As airfare continues to increase, it’s no surprise that many travelers are opting for the most inexpensive tickets they can find — and for many travelers, this means buying a significantly cheaper basic economy tickets from airlines. This is basically a no-frills ticket that is supposed to help travelers save money and fly in a more affordable way — and in theory, these tickets can sound great. For the right trip, it can help a traveler save hundreds of dollars a flight they really need to be on, which is obviously ideal. In practice, however, they can be tricky. If your circumstances don’t call for this kind of ticket, there is no point in buying one, and in fact, it may not save you money at all. So when is a basic economy ticket actually worth it, and when is it going to end up costing you more?
First, you need to be totally aware of what a basic economy ticket is. While the guidelines can sometimes vary based on the airline, basic economy plane tickets usually mean you’re able to buy a ticket on the flight, but you do not get an assigned seat (unless you pay more), you are only allowed a small carry-on (unless you pay to check a bag, or in some cases, to even put a carry-on in the overhead bin on the plane), you are the last boarding group of the flight, you do not have the option to upgrade or refund or change your flight (unless you pay more), and you can’t have group or family seating (…unless you pay more). Basic economy covers the cost of your flight, and that is pretty much it. Anything else that you want comes with an extra charge — or, sometimes, you aren’t able to do it at all.
For many travelers, booking a basic economy ticket just isn’t worth it most of the time. Sometimes the savings just don’t add up right — like, for instance, if you need to check a bag. Saving $50 on the price of a plane ticket by booking basic economy sounds great in theory, but if you need to check a bag, it could end up costing you upwards of $80 extra — when it would have been included in a regular economy ticket.
So, when is traveling basic economy worth it? Simply, if you know you’re a light traveler (or are just going on a quick trip), and if you aren’t a fussy traveler who needs a window seat, or to board early.
If your flight is short, it could also be worth it, especially if you don’t mind getting a random seat assignment. Do you really need to be completely comfortable for a two hour flight? Maybe not. In that case, saving the money could be helpful.
However, if you’re going on a long flight where you do have luggage to be checked, don’t bother with basic economy: you’re going to end up paying extra to check your bag, and you may end up with an uncomfortable seat assignment you don’t want to be stuck with for hours on end.
If you’re a no-frills passenger, then definitely consider basic economy when you don’t have bags to check or need overhead bin space. You could save some cash — and still have a great trip. Otherwise, take a second look at the price differences between basic economy and regular economy tickets if you do need to check a bag — and make sure those savings from your ticket are actually keeping money in your bank account.
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