Nothing seems to be able to stop the commodification of airline travel.
What to Know Now
Stripped down or “basic” economy fares have been growing in popularity over the last few years as the legacy carriers’ mechanism to compete with ultra low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier. In a nutshell, the fares strip out
all of the what’s left of the benefits of economy air travel and provide a bare bones travel experience, cutting out seat selection options, upgrade benefits, lounge access, mileage benefits and a variety of other services, depending on the fare.
While terrible for general travelers, the airlines see it as the only way to compete with budget carriers — and for whatever it’s worth, they may be right.
So far, Delta has been the only airline to successfully incorporate basic economy fares systemwide. But seeing their success, the other legacies are quickly following suit. In American’s Q3 earnings call, President Scott Kirby all but acknowledged that basic economy fares are coming in 2016. And United, rarely a leader in the innovative fare space, is surely close behind.
All of this points to a rough year ahead for both general travelers and frugal business travelers. Get your miles in now.
Social Quote of the Day
AA has to be very careful that in going after half of their revenue represented by once a year fliers they don’t risk losing the other half represented by their loyal frequent flier base, which they’ve tried so hard to protect and expand, and which they view as on of their strongest competitive advantages. At least it would be my hope that they understand it. It makes no sense to poach fliers from UA and DL only to stick it to them later. But I’m not the one making decisions…
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Legendary travel writer Don George has a new book out called The Way of the Wanderlust. Find it on Amazon here.
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Can be sent to gm[at]skift[dot]com or to @grantkmartin
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Photo credit: Economy seats on an American Air Dreamliner. PRNewsFoto / American Airlines