Are new ‘basic-economy’ fares on long-haul flights worth the squeeze?

SAM | 9th July 2018


Several long-haul airlines have recently launched discounted ‘basic economy’ fares, allowing budget-conscious passengers to travel to destinations such as the USA with hand luggage only and avoid unnecessary fees.


To help savvy travellers weigh-up their long-haul options, Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) has put together a table comparing the new economy ticket options available on flights from the UK.


The APH guide looks at the economy fares offered by nine airlines, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian Air, comparing hand and checked luggage allowances, seat selection, seat width and legroom, and if complimentary refreshments are provided.


In terms of luggage, seven of the nine airlines allow travellers to bring up to 10kg of hand luggage onboard. However, both American Airlines’ Basic Economy and WOW air’s Basic fares do not allow passengers to put hand luggage in the overhead lockers and restrict passengers to carry-on personal items that fit underneath the seat in front. Checked baggage is not included as part of a basic fare, but an allowance of 23kg of hold luggage is included with 11 of the airlines’ standard economy charges, including Air France, KLM and Icelandair.


For those passengers who don’t mind where they sit on the plane, most of the airlines automatically assign passengers a seat with Basic tickets, however, Air France, KLM and Icelandair all allow passengers to choose where they sit during the flight.


Similarly, complimentary food and drink is not available with six of the fares researched, including Norwegian’s LowFare and Primera Air’s Light option. Passengers travelling with Icelandair should also pack snacks for the flight as complimentary refreshments are limited to soft drinks, tea and coffee only.


When it comes to boarding, most of the Basic tickets allow passengers to board at the same time as other travellers, however British Airways’ Basic and Delta’s Basic Economy fares asks customers to board last and the Basic Economy fare with American Airlines places customers in Boarding Groups 8 and 9, dependent on the destination.


Although travellers who select a Basic fare pay a discounted price, the seat width and pitch were not found to differ from that of a typical economy seat. Legroom provided in the economy cabin varies from 29 inches with WOW air to 32 inches with four of the airlines researched, including Air France and KLM. However, travellers with longer legs may want to consider upgrading their seat to Virgin Atlantic’s Economy Delight or WOW Air’s Premium tariff as these provide seats with 34 inches and 37 inches of legroom, respectively.