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New Back-of-the-Line Boarding for Bare-Bones Fares

Last week American and United airlines joined Delta Air Lines in offering unbundled, no-frills fares to compete with Spirit Air and other ultra low-cost carriers. This week, American Airlines took the concept to a new level by reworking its boarding process so that the “basic economy” travelers are the last to get on the plane.

The airlines’ new bare-bones fares are aimed at travelers focused squarely on price and who can get by without accessing the overhead bins (one personal item only), preselecting or changing their seat assignment (colleagues can’t sit together), or upgrading (even if the customer has earned points through a frequent-flyer program). For the usual fee, “basic economy” travelers can still check a bag.

Starting March 1, American has changed its boarding order, breaking travelers into nine groups. Invited on board first will be first-class passengers and active-duty military, as usual, followed by travelers with various levels of frequent-flyer membership, then business class, premium economy, main cabin extra, main cabin, and finally basic economy.

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