THIS week, United Airlines rolled out the change that no flyers were eagerly awaiting: the introduction of “basic economy” class. You might think that some budget-conscious travellers would welcome the arrival of the new no-frills designation, which offers the lowest fares but strips away flyers’ ability to select their seats, bring full-size carry-on bags onto the plane and earn elite qualifying miles. They might, but basic economy doesn’t actually bring lower fares than the ones already available.

Ben Schlappig was the first to note this on his popular “One Mile at a Time” blog. Mr Schlappig looked at fares on a Minneapolis-Denver route before and after the introduction of basic economy. (On February 22nd United began offering basic economy only between its seven American hubs and Minneapolis; other routes in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean will follow.) Prior to the rollout, he found that standard economy fares on this route started at $173. When the “new” fares became available, the basic economy seats began at…Continue reading