In the quest to wring out as many pennies as possible from customers and compete with budget airlines, three U.S. carriers—American, Delta and United—now offer three distinct levels of Economy class tickets, and the differences between the tiers are potentially equal to hundreds of dollars in ticket fares.
The biggest differences between the three Economy classes are priority boarding, seat selection and same-day ticket change fees, according to Consumer Reports, which separates them into Basic, Standard and Enhanced fares.
Basic is, obviously, the cheapest, and offers consumers the fewest options/amenities. None of the three airlines offer priority boarding, seat selection or same-day changes on tickets (you’ll lose all of your money if you need to change). Additionally, United does not include a carry-on bag in the ticket price (Delta and American do). It will cost the standard checked bag fee of $30, plus $25 to check it at the gate.
Standard fares give you more options, though usually at a price (note that this is called Main Cabin on Delta and American and Economy on United). You can pick a seat, take a carry-on on all three airlines and make changes to your ticket without losing all of your money. American and Delta charge $75 for a change, while United charges $200. Like with the Basic fare, United is the least generous and charges more in fees (though American’s seat selection fees scale up to $74, per CR).
Additionally, you’ll likely get a slightly bigger seat and more leg room the higher you go.
The main difference between this category and Standard is that seats might be slightly wider and offer more legroom, and American and Delta offer free beer and wine.
If you’re especially concerned about your seat location, you should do some research on SeatGuru, per CR. While you might think that more expensive seats are “better” or offer more legroom, that’s not always the case. “More expensive seats could have a misaligned window (meaning you’ll have no view of the clouds) or they might be in brighter, louder areas of the plane, such as across from the bathroom or galley,” writes CR.
Your Airline Travel Survival Guide | Consumer Reports
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