Major carriers tout Basic Economy fares as an alternative to traditional fares, with fewer perks at a lower cost. In exchange for a more affordable ticket, Basic Economy flyers give up benefits like the ability to select a seat or cancel a flight and get refunded. Basic Economy flyers also usually board the plane dead last, reducing their chances of stowing a carry-on bag above their seat.
However, in some cases airlines have retained some benefits for Basic Economy fares on long haul flights. For example, a free carry-on bag and free checked bag is allowed for some transoceanic flights, even with the lowest tier of Basic Economy.
Recently, American Airlines announced that this would no longer be the case for most of their long haul itineraries. Basic Economy flyers now have to pay a $75 checked bag fee for their first checked bag on flights that previously offered this benefit for free.
When does this new checked bag fee kick in?
The $75 checked bag fee won't apply to eligible long haul flights purchased before June 7, 2023. However, the fee applies to tickets booked and paid for after this date.
The following itineraries now require a $75 checked bag fee for Basic Economy:
- Flights between Israel and U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean (including Haiti), Central America and South America
- Flights between Europe and U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean (including Haiti), Central America, South America
- Flights connecting via Europe to another destination
- Flights to or from India, China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand
In comparison, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines still offer free first checked bags on transpacific flights in Basic Economy. However, these other major carriers do charge $75 for a first checked bag on transatlantic flights.
The extra checked bag fee is bad news for frequent flyers who take these routes and try to save by booking a Basic Economy ticket. However, in a statement obtained by USA Today, American Airlines claims that the updated rules will make their bag fees easier to keep track of.
"We are simplifying our product offerings to make it easier for customers when they are shopping for travel. With this change, our Basic Economy product will include all of the same features whether a customer is purchasing it for a domestic or international flight," said American Airlines spokesperson Andrea Koos.
Added simplicity aside, this means Basic Economy flyers on long haul flights will now pay another $75 one-way or $150 round-trip for a checked bag to their destination.
Can you avoid these new checked bag fees?
If you frequently fly across the ocean with American Airlines and book Basic Economy to save some cash, you may be looking for ways to get around the checked bag fee. The airline does offer some benefits through its selection of American Airlines credit cards that apply regardless of which cabin you're flying in.
Depending on the card, you may qualify for a free checked bag on domestic flights, along with many other airline perks. However, regardless of the card, you’ll still have to pay the $75 bag fee for long haul flights.
Main Cabin fares may be a better deal
Flying on certain long haul flights with American Airlines just got more expensive, but there are few workarounds that will let you avoid paying the new $75 checked bag fee. With that in mind, it may be worth it to pay more for a Main Cabin ticket that includes a checked bag, seat selection and other perks upfront.
Conversely, you can look into rewards and travel credit cards that offer statement credits that cover airline incidental charges like checked bag fees.