Ask a Travel Nerd: What’s the Deal With Basic Economy? | Travel
Flight Tickets

Ask a Travel Nerd: What’s the Deal With Basic Economy? | Travel

Unfortunately, there’s no way to say “Basic economy means X.” Instead, think of it more like: “Basic economy on Y airline means X.”

Misconception 3: You can change or cancel basic economy tickets for free

There was a lot of hoopla in the travel world last year when most major U.S. airlines eliminated change and cancellation fees. You might have heard this news and determined, understandably, that it meant that airlines had indeed eliminated change and cancellation fees.

But there’s a big caveat that many stories overlooked: These policies don’t apply to basic economy fares. Instead, and quite specifically, most basic economy fares can’t be changed or canceled — period.

This distinction is major, and is now the biggest reason to pay the upcharge for a main cabin fare. Unless you’re absolutely sure of your travel plans, it’s likely worth paying more for an effectively refundable main cabin fare to avoid the potential of having to book an entirely new basic economy ticket.

The bottom line

If you feel overwhelmed or confused, take heart. I literally do this for a living, and every time I book airfare, I twist myself in knots over whether to buy basic economy or upgrade to main cabin. It’s confusing by design.