I hate flying in basic economy - but there's an easy hack to get around some of the restrictions on American, Delta, and United flights
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- "Basic economy" fares offered by the major US airlines are regular coach seats, but with restrictions on seat selection, when you board, and even what carry-on luggage you can take.
- Basic economy can be a headache, but fortunately, there is an easy solution to get around at least some of the inconveniences.
- When you hold an airline credit card, you get perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, and an exemption from the carry-on restriction.
- Delta flyers should consider the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express; American Airlines passengers will be well-served by the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard; and United loyalists can benefit from the United Explorer Card from Chase.
- Be sure to read our detailed comparison of the three cards.
Ready for the least controversial opinion ever? Here it is: I hate basic economy.
The principle of it is what really irks me.
Basic economy is essentially a pared-down version of a regular economy ticket. Your seat is still in the main cabin of the plane, and you're generally entitled to the same on-board service as the rest of the economy cabin (things like free soft drinks and snacks), but there are more restrictions on the fare.
Each airline's rules are slightly different, but in general you won't be able to pick your seats, you'll board in the last group, and in some cases, you can't even bring a normal carry-on bag.
The three major US airlines - American, Delta, and United - have introduced basic economy fares over the past few years, claiming that the basic tickets enable them to lower the cheapest economy fares in order to compete against low-cost competitors like Spirit and Southwest. Basic economy fares are even being rolled out on international routes.
However, travel bloggers like Gary Leff point out that that's not really how these fares work. Since they've been introduced, the lowest prices haven't dropped - those same prices just get you less than they used to, trying to incentivize flyers to spend more money to get the same old level of service and amenities.
At best, basic economy is an inconvenience. At worst, it ends up costing you more, either to buy up in regular economy, or because you end up having to pay various additional fees for things like carry-on bags.
Fortunately, there's an easy hack to get around some of restrictions of basic economy: hold an airline credit card. In most cases, you don't even need to use it.
The credit cards for the "US3" airlines each come with perks and benefits that can cancel out the worst parts of basic economy. Here's how.
Click here to learn more about the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select card from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the United Explorer card from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.
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