Ok, so I wrote this post in a fit of rage a week ago but never posted it. Plus ça change.
Here’s the real fuckery behind Basic Economy on American Airlines.
We needed to fly from Phoenix to Santa Barbara. PHX is one of my very least favorite airports, due to its being a) ugly, though, to be fair, so is the city as a whole, and b) it being roughly 30,000 miles from anywhere to anywhere else within the airport.
Anyway, only American has a dinker (a CRJ 200, I think) that connects those two cities nonstop. Fine. And since the flight is only like an hour or something, Ms. X and I were like, fuck it, why do we need seat assignments? We see enough of each other as it is. So we cheaped out and bought Basic Economy seats.
(Burned up some
FuckYou ThankYou points for them, since Shitti doesn’t let you transfer to airlines points that you earn on bank accounts, as opposed to credit cards, for some reason.)
The deal with Basic Economy, on whatever airline, is that you get assigned some arbitrary seat during checkin, or, if not possible, at the gate. As long as I have a seat, who cares? The plane is 2×2, so we can’t get stuck in middles. Maybe we end up not sitting next to each other, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, so I hear, as long as there’s not there’s someone friendly and attractive sitting next to you. Nature abhors a vacuum.
There are also other attendant miseries with Basic Economy, like earning half the qualifying miles, and no changes or cancellations at all, and no upgrades, and boarding in the last group (on AA, that’s group fucking nine). But, again, those didn’t seem to matter for this particular trip.
Here’s where the shit starts to stink, at least on Assface Airlines: checking in. I tried using the web site, and the app. During that process, they offered to sell us, for $11 apiece, two seats in the second to last row. I passed. Who cares?
So AA punished me!
Here’s what the the app told me if I didn’t want to purchase a better seat: eat shit, motherfucker! You’re checked in, but we’re not going to give you anything to show for it! You still have to go to a kiosk at the airport and get a seatless security clearance pass, and then get a seat at the gate! Seriously, that’s what the app told me. (The web site just gave a vague statement about needing to check in at the airport.)
Ok, whatever, inconvenient. And then we got to the fucking airport. And the line just for the privilege of touching an American Airlines kiosk was around the fucking escalator.
Do you see what I’m saying here? Amidst the many deterrent warnings I received when buying my ticket, one of them was not that I might not be able to receive a mobile flight document. There was nothing that said, “Oh, if we think we can still sell assigned seats, we will NOT give you an electronic anything that will prevent you from having to get in a check-in line at the airport.”
The only saving grace about this whole sordid affair was that in a moment of mostly awful judgment, at the end of last year, AA offered me the option of giving them cash money to retain my Gold (equivalent to United or Delta Silver) status for another year. There’s no way that what I paid for it was worth it, but boy howdy, was I fucking happy I had it today, because we were able to use the empty Elite line, at the end of which was a…kiosk. A kiosk! All this JUST TO BE ABLE TO GET THROUGH FUCKING SECURITY. For fuck’s sake.
So then the stupid kiosk spat out its non-boarding-passes without a seat assignment, and I went to wait at an ugly gate in an ugly airport for someone to just give me a seat on a plane just because I didn’t think it was worth extra money to have assigned seats. What a bunch of scum.
AA could have, in order of preference:
- Assigned us the very-much-not-premium seats they were trying to sell me during check-in.
- Provided us with seatless security clearance passes on our phones, rather than making us go to a kiosk.
- Warned me before purchase that I might have to use an airport kiosk.
What is the moral of my story? It’s that on American, and who knows, maybe others, if you buy Basic Economy, you might not be able to fully check in electronically and get a mobile document. If you don’t have status, you might have to wait in a long fucking line at the airport. I don’t know that the answer is here: it feels like robbery to pay for regular Economy if you don’t want it just because they make you do this. If I ever find myself in this profoundly regrettable situation again, and without status, I’m just gonna buy a fully refundable ticket to get through security, and then refund it, because, seriously, fuck these people. (United must be so happy AA is out there to make them look good by comparison.)
Oh, and here’s a fun followup: I wrote a complaint to customer care, and I got back an utterly useless boilerplate letter explaning to me what Basic Economy is, like I’m a slightly slow fourth grader. And it contained the following lie: “Seat assignments for Basic Economy are made automatically and only when customers check in.” So I wrote back asking they actually read and respond to the issue in my original letter, and it’s been crickets for a week. Way to treat your elites, guys! So I submitted a new complaint yesterday, and we will fucking see where the hell it ends up. Because I included the original Ref#, it’ll probably land in the hands of the same incompetent who got it wrong the first time and ignored me the second time, so I don’t know why I bother to get my hopes up.
On the plus side, though we sat in the back row, the flight attendant also sat back there in his jumpseat, and he was a nice fucking guy and gave me free booze. That certainly took the edge off.