Is $49 RT to Miami cheap enough to fly basic economy?

I saw a Slickdeals post come up this morning for airfare between Detroit and Miami for just $49 round trip. Clicking through to read the details, I saw that it was a Basic Economy fare — meaning that you can not select a seat and you are only allowed a bag that fits under the seat in front of you (no overhead bin access, no checked bags).

Click the image to go to Google Flights and adjust dates

That got me to wondering: how low is low enough to put up with the inconveniences of a basic economy fare? In this case, the cost of the round trip flight is less than the cost to get to the airport in some cities. But is it worth it?

Basic Economy restrictions

As a reminder, Basic Economy really stinks. Here are the restrictions that normally pertain to basic economy fares:

That’s no fun — no bag in the overhead compartment, no seat selection, no checked bags, you board in the last group….could that be worth it for anyone?

It is for credit card holders / elite members

According to Julian Mark Kheel at The Points Guy, Citi AAdvantage and Barclaycard Aviator credit card holders are exempt from the baggage limitations of basic economy (see American’s full Basic Economy policy here).

As you can see, American’s policy makes it clear that credit card holders will keep overhead access, free checked bags, and preferred boarding.

You won’t get a seat assignment ahead of time — so you’re still at the mercy of what’s left in terms of seat. But I’d say that $49 RT from Detroit to Miami probably mitigates that.

Will it earn miles?

According to our Free Checked Bags via Credit Card Complete Guide, your American Airlines frequent flyer number must be attached to your reservation 7 days in advance to get your free checked bag. However, if you don’t need the extra baggage space and priority boarding, you might want to consider crediting to another program.

According ITA Matrix, these fares are in B-class:

Wheretocredit.com says that B-class on American would earn 100% redeemable miles with Iberia. At about 1100 miles each way, that should be around 2200 miles on the round trip. I don’t know for sure that this is accurate, but it matches what I found on Iberia’s website:

Remember that Iberia Avios can transfer to British Airways Avios and vice versa, giving you added flexibility with those earned miles (See: Bet You Didn’t Know: 3 Methods To Transfer Avios Between Iberia and British Airways).

Bottom line

This fare is available during much of October and early November. I don’t live in or around either of these markets, but if I did, these fares would look pretty attractive to me since I am a Barclaycard Aviator card holder. I’d only earn a small sum of miles if I’m using my American Airlines frequent flyer number, but the benefits of having an American Airlines credit card would probably outweigh mileage earning for me. As per American’s policies, I should keep my carry-on allowance and checked bag, essentially eliminating the biggest problems with basic economy. For forty-nine bucks round trip, I’d deal with the middle seat for three hours. My wife wouldn’t. How about you?

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Comments

  1. Ugh I suppose if I was really strapped for cash and needed to fly there (thats not a good way to start a vacation) I’d put up with being a sardine for a few hours.

    You can’t take money/points with you when you die so might as well have some enjoyment sometime?

  2. I guess my questions would be can I pick a decent seat at check in as a Platinum member on AA. Also will I still earn EQS (Segments) which is the main way I qualify each year. It seems the segments are still earned, I guess.

    • Terms state this:
      “Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) earned at a reduced rate of 0.5 per mile/flight segment flown”

      It also says that you can pay to choose your seat 48 hours out or wait to have it auto-assigned at check in. It is not clear if elite benefits will allow you to change your seat after it has been assigned.

  3. I thought at customer service desk you could change your ff # after you have boarding pass printed to Avios? Or maybe even online?

    • You may well be able to. I left that out because I haven’t done it and I’m not sure whether or not it would negate your free checked bag, but it definitely could be worth a shot.

  4. If they are offering the fares that cheap they also may not be full flights. This is last minute. People still have the hurricanes in their minds. Realistic or not. And it’s unseasonably warm in the rest of the country. Detroit is in the high 69/low 70s right now. Miami is in the upper 80s. People may be enjoying the beautiful fall weather. In January that’s something else. But if I needed to go to Miami from the Midwest right now I’d take that fare.

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