BA/AA’s Race To The Bottom: Basic Economy Transatlantic

British Airways is also to eliminate centre tray-tables in Club Europe

Over the past few years, US airlines have been introducing basic economy on domestic routes – in a bid to compete with the increasing range and flexibility of low cost carriers like JetBlue, Spirit Airlines & Southwest. American introduced basic economy early last year — they first rolled it out in 10 markets, and then over the summer they rolled it on virtually all domestic flights. The idea behind basic economy is to offer lower fares in a bid to attract customers from other low cost airlines and customers can choose regular economy if they want to continue with the status quo. In reality, basic economy replaced regular economy prices, and the fares for the economy service they offered previously simply increased. I’m all for flexibility – passengers selecting only what they need on any given flight – but the US airlines took their customers for granted.

Now, American Airlines and their oneworld partners will implement Basic Economy on long-haul routes. As of April 1, 2018, transatlantic oneworld airlines (American, British Airways, Finnair, and Iberia) will begin to offer basic economy fares. For British Airways, this comes as the latest episode in a string of cutbacks and changes – following the appointment of ex-Vueling CEO Alex Cruz as British Airways’ Chariman and CEO.

So far – out of all the oneworld Partner airlines – only American Airlines has given great detail about what Basic Economy on transatlantic flights will look like. According to their press release:

Boarding: Trans-Atlantic Basic Economy customers, including those originating with a domestic leg, will board in Group 8. Elite customers and eligible AAdvantage® credit card members will continue to receive Priority or preferred boarding even when purchasing this fare.
Carry-on Bags: The carry-on bag allowance for all international Main Cabin fares, including trans-Atlantic Basic Economy, is one personal item and one larger carry-on. This is unchanged from international Main Cabin fares today.
Checked Bags: Regular Main Cabin fares will continue to include one checked bag for free. A new fee will apply for the first checked bag on trans-Atlantic Basic Economy.
Connections: Customers flying on a domestic Basic Economy leg connecting to a trans-Atlantic Basic Economy ticket will travel under the rules of the international ticket, including the carry-on bag allowance.
Inflight experience: Regardless of whether they are traveling on a Basic Economy fare or a regular Main Cabin fare, all Main Cabin customers will have the same experience.
Seat assignments: Free seat assignments are made automatically when customers check in. Customers flying trans-Atlantic Basic Economy can purchase a seat assignment at any time.
Tickets: Non-refundable. No same-day flight change or same-day standby.

Here is a table which shows the differences in a visual format:

A visual representation of the changes.

Overall, the introduction of Basic Economy is meant to give passengers more flexibility – but in reality will increase the prices of regular economy fares and serve as another example of BA cutbacks on passenger service in recent years.

What do you think about basic economy on transatlantic flights? Get in touch on social media. 

british airways are diluting an already poor club europe

In other news, British Airways will also be eliminating it’s central tray tables (between two regular economy class seats) in Club Europe. British Airways’ upcoming A320neo and A321neo aircraft won’t feature these tables on the middle seats in business class. British Airways has 35 of these aircraft joining their fleet starting this year (including 25 A320neos and 10 A321neos), and they’ll be used to replace some of their older Airbus narrowbody aircraft. The middle seat will still be blocked – but simply designated for ‘Your Space’ – a concept currently employed by Lufthansa and others.

The Club Europe seats British Airways now offers on domestic flights (specifically, out of London Gatwick)

This is clearly an attempt to make it easier for the airline to adjust the size of its Club Europe cabin – depending on the demand on a particular route. But this is another example of British Airways cutting corners at the expense of passenger comfort. I recently flew on Cobalt Air, between the UK and Cyprus. Their business class offers 40″ of seat pitch, a spacious 2-2 configuration and a dine-on demand menu.

A sharp contrast; Cobalt Air’s fantastic Business Class

All in all, its unsurprising to see British Airways implementing these new cost-cutting measures. Their short haul fleet will only offer 29″ of seat pitch moving forward, without recline – and we all remember the introduction of the M&S BOB menu… Ultimately, however, customers can show their dismay with their wallets, and take their custom elsewhere – to airlines like Cobalt or Qatar who are revolutionising travel in their own particular field.