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Airlines are constantly giving each other tough competition over ticket fares. For that reason, American Airlines economy vs basic economy is becoming a popular debate among frequent budget flyers.

Basic economy is the cheapest fare option at American Airlines. It offers further lower fares than the economy (main cabin). However, it has many restrictions.

Let’s explore the basic economy and understand how it can benefit you.

What Is The Basic Economy In American Airlines?

American Airlines, the world’s largest air carrier by fleet size, provides 8 types of fare and travel options for its passengers. Therefore, the categories range from the most expensive to the most affordable option.

The lowest fare category launched by American is the Basic Economy fare. Since it is the cheapest option, a passenger will find many restrictions. However, you will still get main cabin comfortable seats along with complimentary soft drinks, snacks, and inflight entertainment.

Passengers will see the following conditions on American Airlines flight booking on Basic Economy fares:

  • Checked Bags: No free bags, only one 1 personal item and carry bag allowed.
  • Seat selection: Passengers will have to pay a fee to choose a preferred seat.
  • Ticket Change: Also, these fares are not eligible for ticket changes.
  • Boarding Group: Lastly, flyers are allowed on 8/9 boarding groups only.

Note: AAdvantage status or credit card members may get waivers on some restrictions.

What Is The Difference Between The Basic Economy And The Economy Of American Airlines?

In the American Airlines Basic economy vs main cabin debate, you will find many points of difference between these two categories.

Point of Difference
Basic Economy
Economy (Main Cabin)
Only One free checked bag is available on flights between Israel, India, China, and other countries.Minimum 1 free checked bag is allowed on all routes. Also, more checked bags are available for advantage members.
Flight Change
No flight changes are allowed. Only same-day fare change/standby flight requests are entertained upon payment of a fee.For same-day fare changes, you would only have to pay the difference.

Also, one can seek a fee waiver and expect more flexibility.

Boarding Amenities
No priority access is available even if you pay for it. You will board in the last group (8/9) and won’t get any space for your bag.

Exceptions to this rule are AAdvantage elite members and credit card holders.

Priority access is available, and regular ticket holders can board after the elite members.
Only Elite members are allowed to make upgrades.Whereas all paid and complimentary upgrades are applicable here.
Your rebooking options are limited. Flight load, destination, and other factors will decide if you can rebook your flight due to mechanical/ weather disruptions.You will have priority over other basic economy flyers. Depending upon their flying status, Americans may rebook their flight on partner or non-partner airlines.
Seat Selection
Seats on the basic economy at American are assigned only at check-in, depending upon available seats.

However, AAdvantage elite members may get the main cabin- extra seats for free.

Passengers can choose between available seats for free in advance. However, they may have to pay for preferred/ main cabin extra seats.

Hence, all seats are available for a fee (more flexible).

In the basic economy vs main cabin American airlines debate, you can choose the lowest priced option if you are a light traveler and flying a short distance.

What Is The Price Difference Between Basic Economy and Main Cabin Fares?

The price difference between AA’s cheapest categories of fares can vary greatly. In this case, you may see a price difference of just $10 between the two tickets on some destinations. 

However, this price gap may rise to a couple of dollars. For example, a basic economy fare was available from $50- $55.For the same flight, the main cabin fare costs more than $400.


Passengers should not be afraid of getting the least cost fare due to American airlines economy vs basic economy comparison. Furthermore, the basic option is suitable if you are a solo light traveler flying on a short-haul flight.

However, if you are flying with your family, we suggest you choose the main cabin, which provides seat selection and priority boarding facilities. Hence, the basic economy may not suit group travelers at all.