Airline Fares Explained

Airline Fares Explained

July 27, 2019

Written By: 
Trip Concierge Staff

Making sense of airline fares leaves many confused, irritated and simply in the dark. Here is a quick overview of airline fares, restrictions and services associated with different cabin classes of travel.

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Basic Economy
(USA)

Are rock bottom fares, you can take only one personal item, no carry-on, no seat assignment, no upgrades, no changes, no refund, no miles, United doesn't even offer online check-in and you are always last to board. They are denoted as fare classes N (United), B (American), E (Delta), X (Alaska), R (Frontier) and G (Spirit).


Basic Economy (International Destinations)

Are rock bottom international fares, you can take one personal item, one carry-on, you have to pay for checked bags, you can get a seat assignment for a fee, but no upgrades, changes with heavy fees, no refunds, no miles, online check-in is available but you are last to board. They are denoted as fare classes N (United), B (American), E (Delta), X (Alaska).

Regular Economy (Best Value!)

Are normal economy fares and still the best value, you can take one personal item, one carry-on, most of the time find and select a free seat, make changes for a fee, get a flight credit if you need to cancel, earn miles, you can also purchase upgrades, checked bags and priority boarding.

Premium Economy (Best Value!)

Are extra legroom economy fares and the best value to cost ratio, you can take one personal item, one carry-on, select a seat in the front of the economy cabin with extra legroom, you get priority boarding, can make changes for a fee, get a flight credit if you have to cancel, earn full miles, purchase upgrades and checked bags.

Full Fare Economy

Are unrestricted tickets in economy that can be changed and fully refunded, they are usually auto-upgraded to business (if available).

First Class (Domestic)

Are technically business class seats, you can take one personal item, one carry-on, two free checked bags, select a seat, priority boarding, make changes for a fee, get a credit, earn extra miles.


Restricted Business Class

Are business class seats, you can take one personal item, one carry-on, two free checked bags, select a seat, get lounge access, priority boarding, make changes for a fee, get a credit, earn extra miles.


Full Business Class

Are unrestricted tickets in business class that can be changed and fully refunded, they are usually auto-upgraded to first class (if available).‍


First Class (International)

Are unrestricted tickets in the best cabin class available, often with their own lounges and personal concierge.

Our recommendation is to never book basic economy, unless you really need a bargain basement fare and are willing to just take a small backpack or purse with you. Basic Economy is simply a trick the major airlines use to match prices of low-cost carriers. Once your ticket is booked, its a sunk cost and you forget about it, so adding $30 here and another $60 there and $15 over here doesn't seem like much. By the time you add seats, bags and extra's, basic economy fares sometimes end up being more expensive than a Regular Economy ticket.

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