American improves basic economy with paid advanced seat selection option

Zach Griff

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here .

Perhaps the most unwelcome change in the airline industry in the last decade was the introduction of basic economy fares . These bare-bones tickets stripped out many of the typical inclusions you'd find in a regular coach fare: things like seat selection and the ability to earn full miles . ( Delta's the sole outlier of the Big 3 and awards full mileage on basic economy tickets.)

Well, as noted by JT Genter , American Airlines is making an improvement to one of its basic economy restrictions .

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

Previously, these tickets only allowed you to pay for a seat assignment within a week of your flight. If you didn't end up selecting a seat, one would be assigned to you when check-in opened.

Now, you're able to purchase a seat anytime after booking. The cost of the seats vary by location and route.

Related: Comparing basic economy fares across U.S. airlines

American charges for Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seats when purchasing a regular coach ticket too. In my searches, the difference in price for those above-average seats on a regular and basic economy ticket was minimal. As such, there's even less reason to avoid basic economy nowadays.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

With this change, the remaining restrictions on American's basic economy tickets are as follows:

  • No changes or cancellations allowed (though that's currently waived in light of the coronavirus )
  • No upgrades
  • 50% earn on miles and elite-qualifying miles and segments
  • Board last (although Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® cardholders get priority/preferred boarding and free checked bags) The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum 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.

Basic economy was originally designed as a pricing strategy to better compete with the ultra low-cost carriers . It then quickly expanded to routes not flown by other low-cost competitors, and so was disguised as a fare increase across the board. Modifying basic economy fares and restrictions was one of the seven things I argued that U.S. airlines should implement as part of getting a massive bailout package from the government.

Related: Best credit cards for defeating basic economy

As fewer restrictions are placed on basic economy tickets, airfare will still be determined by supply and demand. But there's now even less of a reason to avoid the basic economy fare, especially since change and cancellation fees are waived in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

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How To Choose the Best Economy Seat on American Airlines

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James Larounis

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How To Choose the Best Economy Seat on American Airlines

American Airlines’ Economy Seats

Pros and cons, preferred seats and stats by aircraft, main cabin extra seats and stats by aircraft, exit row seats and stats by aircraft, premium economy seats and stats by aircraft, final thoughts.

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No one likes to fly in the back of the plane, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

And when you do fly in economy class, it’s important to understand that not every seat is created equal. There are indeed differences among the seats in the cabin.

Today, we’ll take a look at American Airlines, which operates a very large domestic and international fleet. We’ll break down each of the economy seat options and tell you how to book them so that you’re prepared going into your next AA flight.

For the most part, American’s economy seats have the same physical attributes, so there’s no reason to necessarily book one aircraft over another in hopes of encountering a better product. Simply put, an economy seat is an economy seat when it comes to comfort.

That said, we can group the economy seats offered into different categories, each with pros and cons:

  • Regional aircraft (such as an Embraer ERJ-145) tend to have cramped seat configurations , but also have a favorable 2-2 configuration where everyone has a window or aisle seat.
  • On domestic aircraft (such as a Boeing 737-800), you’ll find economy class seats laid out in a 3-3 configuration , where seats in the bulkhead and exit rows are the best picks . Unfortunately, almost a third of the plane is stuck in a middle seat.
  • American’s international planes (such as a Boeing 777-300ER) are laid out in a 3-4-3 configuration in economy, which is especially tight and not great for long flights. Fortunately, these planes have plenty of extra-legroom economy seats , making snagging one of these preferred locations very important for a long journey.

When it comes to selecting seats, not everything is equal, but we can generally place seats in the following categories:

  • Some economy class seats you can select for free, with no strings attached . These tend to be the most unfavorable selections, including seats at the back of the plane or in the middle.
  • Some seats are located in a better section of the aircraft and require a nominal fee to reserve them.
  • Some seats include extra legroom and are offered for free to passengers with elite status.
  • Some seats are located along bulkhead walls or feature extra legroom, and you’re able to pay a significant fee to select them.

Basic Economy

While not physically limited to a specific section of the aircraft, Basic Economy fares are the most bare-bones tickets you can buy. While you can bring your carry-on on board, you’re not given an assigned seat until check-in. This effectively guarantees you the “leftovers” — usually the seats no one else wants to sit in.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want the uncertainty of a free-for-all seat selection or wants less stress on the day of departure, don’t choose a Basic Economy seat.

Here are the pros and cons of Basic Economy seats:

  • Attractive fares
  • You won’t be able to choose your seat
  • You won’t be able to guarantee sitting next to a companion or with your family
  • Group 9 boarding ; the very last group to board

Standard Economy (Main Cabin) Seats

AA Economy Class

Seats that are not designated as Main Cabin Extra, exit row, Preferred seats, or Premium Economy are considered standard economy seats — these are the most ubiquitous seats you’ll find on the aircraft and are also the least desirable.

For the most part, there is no fee to select these seats.

Regular Main Cabin seats are highlighted in blue on the seat map and are free to select.

American Airlines Main Cabin Regular Seats on Seat Map

Here are the pros and cons of standard economy seats:

  • These seats are free to select
  • These seats do not provide any additional marginal benefit — they have standard legroom and no additional perks

Preferred Seats

A Preferred seat does not necessarily have extra legroom but is located in a part of the plane that is more desirable . You might have a Preferred seat that’s located toward the front of the aircraft, for example. If you can’t snag a Main Cabin Extra seat, a Preferred seat is likely the next best thing.

While these seats don’t have extra legroom, they are far better than a middle seat or one near the rear of the aircraft.

Preferred seats are highlighted in green on the seat map. These seats have a better location, but otherwise don’t provide better comfort.

American Airlines Preferred Seats on Seat Map

Here’s a look at what you could expect to pay as an additional charge to secure a Preferred seat on a variety of routes (prices are for July 1, 2022):

  • Chicago (ORD) – Cancún (CUN): $36 to $43
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – Santiago (SCL): $93
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – Tulsa (TUL): $13 to $20
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Phoenix (PHX): $13 to $20
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Sydney (SYD): $93
  • New York (JFK) – London (LHR): $69 to $75
  • New York (JFK) – Los Angeles (LAX): $63
  • Washington, D.C. (DCA) – Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW): $29 to $35

Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of Preferred seats:

  • They tend to be located in more desirable areas of the plane
  • For non-elites, there’s usually an additional charge for these seats, which is hard to justify since there’s no extra legroom or recline

Hot Tip: To learn how to find the best seat on the plane, check out our ultimate guide to SeatGuru , where we guide you through how to use the site to view seat maps, specific dimensions, and aircraft types for nearly every airline worldwide.

Main Cabin Extra

AA Main Cabin Extra

If you’re going to sit in economy, you want to be sure you select a Main Cabin Extra seat. These are the best seats you’ll find in the rear section of the plane.

What makes these seats special is that they have extra pitch — that is, the distance between the seat back of one seat to the seatback of the seat in front. Simply put, these seats have far more legroom than their counterparts in regular coach .

When looking on AA.com, Main Cabin Extra seats are highlighted in orange.

American Airlines Main Cabin Extra Seat Map

Main Cabin Extra tends to be located in the first several rows of the economy cabin, though there are some notable exceptions, including rear bulkhead seats or a wide-body aircraft with multiple sections of economy seats.

In addition to extra legroom, there are also a few other perks you’ll get in Main Cabin Extra:

  • Group 5 boarding , which is the first group of economy passengers to board the aircraft; keep in mind that if you have elite status or another qualifier that would allow you to board early, you board with the earliest possible group
  • A single, complimentary alcoholic drink
  • “Dedicated” overhead bin storage space , though this tends to be a hit or miss perk since there’s rarely any enforcement to prevent other passengers from storing their luggage in the dedicated space

Here are the various ways through which you can select a Main Cabin Extra seat:

  • AAdvantage Gold members, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan  MVP members, and  Oneworld Ruby flyers can select a seat 24 hours before departure
  • AAdvantage Platinum , Platinum Pro , Executive Platinum , and ConciergeKey members, Alaska Airlines MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members, and Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald flyers can select seats at booking
  • You can also purchase a Main Cabin Extra ticket at any time in the booking process

Hot Tip: You may want to take a look at what it would take to achieve American AAdvantage elite status or Alaska MVP elite status if you fly American frequently. Elite status often provides Main Cabin Extra seats for free, so the cost of pursuing status may outweigh the cost of purchasing these seats each time you fly.

Here’s a look at what it typically costs to upgrade to a Main Cabin Extra seat on a variety of routes (prices are for July 1, 2022):

  • Chicago (ORD) – Cancún (CUN): $99
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – Santiago (SCL): $107 to $123
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – Tulsa (TUL): $22 to $24
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Phoenix (PHX): $22 to $25
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Sydney (SYD): $166
  • New York (JFK) – London (LHR): $76 to $113
  • New York (JFK) – Los Angeles (LAX): $109
  • Washington, D.C. (DCA) – Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW): $70 to $77

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of Main Cabin Extra seats:

  • They have far more legroom than traditional economy seats
  • They’re usually located in the forward portion of the aircraft , allowing you to get off the plane more quickly
  • If you don’t have elite status, purchasing these tickets can be costly
  • Middle seats are not blocked, so you may need to sit in a middle seat if there are no aisle or window seats available
  • The seats don’t offer any additional recline

While seats in the exit rows are sold as Main Cabin Extra seats, they come with a unique set of pros and cons that’s worth talking about separately.

First of all, it’s important to note that you must be at least 15 years old to sit in one of these seats and you must be “willing, ready, and able to assist in the event of an emergency.” You can’t sit in an exit row seat if you don’t meet all of those criteria, and selecting one of those seats without being able to perform the duties expected of you will result in you being moved — likely to a less-than-ideal seat since this will be done right before takeoff.

Exit rows are always highlighted in orange on the seat map, but also contain a specific designation of the exit row, so you know you’ll be seated there.

American Airlines Exit Rows on Seat Map

Exit row seats, in most circumstances, can be selected in the same manner as you would for a Main Cabin Extra seat. On some aircraft, there are multiple exit rows, so you’ll have more opportunities to select these seats.

Here’s what you can typically expect to pay for exit row seats on a variety of routes (prices are for July 1, 2022):

  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – Santiago (SCL): $123
  • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – Tulsa (TUL): $24
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Phoenix (PHX): $25
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Sydney (SYD): $129
  • New York (JFK) – London (LHR): $113
  • Washington, D.C. (DCA) – Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW): $77

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of exit row seats:

  • They have among the best legroom on the plane
  • There’s ample room to get up and move around the cabin from these seats
  • If you’re the type of person who needs to use the bathroom frequently, you may want to consider a seat in the exit row
  • You must meet specific criteria to sit in an exit row
  • Not all exit rows are created equal: if there are 2 rows, seats in the first one don’t usually recline to prevent issues with passengers trying to escape in an emergency
  • The inflight entertainment screens are further away since they’re often built into the back of the seat in front of you
  • Most exit rows still consist of 3 seats, so you’ll usually have a person in the middle seat for your journey

Hot Tip: If you have a mobility issue, cannot assist in an emergency, or do not speak fluent English, you will not be eligible to sit in an exit row.

Premium Economy

AA Premium Economy GIG-MIA

Premium Economy can only be found on wide-body aircraft that operate longer international routes, though these seats do show up on the occasional domestic flight.

While Premium Economy seats are much more desirable — and in a different class — than regular economy seats, it’s worth discussing them here as they technically are a subset of the economy cabin on eligible flights.

Premium Economy seats are highlighted in blue on the seat map, and are specifically labeled as Premium Economy. You can only select these if you book a Premium Economy ticket.

American Airlines Premium Economy on Seat Map

Here are the pros and cons of flying in Premium Economy with American Airlines :

  • These seats provide far more legroom and width than economy seats
  • Some seats feature a foot or leg rest
  • They’re situated in a separate cabin
  • They provide access to a dedicated lavatory
  • Depending on the route, Premium Economy comes with upgraded meal service
  • Premium Economy fares can be expensive , depending on the route
  • These cabins do have middle seats, so you may end up in one
  • Bulkhead seats have the inflight entertainment system stowed in the armrest, reducing seat width slightly

There are many different seating types throughout American Airlines’ fleet, and it’s important to know the differences among each of these seat types so you know the best place to sit.

While all seats may look more or less the same, there are marked differences in legroom, location, overhead bin space, and more.

Keep this guide bookmarked so you can choose the best seat possible for your next flight in American Airlines economy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between basic economy and economy on american airlines.

The difference does not lie in the physical seat, but rather in the fare. Basic Economy tickets may not be able to be changed or refunded and don’t come with advanced seat assignments.

Is Main Cabin better than economy?

On American Airlines, “Main Cabin” is synonymous with economy class.

What is the difference between Main Cabin and Premium Economy on American Airlines?

American’s Main Cabin seats are traditional economy seats, typically tight with limited legroom, while Premium Economy seats are more reminiscent of domestic first class seats, with extra legroom, more recline, and a footrest. Keep in mind, though, that Premium Economy seats can only be found on wide-body aircraft.

What are the best seats on American Airlines?

This varies by aircraft type, but in general, the best seats to select are Main Cabin Extra or exit row seats, as they have the most legroom in economy.

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About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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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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american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

How to Avoid Paying Airline Seat Fees

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See recent posts by Peter Thornton

Sit Anywhere on the Plane for Free

Just as restaurants may ask for an extra fee if you want a special side dish or concert venues may charge more for specific seats rather than general admission, most airlines do charge extra if you want to pick a certain seat. I know this isn’t how it used to be, but Basic Economy is here to stay and this is just simply how the industry has evolved. The good news is that airfares are still historically low and, if you are diligent and don’t need all the frills of yesteryear, you can fly super cheap and sit anywhere (read somewhere) on the plane for free.

Don’t Be Fooled Into Paying to Choose a Seat

woman-sitting-in-airport-with-coffee

Airlines want you to pay extra to choose a seat — even middle seats. This is one reason airlines are able to sell tickets for pennies or across oceans for only a couple hundred dollars. The airlines are making big profits from ancillary fees and do everything possible to keep the actual airfare lower than the competition. As consumers of air travel, we need to be careful to only pay for what we want and not get fooled into paying more than we intend. In my opinion, the seat fee is one of the easiest airline fees to avoid.

It can be confusing when going through the booking steps and you may not even realize an extra seat fee was added by the time you get to the final payment screen. Even if an airline’s website makes it appear that you have to pay extra for a seat, you are never required to choose a specific seat and can always opt to decline seat selection in lieu of a FREE seat assignment during check-in.

Related: Passenger Etiquette: The Basic Rules of the Armrest

Watch for pop-ups and automatic add-ons.

The biggest culprits in trying to force seat selection fees are ultra-low-cost carriers like Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit. None of the fares sold by these airlines include seat selection, but there are certain bundles you can add on, which would include seat assignments. Some legacy airlines have simply made seat selection unavailable for Basic Economy fares and require that you purchase a standard or Main Cabin Economy ticket in order to choose a seat in advance.

Below, I’ll go over specifics on what to look for during the seat selection step when booking on the larger U.S. carriers. These same tactics can be used for international carriers. Just remember, you are never required to pay an extra seat fee.

How to Avoid Seat Fees on Alaska Airlines

Flying Alaska Airlines is one of the easiest ways to avoid a seat fee, because even Alaska’s version of Basic Economy, the “Saver” fare, includes limited free seat assignments at the back of the plane. When choosing seats on the seat map, scroll to the bottom to find seats marked with a “S” for Saver fare seats. Seats shown in a dark blue color are for passengers purchasing a “Main” class fare only so you’ll have to upgrade to that type of fare to choose those seats in advance. If you’re buying a Saver fare and don’t like the choice of seats, simply click on “Skip Seats” and you’ll be assigned seats for free during check-in, which may include seats towards the front of the plane.

alaska-airlines-seat-map

How to Avoid Seat Fees on Allegiant Airlines

When the seat selection screen appears on Allegiant’s website, it doesn’t even indicate that there are fees associated with choosing a seat. However, if you do click on a certain seat, a pop-up will appear telling you the price and you’ll have to confirm that you agree. To bypass this and avoid paying a fee, just scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Continue”. You’ll have to do this for both flights if you are booking a roundtrip. Another pop-up will appear warning that you haven’t chosen a seat and asking if it’s ok. Just click “Yes, Continue” and be on your way without caving in to Allegiant’s fear of separation anxiety tactics.

alleigiant-airlines-seat-warning

Related: The 10 Best Underseat Carry-On Bags for Basic Economy

How to avoid seat fees on american airlines.

American Airlines does not necessarily try to trick you into paying a seat fee when booking. Its Basic Economy fares do not allow advanced seat selection for domestic or short-haul international flights, and therefore, you simply won’t be shown a seat map when booking a Basic Economy ticket. For transatlantic flights, Basic Economy fares do allow you to choose specific seats during booking for a fee, but prices are clearly displayed on the seat map. To avoid a fee, just click on the small text that reads “skip seats for all flights” and your seats will be assigned for free upon check-in. And if you avoid Basic Economy entirely, you’ll be able to choose seats in advance for any flight when booking a Main Cabin Economy ticket.

american-airlines-seat-map

How to Avoid Seat Fees on Delta

Delta sells Basic Economy tickets in more markets than any other airline. And while some aspects of Delta’s Basic Economy differ depending on the destination, advanced seat assignments are simply not allowed for any Basic Economy ticket on Delta. Of course, Delta doesn’t want to actually sell its Basic Economy fares. Anytime you select a basic fare, you’ll get a pop-up asking if you’d like to move to Main Cabin Economy fare, which includes seat selection. If you don’t want to pay more, just click on the checkbox that you accept restrictions and then click on the small “Continue with Basic Economy” text to avoid the upcharge. Seats will be assigned for free after check-in.

delta-basic-vs-main-cabin-economy

How to Avoid Seat Fees on Frontier Airlines

Frontier doesn’t really try to mask the fact that you’ll pay to choose a seat. You’ll see prices listed for each seat directly on the seat map. To avoid a fee, scroll to the bottom and click on the green “Continue” button without choosing a seat. A pop-up will then appear and you’ll have to click on the small print “No Thanks, I’ll take whatever.” link to actually continue.

frontier-airlines-pop-up-warning-seats

How to Avoid Seat Fees on Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines now offers a Basic Economy fare. While it’s currently limited to only a few routes between the U.S. mainland and Honolulu, Hawaiian’s “Main Cabin Basic” fare is likely to spread throughout its network eventually. This type of fare does not allow advanced seat assignments but you’ll always be asked to confirm your selection when booking a “Main Cabin Basic” fare. And not just once — a second pop-up appears during the booking process asking “Want to choose your seats?” To avoid the upcharge for a “Main Cabin” ticket, just click “No thanks” and you’ll be able to select seats during check-in.

hawaiin-airlines-pop-up-warning-seats

Related: How to Choose the Best Seat on a Plane

How to avoid seat fees on jetblue.

JetBlue was the latest airline to implement a Basic Economy fare, which it calls " Basic Blue ". This fare requires a fee to choose a specific seat in advance. Be careful, because prices are not listed on the seat map itself. Instead, a price will pop-up when you hover over a seat and are also listed to the left of the seat map. To avoid this fee, simply scroll to the bottom of the seat selection page and look for the text that reads "skip seat selection for now". Click on that link and you'll have the chance to choose a seat from what's still available when you check-in starting 24 hours before departure. If you decide to purchase JetBlue's classic "Blue" fare, advanced seat assignments are included.

jet-blue-seat-map

How to Avoid Seat Fees on Southwest Airlines

Southwest doesn’t assign seats on any of its flights so you won’t ever pay a seat fee, per say, when flying Southwest. However, it does give the option to add EarlyBird automatic check-in for a fee, which would give you an earlier boarding position and a better choice of seat. Alternatively, set an alarm on your phone to check-in exactly 24 hours before your flight and get a decent boarding position for free.

southwest-airlines-early-bird-check-in

How to Avoid Seat Fees on Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines is very clear and upfront that you’ll be paying a fee to choose a seat. There are prices for each seat on its seat map, but you don’t have to click on any of them. Look for the small print text that says “continue without seats” and click that link to avoid any seat fees. Of course, a pop-up will then appear inducing blatant FOMO (Fear Of Middle Overtone). Just click on the smaller “continue without seats” text again and you can continue without adding any cost to your cheap flight.

spirit-airlines-middle-seat-warning

Related: Finally! Middle Seats Will Soon Be Larger on Some Airlines

How to avoid seat fees on sun country airlines.

Sun Country is also very upfront with its fees on the seat map. All seats will have a price listed, but it isn’t very clear on this page that you don’t actually need to choose a seat. To avoid a fee, just scroll to the bottom of the page (without clicking on a seat) and click the orange “continue” button. A pop-up will appear saying that your seat selection is not complete. Simply click on the white “continue without all seats” button to finish booking without adding any extra fees.

sun-country-airlines-seat-selection-pop-up

How to Avoid Seat Fees on United Airlines

United’s Basic Economy fare is the most restrictive of the U.S. legacy carriers, but it does allow advanced seat assignments — for a fee. Since prices are not listed on the seat map until you hover over or select a seat, it can be pretty easy to whisk through this step and add fees to your booking that you did not wish to add. To avoid any extra fees, just click on the grey “Continue to payment” button without choosing any seats. Free seat assignments will be given after check-in. Of course, if you purchase a standard Economy ticket, you’ll be able to choose standard seats for free during booking.

united-airlines-seat-map

Related: A New Look at Basic Economy for Transatlantic International Travel

There’s a good chance you can sit together without paying a fee.

happy-couple-seated-on-plane-with-coffee

Choosing to leave seat assignments up to chance is more nerve-racking when you’re traveling with family and friends and want to sit next to each other. While it’s never guaranteed you’ll get seats together, don’t assume that a free seat assignment at check-in will doom you to be separated in middle seats throughout the cabin. Sure, it could happen, but in my experience, and hearing from several others, couples and families are usually still seated together when seats are assigned by the airline for free.

For better odds, I would recommend checking in as early as possible. And if you don’t end up sitting next to your travel companion, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll still get to your destination at the same time and might even enjoy the time to yourself in-flight.

Of course, traveling with small children is a different story and many parents would like to ensure that they will be sitting next to minor children onboard. The Families Flying Together Act calls for any child under the age of 13 to be seated with parents or guardians for no extra charge, but this doesn’t seem to be a concrete law.

To ensure small children are seated next to an adult, the Department of Transportation suggests contacting the airline directly after booking and discussing your situation. Arrive at the airport early and work with the agents to accommodate your family. Airline agents will do everything possible to seat young children next to a family member.

Related: JAL's Seat Map Feature Helps You Avoid Crying Babies on Flights

Book Your Ticket at the Airport

family-at-airline-ticket-counter

The internet has made booking flights extremely convenient and some airlines have decided to charge a fee for that convenience. I recently booked flights on Frontier and Spirit for a friend and I, in person, at the airport in order to save each airline’s hefty online booking fee. To my surprise, we were also assigned seats next to each other for free at the time of booking. I assumed our seats would be randomly assigned at check-in and never asked for specific seats. But, sure enough, we were given adjacent seats on both flights and even got Frontier’s extra legroom seats assigned for free.

This is not a given, but if you are courteous and friendly with the agent when booking a flight at the airport, you may just find yourself getting free seat assignments in advance. I haven’t tried this with any legacy carriers, but since a human agent has the ability to override the system, you’ll probably have a better chance of getting seats assigned next to each other for free when booking at the airport. I wouldn’t assume that this will happen, but if it’s convenient for you to book at the airport, it’s worth a shot.

Related: How to Avoid Online Booking Fees on Airline Tickets

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The Points Guy

How to use credit cards to defeat Basic Economy

MSN has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. MSN and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers.

There’s no doubt: basic economy is infuriating. From carry-on baggage restrictions on some airlines to a lack of seat selection, it’s a step down from what travelers are used to getting when flying.

The airlines are also doing a good job of making basic economy sound really bad, so you’ll buy up to standard economy. Despite unpleasant things like checked baggage fees , there’s a way to use credit cards to avoid some of the pain points of basic economy. Let’s go airline by airline to see how to do so.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines began offering basic economy fares, which it calls “Saver Fares,” in 2019, with minimal amenities. Buying basic economy rather than a main cabin fare will typically save you $15-$30 each way.

Unlike some stricter airlines, Alaska does allow you to bring a full-size carry-on bag for free. But you’ll still be boarding in Alaska’s final boarding group, with no seat changes or refunds after 24 hours. You’re also not eligible for complimentary upgrades.

Alaska Airlines charges a $30 fee for the first checked bag and $40 for the second on all its flights. But cardholders of the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card and the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card can check a first bag for free for you and up to six additional passengers on the same reservation when you book with your card.

That makes these cards well worth the annual fee, even if you only travel with Alaska a few times a year.

American Airlines

American Airlines offers basic economy fares on all domestic routes and flights to/from Mexico, South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Canada, Europe and Africa. Basic Economy restrictions mean that you’ll be assigned a seat at check-in (likely a middle seat), you won’t be eligible for an upgrade, you’ll earn fewer elite-qualifying miles/segments, you’ll board in the final boarding group and the ticket doesn’t allow any flight changes or refunds. You are allowed to bring a carry-on bag on board.

On American Airlines’ basic economy overview , you’ll find that there’s a caveat:

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

Those with AA elite status can maintain their boarding group and checked-bag benefits.

But what if you don’t have status? Then you can use one of these eligible cards to get an even better boarding group than standard economy and get the checked baggage allowance awarded by the credit card.

Eligible Cards:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®.
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®.*
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® American Express® Card (not available to new customers).*
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Visa Signature (not available to new customers).*
  • AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard.*
  • AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard.*
  • AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard.*

*The information for these cards 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 reading:  Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Rather than paying $30+ more per flight for standard economy, you can use a cobranded credit card like the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard to avoid being relegated to the last group of boarding.

Instead, you’ll jump the bulk of economy passengers (in Groups 6-8) and board in Group 4, where you’ve got a great chance of having space in the overhead bins. Plus, you’ll get a free checked bag on domestic flights.

You don’t have to pay for your flights with the co-branded card to get these benefits — American Airlines will tie your credit card to your AAdvantage account and apply these benefits automatically. This allows you to use a credit card with better travel protection when booking flights — like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers up to $500 of expense reimbursement for delays of over six hours.

The downside of the co-branded card approach: You still don’t get to pick your seat for free. You’ll have the option to pay to select a seat 48 hours prior to departure. Otherwise, AA will assign you a seat at check-in.

The O.G. of legacy carriers for basic economy is Delta. Launched in 2012, Delta’s basic economy has the least-harsh restrictions. With Delta’s version, you don’t get advance seat assignments, upgrades or any changes to the flights ( after the required 24-hour period ). That said, you can choose your seats at check-in, and you get a carry-on bag.

There are still advantages to getting a cobranded credit card if you’re considering basic economy. While you get a carry-on bag with Delta’s basic economy fare, you might have to gate-check it, as you’ll be boarding in Group 8. With a cobranded card, you’ll get a free checked bag and priority boarding on Delta flights to have an almost-sure spot in the overhead bins.

  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card.

Related reading: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

That’s right: you can get a card with a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 (Delta SkyMiles Gold card, see rates and fees or Delta SkyMiles Gold Business, see rates and fees) to avoid first checked bag fees and having to gate-check your bag. As with American, you don’t have to purchase your ticket with your Delta credit card to get the free checked bag — just having the card and including your Delta SkyMiles number in your reservation is enough.

The downside of going the co-branded card approach? No advance seat selection. Delta’s basic economy fares have the potential to choose seats at check-in, but it’s possible that you may not get a seat assigned until the gate.

Of all the major airlines, United’s basic economy is the worst . While American Airlines relented and lets basic economy passengers carry on a bag, United still doesn’t allow basic economy passengers anything larger than a personal item (except on long-haul international flights). Plus, the basic economy fares can be absurd. TPG’s United tracker Zach Honig found one basic economy option for $1,172 round-trip — for a 300-mile flight .

And what do you get with United’s basic economy? Not much: an auto-assigned seat at check-in (with no chance to change), no carry-on bags, no upgrades and no changes/refunds. You can’t even check in online (except for transatlantic flights) unless you’re paying for a checked bag.

A United credit card can help ease some of that pain. Like American and Delta, you’ll jump from the last boarding group to an earlier one. And, you’ll earn back a carry-on bag and get a first free checked bag — or two with certain cards.

Eligible cards:

  • United Explorer Card.
  • United Business Card.
  • United Club Infinite Card (up to two free checked bags).
  • United Club Business Card (up to two free checked bags).

Related reading: The best credit cards for flying United

The information for the United Club Business has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

It’s important to note that you need to use your cobranded United card to pay for your flights to get the checked baggage allowance. Unfortunately, the cobranded card approach doesn’t let you select a better seat or get upgrades.

Southwest (doesn’t have basic economy)

It’s worth noting that of the major airlines, Southwest is the only one without a Basic Economy class.

Bottom line

Basic economy fares have become ubiquitous on U.S. legacy airlines, covering all domestic routes and many international ones. It’s important that all travelers know the restrictions and that the airlines want you to buy up from basic economy to main cabin. By having a cobranded airline credit card , however, you can avoid some of the pain of basic economy without having to buy up to standard economy.

If you like to carry on a bag — and to not gate-check it — as well as get a free checked bag, all you need is to get an eligible cobranded card and buy the cheapest fare. Thanks to priority boarding benefits, you’ll get access to the overhead bins before those who paid extra to get standard economy but don’t have a cobranded card.

That said, cobranded airline cards can’t overcome some of the other issues with basic economy: lack of assigned seating and upgrades and reduced elite-qualifying earning. So judge carefully whether the “basic economy + cobranded card strategy” will work for you.

Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox and Jason Stauffer.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business card, click here.

SPONSORED:  With states reopening, enjoying a meal from a restaurant no longer just means curbside pickup.

And when you do spend on dining, you should use a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts. Thanks to temporary card bonuses and changes due to coronavirus, you may even be able to score a meal at your favorite restaurant for free. 

These are the best credit cards for dining out, taking out, and ordering in to maximize every meal purchase.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

How to use credit cards to defeat Basic Economy

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How to Navigate Costly Airline Seat Selection Fees

Sam Kemmis

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 .

Airlines always seem to have one more trick up their sleeves for adding fees to the cost of airfare. Anyone who has flown in the past few years knows that some airlines now charge for basics, like carry-on bags and a printed boarding ticket. Yet one sneaky charge is often ignored by even savvy travelers: seat selection fees.

On the surface, there’s nothing complicated about these fees. Some airlines will let you select a specific seat for a markup on the base cost of your ticket. However, the way the fees are presented is often misleading, making it seem like you must select a seat and pay the accompanying fee.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

A seat selection chart from Frontier Airlines.

This approach, in which companies add fees throughout the checkout process, is called “drip pricing” by experts. And research indicates that it's an effective sales tactic, both for confusing customers and driving up overall prices.

But here’s the thing: You almost never have to pay these fees. Here’s how to avoid — or at least minimize — these pesky fees.

Ways to avoid seat selection fees

Skip seat selection altogether.

Though it might sound scary, there's one weird trick airlines don’t want you to know: You don’t have to select a seat. On most airlines, you'll get assigned a seat at check-in or at the gate if you don’t already have one.

Some airlines make it seem like you must (or at least should) select a seat during checkout. Frontier Airlines even has a graphic interstitial page telling you why selecting a seat is such a great option.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

Don’t fall for it. You can always skip seat selection and save the money, but do keep a few things in mind:

Skipping seat selection doesn’t mean you won’t get a seat on the flight.

You might get stuck in the middle seat if you don’t pay for one.

Even if seat selection is free, you might want to skip it if only lousy seats are available (see the "upgrade hack” below).

Pick an airline with lower seat fees

Part of what’s so confusing about these fees is how inconsistently the industry is applying them. Unlike change and cancellation fees, which most U.S. airlines recently abolished, many airlines seem to be increasing the upcharge on selecting seats.

But some are charging much more than others.

According to an analysis of airline fees by NerdWallet, Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines charge the least for seat selection, while Frontier and Spirit Airlines charge the most.

Airlines with modest seat fees (less than $10 each leg):

Airlines with high seat fees ($15-plus each leg):

Southwest Airlines doesn’t technically charge for nor allow seat selection in the same way as other airlines, so it's excluded from this data. But you won’t get charged a seat selection fee on Southwest during checkout, so it’s also a good option.

Roll the dice with an upgrade hack

As a regular, non-frequent flyer, it’s hard to get your seat upgraded these days. Yet skipping seat selection sometimes offers the opportunity to get bumped into premium seating.

Here’s how it works. Airlines now offer a “premium economy” fare or similar. Sometimes, all of the good seats — including the exit rows — are considered premium. The airlines try to charge extra for these seats, but if nobody takes them and the flight is full, they have to assign them to somebody.

Specifically, airlines will assign these empty, better seats to those passengers who haven't selected a seat. So if you put yourself in this pool, you have a chance of scoring an even better seat than those who paid extra for advance seat selection.

Of course, there’s a potential downside: You could very well get stuck in a middle seat in the back of the plane rather than getting upgraded. But if you notice that your flight is full and not many passengers have upgraded to the good main cabin seats, skipping seat selection altogether can be an expert-level travel move.

» Learn more: How families can get seats together on a plane

Don’t pay for advance seat selection

Airlines are playing the same game. They want to show the lowest fares possible on search results, then upsell you during checkout. This drip-pricing tactic is a pain for passengers . Charging for seat selection is one way airlines try to make a buck at the last minute.

Know your options and avoid their trickery. Skip seat selection altogether or fly an airline with limited seat fees, like Alaska, Hawaiian or JetBlue. Each charges little or nothing for choosing a seat. Worst case, you’ll end up in the middle seat. Best case, you’ll get a seat with extra legroom.

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

1x-5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

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®.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

1.5%-6.5% Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

$300 Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

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.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

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American Airlines Increases Its Baggage Fee and Updates How Loyalty Members Earn Miles — What to Know

The increased bag fee went into affect on Feb. 20 while the airline's new rewards-earning method goes into effect in May.

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

Courtesy of American Airlines

Passengers flying American Airlines will need to pack lighter or be ready to pay, the carrier announced Tuesday of its increased bag fees along with an array of other customer-facing changes.

For travel booked after Feb. 20, a passenger's first checked bag. purchased in advance, will cost $35, up from $30, for domestic flights (including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). A traveler's first checked bag paid for at the airport will cost $40.

A second checked bag paid for in advance is also $40, while one purchased at the airport is $45.

For Canada and short-haul international flights, the fee is a flat $35 for first checked bags, regardless of where it’s purchased. 

Passengers who hold elite status, certain AAdvantage credit card members, and those who are booked in premium cabins on domestic and international flights will continue to receive complimentary bags. 

The airline also announced upcoming restrictions on earning AAdvantage miles and status-eligible Loyalty Points. It’s a move that the airline hopes will encourage passengers to book directly with the airline. 

“Not only does booking directly with American provide the best possible experience, it's also where we offer the best fares and it's most rewarding for our AAdvantage members,” Vasu Raja, American's Chief Commercial Officer, said in a statement.  

Starting on May 1, American will require passengers to book directly with the airline or on an eligible partner carrier to earn redeemable miles and Loyalty Points for status. Booking as an AAdvantage Business member, a contracted corporate traveler, and via a soon-to-be-announced list of “preferred travel agencies” will also be eligible for mileage earnings, except for basic economy fares.  This is the first move by a major U.S. airline to restrict mileage earnings based on where a flight was booked. American promises to release the list of “preferred travel agencies” in late April. Come early May, mileage-savvy travelers will want to pay even closer attention to where they’re booking their flights.

American Airlines Is Raising Bag Fees and Changing How Customers Earn Frequent-Flyer Points

American Airlines is raising bag fees and pushing customers to buy tickets directly from the airline if they want to earn frequent-flyer points

Seth Wenig

FILE - American Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport, Jan. 11, 2023, in New York. American Airlines is raising bag fees and pushing customers to buy tickets directly from the airline if they want to earn frequent-flyer points. American said Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, that checking a bag on domestic flights will rise from $30 now to $35 online, and it'll be $40 if purchased at the airport. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines is raising the cost of checking bags and it is making other changes to push customers to buy tickets directly from the airline if they want to earn frequent-flyer points.

The airline said Tuesday that checking a bag on a domestic flight will rise from $30 now to $35 online and $40 if purchased at the airport. The fee for a second checked bag will rise from $40 to $45 both online and at the airport.

American last raised bag fees in 2018.

American, based in Fort Worth, Texas, introduced bag fees in 2008 — $15 back then — to cope with the rising cost of jet fuel. Since then, they have become a steady revenue source for most major U.S. carriers. American easily led the industry by raising $1.4 billion in bag fees in 2022, the last year for which U.S. Transportation Department figures are available.

The airline is also raising bag fees by $5 for short international flights including those to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean — now $35 for the first bag and $45 for the second.

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A farmer equipped to face police tear gas poses for a photo as Indian farmers who have been protesting for a week to demand guaranteed crop prices wait to march to the capital near Shambhu border that divides northern Punjab and Haryana states, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) from New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Feb.21, 2024. The protesting farmers began their march last week, but their efforts to reach the city have been blocked by authorities. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

The airline will generally allow customers to check at least one bag free if they hold elite status in American's loyalty program, buy a premium-class ticket or use an American-branded credit card.

In January, Alaska Airlines raised its checked-bag fees for most economy passengers from $30 to $35 for a first bag and from $40 to $45 for a second. JetBlue followed this month, raising its fees to $35 and $50.

“Airlines tend to move in herds, so when Alaska recently announced they would be upping their bag fee to $35, there was little doubt other airlines would soon follow,” said Scott Keyes, founder of the travel site Going. “It’s unlikely American will be the last.”

Keyes noted that American's decision to charge customers more if they pay bag fees at the airport instead of when they buy their ticket mimics a tactic used by budget airlines such as Spirit and Frontier.

American will give a break to customers whose bags are slightly overweight or oversized. Instead of being hit with the full extra fee — ranging from $100 to $650 — graduated fees will start at $30 for bags that are no more than 3 pounds (1.36 kg) or three linear inches over the limits.

And it is cutting the cost of transferring points between frequent-flyer accounts.

At the same time, American announced that starting with tickets issued on May 1, customers will have to buy tickets directly from the airline or its partner carriers or from preferred online travel agencies if they want to earn points in its AAdvantage loyalty program. The airline said it will list the preferred travel agencies in late April. Corporate travelers won’t be affected.

About 60% of American's ticket sales are already made directly through the airline, said Scott Chandler, vice president of revenue management.

The changes are part of a long shift by airlines away from using travel agents — and paying them commissions — and bringing ticket sales in-house.

“The old way of booking a ticket relied on agents having a ton of experience and understanding product attributes,” Chandler said in an interview. “The old technology doesn't let us explain things very well, and it is a little more confusing for customers when we introduce new products.”

Chandler likened it to the way that Amazon.com explains features that it sells on the site.

Copyright 2024 The  Associated Press . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

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Susan Milligan Feb. 21, 2024

american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

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Premium Economy

Premium Economy service

An elevated travel experience

A Premium Economy ticket includes special amenities with seats behind Flagship ® , Business or First. You can buy a ticket on these aircraft with more coming soon:

  • 787-8s flying internationally and to Alaska
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On the ground

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Speed through check-in, security and boarding at the airport and get your checked bags first when you land.

Wider seats

More legroom and wider, adjustable leather seats with extendable foot and head rests.

Chef-inspired dining*

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**Only available on international flights

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American Airlines raises bag fees, won't allow some travel agency bookings to earn miles

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  • American Airlines has raised the prices of checked baggage to $40 at the airport.
  • American Airlines is also reducing fees for slightly overweight bags.
  • The carrier said Tuesday it will start limiting which tickets purchased through a third party are eligible to earn AAdvantage frequent flyer miles.

In this article

American Airlines has raised the price to check a bag for the first time in more than five years and said it would limit which travel agency bookings are eligible to earn frequent flyer miles.

Passengers will pay $35 to check a first bag for domestic flights if the service is booked online in advance, or $40 if they purchase the option at the airport, the carrier said Tuesday. Both options previously cost $30. A second checked bag will cost $45, up from $40, whether purchased in advance or at the airport.

Travelers' first checked bag on flights between the U.S. and Canada, the Caribbean or Mexico will be $35 whether in advance or at the airport.

American Airlines last raised bag fees in September 2018 along with other major airlines. Carriers are looking for ways to increase revenue as airfare has declined over the past year. The last inflation report showed airfare fell more than 6% in January from a year earlier.

"Our cost of transporting bags is significantly higher" over the past few years, said Scott Chandler, American's senior vice president of revenue management and loyalty. "Fuel is a big component of it."

Airlines and other companies have been grappling with how to cover higher costs , such as new labor contracts, while pricing power has waned.

Other airlines have also recently raised bag fees. This year, Alaska Airlines increased the charge for economy passengers to check bags by $5 to $35 for a first piece and $45 for a second bag. JetBlue Airways started charging most coach travelers $45 to check a bag within 24 hours of departure, up from $40. In advance, JetBlue is now charging $35 for the first bag.

"While we don't like increasing fees, it's one step we are taking to get our company back to profitability and cover the increased costs of transporting bags," JetBlue said in a statement. "By adjusting fees for added services that only certain customers use, we can keep base fares low and ensure customer favorites like seatback TVs and high-speed Wi-Fi remain free for everyone."

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines  declined to comment Tuesday on potential changes to their policies. Southwest Airlines offers passengers two free checked bags.

In the first nine months of 2023, U.S. airlines brought in $5.5 billion from baggage fees — including more than $1 billion by American alone. The total was up 9% from the year-earlier period, and up more than 25% from the first nine months of 2019, according to the Transportation Department's latest data.

American's frequent flyer members with elite status and some American Airlines credit card holders will still receive a complimentary checked bag, it said Tuesday in announcing the changes.

The Forth Worth, Texas-based airline is also reducing fees for slightly overweight bags, so travelers will no longer have to frantically remove items from their suitcases at the check-in counter. For example, customers will pay a fee of $30 on checked bags that are as much as three pounds over a 50 pound limit, instead of the previous $100 fee.

American also said on Tuesday that it will start limiting which tickets purchased through a third party are eligible to earn AAdvantage frequent flyer miles, a move that aims to drive traffic to American's website and the latest in a series of changes to the program . It said it will provide a list in April of preferred travel agencies whose bookings will still be eligible for the rewards credits.

Customers who buy basic economy tickets will only earn frequent flyer miles if they book on American Airlines' website.

The rise of airport lounges

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IMAGES

  1. How To Choose the Best Economy Seat on American Airlines

    american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

  2. Guía para principiantes sobre la elección de asientos en American

    american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

  3. Basic Economy

    american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

  4. A beginner's guide to choosing seats on American Airlines

    american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

  5. American Airlines basic economy guide

    american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

  6. The Ultimate Guide to American Airlines Basic Economy Fares

    american airlines seat selection fee basic economy

COMMENTS

  1. Basic Economy − Travel information − 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. Your seats You can choose a specific seat at any time for a fee.

  2. American Airlines Seat Selection: What to Know

    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...

  3. The Ultimate Guide to American Airlines Basic Economy Fares

    Here's a current look at what you get with an AA basic economy ticket: Baggage: Board basic economy with a carry-on bag and personal item for free; pay $30 each way for a checked bag (or $60 each way to Europe and $75 each way to ultra-long-haul destinations like Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel).

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

    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.

  5. American Airlines Main Cabin vs. Basic Economy

    Travel American Airlines Basic Economy vs. Main Cabin Advertiser disclosure American Airlines Basic Economy vs. Main Cabin One crucial aspect sets these two fare types apart: The...

  6. American Airlines Basic Economy: What Are The Restrictions?

    Updated: February 6, 2024 6 Nowadays, all major airlines in the United States (with the exception of Southwest) offer some sort of basic economy fares. In this post I wanted to take a detailed look at American Airlines basic economy, to reflect what it's like nowadays, especially since some positive changes were made to these recently.

  7. A beginner's guide to American Airlines economy seats

    Depending on your level of elite status and when you're choosing your seats, it could cost you over $100 to choose — if you're able to choose it at all. Even more confusing, some seats are in two different categories at the same time. Note: We are focusing on American Airlines' economy seats in this piece.

  8. American Allows Basic Economy to Pay for Seat Selection at Purchase

    If getting a seat next to your travel companion is your top priority, it likely makes more sense to buy a basic economy fare and pay extra for seat selection than paying the $70 additional airlines charge for a round-trip main cabin fare. Thrifty Tip: Want an even better seat without paying for it?

  9. American improves basic economy with paid advanced seat selection

    Well, as noted by JT Genter, American Airlines is making an improvement to one of its basic economy restrictions. American Main Cabin Extra (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) Previously, these tickets only allowed you to pay for a seat assignment within a week of your flight. If you didn't end up selecting a seat, one would be assigned to you ...

  10. American is Trying to Make More Money on Basic Economy Seat Selection

    The prices for buying a seat selection can vary widely by flight. But these rates appear to be quite reasonable - $9 or $10 for a normal economy seat - and similar to American's standard seat selection fees for basic economy fares.

  11. 5 Things To Be Aware Of When Booking American Airlines Basic Economy

    Purchase seat selection for a fee ; Allow seats to be assigned randomly at check-in ; One of the biggest downsides when it comes to booking a basic economy ticket is the inability to choose one's ...

  12. American Airlines: Economy vs. Basic Economy [Comparison]

    Seat Selection. Seat selection for Basic Economy passengers is based on available space and will be assigned at check-in. Many Basic Economy passengers will likely sit in middle seats or undesirable "leftover" economy seats that others haven't chosen. You can choose a seat in advance for a fee in many cases.

  13. How To Choose the Best Economy Seat on American Airlines

    On domestic aircraft (such as a Boeing 737-800), you'll find economy class seats laid out in a 3-3 configuration, where seats in the bulkhead and exit rows are the best picks. Unfortunately, almost a third of the plane is stuck in a middle seat.

  14. Basic economy ticket: Get a flight seat assignment

    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...

  15. How to Avoid Seat Selection Fees (2021)

    Flying Alaska Airlines is one of the easiest ways to avoid a seat fee, because even Alaska's version of Basic Economy, the "Saver" fare, includes limited free seat assignments at the back of the plane. When choosing seats on the seat map, scroll to the bottom to find seats marked with a "S" for Saver fare seats.

  16. How to use credit cards to defeat Basic Economy

    Sponsored Content. There's no doubt: basic economy is infuriating. From carry-on baggage restrictions on some airlines to a lack of seat selection, it's a step down from what travelers are ...

  17. Basic Economy Fares: What You Get & Why You May Want to Avoid Them

    Seat Selection: Available for a fee at time of booking, starting at $9 or $10 each way. Otherwise, seats are automatically assigned at check-in. ... Read our full guide to American Airlines basic economy! Delta Basic Economy. Long a leader within the airline industry - in good ways and bad - Delta started the slide into basic economy by ...

  18. 3 Misconceptions on Basic Economy Tickets

    Misconception 2: The basic economy experience is the same on every airline. I recently did an in-depth analysis of U.S. airlines' basic economy rules and was shocked by how many differences I ...

  19. American Airlines Follows Others and Raises Checked Bag Fees

    For domestic flights, the old $30 fee for the first checked bag is now $35 if purchased online or $40 if purchased at the airport. It is the latest in a series of hikes in fees among major ...

  20. How to Navigate Costly Airline Seat Selection Fees

    But some are charging much more than others. According to an analysis of airline fees by NerdWallet, Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines charge the least for seat selection, while Frontier and Spirit ...

  21. American Airlines Increases Its Baggage Fee and Updates How ...

    The increased bag fee went into affect on Feb. 20 while the airline's new rewards-earning method goes into effect in May. Passengers flying American Airlines will need to pack lighter or be ready ...

  22. American Airlines Is Raising Bag Fees and Changing How Customers Earn

    The airline said Tuesday that checking a bag on a domestic flight will rise from $30 now to $35 online and $40 if purchased at the airport. The fee for a second checked bag will rise from $40 to ...

  23. Premium Economy − Travel information − American Airlines

    An elevated travel experience. A Premium Economy ticket includes special amenities with seats behind Flagship ®, Business or First. You can buy a ticket on these aircraft with more coming soon: 777-300s. 787-8s flying internationally and to Alaska. 787-9s. 777-200s. Book now.

  24. Should You Book a Basic Economy Flight? Here's What to Consider

    Here's what you get with American basic economy. Baggage: Get a carry-on bag and personal item for free; pay $30 each way for a checked bag (or $75 each way to Europe). Seat Selection: Available for a fee at time of booking, starting at $9 or $10 each way.Otherwise, seats are automatically assigned at check-in. Boarding: Final boarding group (Group 8 or 9 depending on route).

  25. American Airlines is making changes to its mileage earnings and ...

    The fee for checking a second bag is now $45, regardless if you purchase online or at the airport. For flights to Canada and short-haul international flights (such as Central America and the ...

  26. American Airlines raises bag fees, limits miles for travel ...

    An American Airlines plane sits at the gate at Cancun International Airport on May 26, 2023. American Airlines has raised the price to check a bag for the first time in more than five years and ...