For all the jokes and complaints about the aches of air travel, it’s pretty marvelous if you think about it¨.
In the last couple of years, all the airlines have started to provide two to four different fares (bundles of services) for each flight. The names for each of these bundles vary from airline to airline. However, these bundles are usually divided as follows:
- the first bundle is something like Basic Economy,
- the name of the second is something like Economy Plus
- and a third is Premium (sometimes called Business or First Class).
The Basic Fare is usually no-frills (small seats and minimal legroom) and includes lots of additional fees. I have never seen a basic, domestic ticket that did not include a charge for seat selection and checked baggage (called hold baggage in some countries).
However, many other expenses can come with basic economy depending on the airline. Some additional charges include fees for:
- On-board snack/non-alcoholic drinks;
- In-seat entertainment;
- Carry-on bags (mainly if you want to carry-on something heavier and/or larger than a small backpack);
- Printing out boarding passes; and
- Baggage by weight. The airlines add both the weight of both the carry-on and checked baggage together to derive the baggage fee.
Also, keep in mind that you cannot change or cancel most Basic Fare tickets.
I often select the Economy Plus options, especially if it includes free baggage and seat selection. (Particularly if I am traveling with someone else and want to make sure that we sit together). It usually costing about the same cost as paying the fees separately. (Generally, Economy Plus costs $50 to $100 more than Basic Economy).
Often Economy Plus fares also include one or two small extra benefits. My favorite advantage is that you can sometimes cancel or change the flights for a reduced fee. (Usually, it costs $50-100, as opposed to $200 plus, to modify a ticket).
One of the most common benefits of the Premium bundles are better seats. On business oriented flights, the premium bundles are often too expensive for me. (Often two to three times more than Economy Plus).
Sometimes, particularly on leisure flights, the Premium bundles are not that much more expensive than economy plus. I will pay $50-$100 for first or business class seats. I am a big man and the additional width makes a lot of difference.
Seats with additional legroom are usually not worth the additional cost to me. The seats are not any wider (and sometimes seem narrower) than regular economy seats. However, this could be a benefit for many Fifty-Plus Nomads, particularly on a long flight.
A Final Note
Unfortunately, these bundles are still new and confusing to consumers. It can take a while to figure out what the fee includes. Even if you carefully read all the rules, do not be shocked if you end up paying a small, unexpected fee.
Also, understand that the bundles of services will probably change frequently over the next couple of years. Airlines will either work out the bugs or decide to abandon the idea altogether.