The New World of Airfares

The New York Times: “In the new world of airfares, similar-sounding fare classes like ‘economy’ and ‘basic economy’ can mask big differences in the level of service being offered. Complicating matters further, booking websites often do a poor job of explaining what travelers are actually getting for the listed price.” Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt comments: “You need a supercomputer sometimes to figure out what you are getting and what you are not getting. Just to add confusion to the mix, obviously not every airline’s lowest fare includes or excludes the same things.”

For example: “With a basic economy ticket on American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, travelers can’t select a seat in advance. But on Delta, basic economy passengers are still permitted to use the overhead bins if there is available space. On American and United, those overhead compartments are off limits to those who purchase the lowest fares — unless the passenger is an elite member of the airlines’ reward programs.”

“As the airlines continue to further unbundle their fares, Mr. Harteveldt said, customers may have to change the way they consider ticket purchases. ‘It helps to think about shifting your minds from buying fares to buying products,’ he said … He suggested that leisure travelers consider more than just the official price tag. Booking a ticket or flying an airline that prevents you from selecting a seat in advance, for example, can mean getting separated from your family on the plane.”
As Mr. Harteveldt puts it: “The last thing you want to do is have your vacation ruined.”


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