The 'Last Class' is Coming, and it's Worse Than Economy

Say hello to the no-frills fare.

Basic Economy Class
Photo: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

You’ve already heard its many somewhat-terrifying names: “economy minus," “last class,” and more gently, the “no-frills fare.”

Earlier in the year, Fortune reported that American Airlines would begin selling stripped-down seats without any of the utilities we've come to expect. Basically, the services once included in your ticket price are now being upsold as the exclusive "perks" of a flight in the Main Cabin.

Delta Air Lines was the first to rollout the cheap seats in 2012. For travelers more interested in saving money than in-flight comfort, Delta’s Basic Economy comes with few perks. You can’t book your seat in advance, change your itinerary, or opt for an upgrade.

Now, even United is following suit. Skift suggested that United could role out its “entry-level fare” as soon as this month, and American’s product is scheduled to launch this year, too.

As legacy carriers race to compete with budget airlines such as Frontier and Spirit (which has the dubious title as the worst airline in the world for service), we can only wonder what additional fees may appear. One T+L reader suggested, “If [Spirit] could figure out a way to charge for oxygen, they would do it.”

But things aren’t necessarily as bad as they sound. Travelers in Delta’s Basic Economy continue to enjoy complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. And their promise to share the compendium of in-flight entertainment for free will also extend to those in the 'last class' as of July 1.

More noticeably, the introduction of bargain tickets will draw a bolder line between classes. In the same breath that they confirmed intentions to release a cabin lower in quality than Economy, United also debuted their Polaris Business Class. Think: private suites with lie-flat beds and custom Saks Fifth Avenue bedding.

While we wait to hear what American and United’s Basic Economy tickets will exclude, we can only hope that the drinking water is still free.

Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.

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