Airlines' COVID seating guidelines.

The information regarding the procedure for reserving a seat on your American Airline flight may be found in the section above. Furthermore, if you require additional assistance relating to the airline's booking services, you can contact a live agent.

Related Links:

  • How Much Does It Cost To Change An American Airlines Flight
  • American Airlines Cancellation Policy
  • American Airlines Change Flight

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