The Popular Flight Booking Mistake That Might Be Costing You More Money

Vacationers often find that booking flights is one of the most expensive parts of planning any trip. That is especially true in a post-pandemic world where the demand for travel is rising. According to the Consumer Price Index, flight prices increased 25% between 2022 and 2023. Inflation, a lack of airline pilots, and the impact on the oil industry caused by the Russia-Ukraine War, amongst other things, are the culprits for this. 

With prices of domestic and international vacations skyrocketing in 2023, it's no surprise that travelers want to save as much money on flights as they can. Some might try skiplagging when traveling to reduce costs. Instead of choosing a pricy direct flight, travelers book a flight traveling somewhere else with a layover at their desired destination.

However, many travelers opt to purchase the cheapest fare offered by airlines. That means that customers flying with American, Delta, and United are selecting a basic economy ticket instead of a standard economy option. NerdWallet states that in some cases, choosing basic economy can save you up to $60. Likewise, you can count on having complimentary snacks and beverages on board. 

Despite the savings and this perk, you may want to think twice before choosing a basic economy seat. Basic economy tickets tend to come with significant restrictions and drawbacks — ultimately making your cheap flight not so cheap in the end. This begs the question, is basic economy really worth it for travelers?

Basic economy fares could cost you in convenience and fees

While a basic economy ticket is the cheapest airfare one can purchase at American, Delta, and United, there are several factors you need to consider when booking. For example, basic economy passengers cannot make changes or cancel their flights at any of the three airlines. Refunds are allowed within a 24-hour period after purchase. After that, you're out of luck. However, you'll get travel credit at United rather than your money back. If you cancel your basic economy flight with Delta, you'll likely be charged a fee and provided travel credit.

Additionally, flying basic economy with Delta and United does not allow seat selection. The airline chooses for you, which can make flying a more awkward experience for groups and families. The exception is American, which charges a fee for picking your seat. Moreover, if you love racking up miles for future perks, you may want to skip out on basic economy.

Delta doesn't offer miles, and American and United offer significantly fewer miles with basic economy options. On top of all of that, you may have more stress figuring out whether you are allowed a carry-on, personal item, or both. For reference, you must pay $25 for a carry-on bag if you fly basic economy with United. A personal item and carry-on are free with Delta and American.

Another thing to note is that you will board last with basic economy. Simply put, flexibility is not an option; you get what you pay for. 

Other ways to save money besides flying basic economy

If you feel concerned over the lack of convenience and wiggle rooms associated with basic economy, don't fret. There are other flight hacks to employ so you can stay within your travel budget. One of the most effective tips for flying cheap centers on your destination. In other words, you should plan your trip based on the prices of flights. Through this notion, you may find yourself exploring a beautiful location that you wouldn't have thought about visiting.

In fact, you might even want to consider a dupe destination or an alternative and cheaper destination to a tourist hotspot (e.g., visiting Liverpool instead of London). You could use the website Jack's Flight Club, which sends affordable flight details straight to your inbox for inspiration. If you already have a place in mind, tools like Sky Scanner, Hopper, and Google Flights can assist in comparing and finding the best possible price for a flight.

As for when you should book a trip to get more bang for your buck, Hopper's economist Hayley Berg told The Points Guy in 2023 that you can get the best deals on a domestic flight three to four months in advance. Likewise, you should book an international trip five months before departure for the same reason.

However, before you purchase tickets, be sure to file any paperwork needed for travel, like a passport or visa. The last thing you want is to plan your dream vacation only to find that you or your fellow travel companions have expired travel documents.