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I Flew Basic Economy to Europe and It Wasn’t That Bad

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Earlier this year, I found a sale for flights to the UK and decided to book it right away. The sale was through Finnair although our actual flights were on AA and BA, and the total cost was $1,870 for four round-trip tickets—or just $467.50 per person. That’s a steal for four round-trip flights into London and home from Edinburgh during July, so I wasn’t willing to pass it up. Of course, there was a tiny catch—our flights were for Basic Economy!

If you’re not aware of what Basic Economy entails, it is a newer type of fare that is known for being incredibly restrictive. Basic Economy typically does not come with a free carry-on bag and you do not get to select your seat. This means you’ll have to pay more if you want to bring baggage other than a small personal item, and that you’re often stuck in a dreaded middle seat unless your flight is half empty.

Getting Our Baggage for Free Somehow

Fortunately, some preliminary research revealed that Basic Economy—or Finnair “Light” as it is called—allows a carry-on bag for international flights. Basic Economy from North America to Europe on American Airlines and British Airways do as well now.

That was great since my kids can easily bring a carry-on bag and my husband and I usually share one large checked bag and carry on just one between the two of us.

Funny enough, we arrived at the airport to find that the self check-in baggage station in Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) let us print four checked baggage tickets for free. Obviously, we went ahead and checked all four of our bags to make things easier for our kids.

Inexplicably, the same was true for our ride home. Once again, we got four checked bags for free from Edinburgh back to Chicago. This is true even though the terms and conditions for Finnair, American Airlines, and British Airways say we should have had to pay for checked bags. I don’t have status with any of these airlines, nor do I have a co-branded airline credit card with them, so I’m not sure what happened there.

Our Seats Were Fine

Another issue I was worried about was the fact we couldn’t pre-select our seats. Funny enough, I was actually able to choose our seats for our direct flight from Chicago to London ahead of time. I have no idea why, but I went with it and our seats wound up being the ones I chose in the end. With a 3-4-3 configuration on our plane, we opted to secure three seats on the side and the aisle seat next door for the overnight leg of our trip.

We did not get to select our seats for our flights home, but British Airways sat my family of four in the middle of a 3-4-3 configuration. That was fine with me. To be honest, I don’t care nearly as much about our seats on daytime flights anyway.

The bottom line: I flew in basic economy to Europe and survived—and I would probably do it again. If you wind up finding a sale on Basic Economy you can’t pass up, it may not be as bad as you think.

Have you ever flown Basic Economy to Europe? How did it turn out?

 

[Image: American Airlines]

Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson is a financial expert and award-winning writer whose obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel plays a central role in her work. In addition to serving as Contributing Editor for The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for inspiring…
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