Airlines have been increasing profitability through investing heavily in first and business-class while continuously making the coach flight experience worse to cut costs. Why stop there, though? Coach, as airlines have discovered, can be divided in and of itself into sections and even seats.
You are probably familiar with how some airlines make you pay more money to sit in an exit row – that means more money to have more responsibility. Meaning that in the case of an emergency, you’re spending extra money to take on the responsibility of opening the emergency exit doors for everyone. I personally am lazy, so should that situation ever arise, everyone seated behind me will be screwed.
Ladies and gentlemen, please help me in introducing “Basic Economy”, with Delta being the first airline to add this new section for the peasants to awkwardly take their seats in. Basic Economy Class is also being referred to as Peasant Class and Last Class.
As I mentioned before, Delta was the first to introduce basic economy, and United and American Airlines have both made the announcement that they will be debuting their versions of basic economy later this year.
So what dignity could the possibly strip from Economy Class to create Basic Economy? The unfortunate souls seated in Basic Economy Class will have just enough legroom to comfortably accommodate a quadriplegic. In addition, you’ll be sitting in an even smaller seat, so the fat rolls of your pleasantly plump neighbor on the plane will not just absorb the arm rest, but also fold over it into your designated space.
What is Basic Economy Class?
Intended for frugal travelers, it means folks who are willing to give up the few remaining comforts of flying economy in return for a cheap ticket. The biggest sacrifice is the loss of the ability to reserve a seat when booking a flight, so get ready to sit by the toilets in the last row. If you happen to be traveling with your family or business colleagues, you can forget about sitting together. Passengers aboard basic economy forfeit the right to upgrade their seats and are unable to change or cancel their reservations more than 24 hours after booking them.
Delta and their various rivals are making basic economy so unpleasant that people will pay extra to “upgrade” to standard economy class. When you try to book a reservation on Delta’s basic economy, a screen pops up warning you of all the reasons you should upgrade and won’t close until you check a box stating “I agree to the restrictions”.
The Economist summed up the press coverage:
Press coverage of the new fare class hasn’t been kind. Time called it “worse than any low-fare carrier option”. Forbes warned that passengers “may soon be crying foul”. A writer for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis complained, “I felt more like I was being made to pay for the privilege of selecting a seat than being offered a way to save.”
So why are the big airlines emulating their cheaper, crappier competitors such as Spirit and Frontier? Obviously because those airlines are making a killing, despite passenger dissatisfaction and complaints. Travellers have told the airlines that they are willing to suffer all sorts of discomforts and inconveniences for the sake of paying a lower fare. America’s big airlines are like drug dealers, they are just meeting the demand that the public has expressed a demand for.
We need a Rosa Parks of airlines. Someone brave enough to not take their seat at the back of the plane, but rather sit right up front in first class until they are arrested.