United, American begin selling cheaper economy-class fare

American offers the option of paying for a specific seat but you can't do that until 48 hours before the flight.

The fares went on sale Tuesday morning for travel beginning March 1.

United is launching its basic economy fares on flights between Minneapolis and its seven hubs: Chicago O'Hare, Denver, Houston Bush Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco and Washington Dulles.

United Airlines doesn't say this explicitly, but it's clear from the luggage size restrictions associated with the ticket that this is the case.

American Airlines will launch its new basic economy fares in 10 markets this March, including three out of DFW International Airport, offering passengers the lowest fares at the cost of a carry-on bag.

Basic economy passengers on both carriers can not change or cancel flights, and they are not eligible for upgrades.

When offered, the carrier's newest category of fares is lower than other fares offered in the main cabin, but come stripped of some of the basics included with the higher fares.

American Airlines has begun selling cheaper "basic economy" fares as it battles discount airlines for the most budget-conscious travelers.

So by the end of this year, unbundled fares will be widely if not universally available for USA domestic flights. With a few exceptions, they must pay extra to check a wheeled bag that other economy-class travelers can put in the overhead bin.

The savings over a regular economy ticket appear to range from about $24 to $40 for a round-trip ticket. Buyers can't pick a seat when they buy the ticket, they're in the last group to board and they can only carry a small item that fits under their seat.

"Basic economy fares cater to the traveler where price is 99.99% of the decision-making process and convenience/loyalty are.01%", said Rick Seaney, CEO of Farecompare. Passengers who buy tickets at the basic economy rate will not be able to bring any carry-on baggage aboard that they are not able to stow under their seats (they will not be able to use the overhead bins).