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$80 to Tampa: American Airlines launches cheap fares

Fort Worth-based American Airlines has launched basic economy fares to compete with budget carriers.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines has launched basic economy fares to compete with budget carriers. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Cheap, no-frills fares from American Airlines are here.

On Tuesday, the Fort Worth-based carrier began selling its “basic economy” fare on 10 routes, including Dallas/Fort Worth to Baltimore, Philadelphia and Tampa. Prices ranged from $70 for a one-way ticket from DFW to Baltimore and $148 from DFW to Philadelphia.

But the fares were going fast. Within an hour of being posted to American’s website, several of the cheap fares searched by the Star-Telegram were already unavailable. American said it would be limiting the number of inexpensive seats on the flights as it tests the new fare structure. More basic economy fares were available later Tuesday afternoon.

While the fares may be rock-bottom, customers who buy these tickets will face several restrictions. Passengers with basic economy fares will only be allowed to bring a carry-on or personal item that fits under the seat in front of them and will not be allowed to upgrade to regular economy, business class or first class. The tickets are also nonrefundable and cannot be changed. Seating assignments can only be made when the customer checks in.

A one-way basic economy fare from DFW to Tampa was listed as $80 for a flight in mid-April, $20 cheaper than the regular main cabin economy fare.

The carrier plans to expand basic economy to several more markets later this year. The first 10 routes are being used to test the fares and operations at airports.

American has been talking about the no-frills fare for more than a year in an effort to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines. Delta Air Lines has a basic economy fare in select markets and United Airlines also debuted its basic economy fare Tuesday for travel between Minneapolis/St. Paul and its seven hub cities.

The basic economy fare is in contrast to American’s new premium economy fare, which was introduced on some international routes. Premium economy offers more legroom and better in-flight meals than the typical economy seat.

“Some of our customers will only fly first class and some simply want a seat from Point A to Point B,” said American President Robert Isom in a letter sent to employees last month. “We need products for both types of customers, and everyone in between.”

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Routes with basic economy fares

  • Charlotte-Orlando
  • DFW-Baltimore
  • DFW-Tampa
  • DFW-Philadelphia
  • Miami-Tampa
  • Philadelphia-New Orleans
  • Philadelphia-Fort Lauderdale
  • Philadelphia-Charlotte
  • Philadelphia-Miami
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