Coach class is now divided into three separate classes, the lowest of which United Airlines and American Airlines rolled out broadly this year, joining rival Delta Air Lines.
Basic economy is now available coast to coast. In exchange for what is generally the lowest fares on board, passengers give up perks that used to be free, such as seat selection, flight-changes and in United and American's case, use of overhead bins. These passengers also board dead last.
Airlines love basic economy because many passengers will pay the higher fare just to avoid it. But if you are willing to part with some perks and arrive early, you can avoid higher costs.
Carriers provide travelers numerous opportunities to choose the higher-priced ticket and flash screens that look like a TSA prohibited-items list that detail what they won't be getting if they opt for the rock-bottom fare. But some travelers can resist the urge.
Know exactly what you are getting. If your ticket does not provide you access to your overhead bin, don't pack like you can sneak on with a big rollaboard. You cannot bring a full-sized carry-on bag on board, and airlines will provide dimensions for bags that they will accept.
Gate agents will likely require you to pay to check the bag, easily singling you out because you are in the last boarding group. Compare the price of a basic economy ticket plus a checked bag fee and the higher-priced coach ticket. If you bought a regular economy ticket, sometimes the airline, for the sake of an on-time departure, will allow volunteers to check their full-size carry-on bags, free of charge.
Don't act surprised when you are not sitting with your family members. If it's important, splurge on a ticket that provides seat assignments. Some basic economy tickets mean you won't get a boarding pass and seat assignment until you're at the airport, so get to the airport earlier.
Airlines may try to sell you earlier boarding and a quicker trip down the security line, especially if you get to the airport late. For example, JetBlue sells "Even More Speed" passes for $10.
Travel expert Gary Leff, author of the View from the Wing blog, recommends checking your airline credit card for benefits like early boarding. That could apply even if you've purchased the rock-bottom fare.