Basic Economy vs Economy Class vs Premium Economy

by Emese Graham
business woman works on her laptop during a flight

Wait… there are three main types of Economy fares on a plane? What’s the difference between basic economy and regular economy? Or between economy and premium economy?

Our Travel Experts are here to help! We’re breaking down the different types of Economy fares so you can figure out which type meets your needs.

What are Basic Economy Fares?

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To compete with Ultra-Low-Cost-Carriers (ULCCs), many major domestic and international airlines have introduced basic economy fares on select domestic and international routes. Basic economy fares provide more options for budget-conscious travellers, but they’re not the right fit for everyone.

If you’re interested in saving money on your travel expenses (and who wouldn’t be?), there are a number of limitations and considerations you should be aware of before you consider booking a basic economy flight for your next trip.

While cutting costs is the obvious advantage of this restricted airfare, it should be noted that complimentary options found with standard economy would be an additional cost with basic economy. Coupled with the last-minute changes and cancellations that can occur with regular travel, a basic economy flight could end up being more expensive compared to a standard or premium economy fare.

Basic Economy vs. Economy Class

It’s just one tier below Standard Economy, what’s the big deal? To help you make an informed decision, here is a list of the main limitations of Basic Economy fares across most airlines. 

  •  Flight changes are not permitted. 
  •  Cancellations are not permitted. If your travel plans change, there is no refund or credit value.
  •  Upgrades are not applicable.
  •  Same-day airport changes are not possible.
  •  Advance seat selection may not be possible or may be subject to a higher fee, depending on the route.
  •  Zero or reduced eligibility for reward miles or frequent flyer points.
  •  Access to Maple Leaf Lounge or other airport lounges is not included with fare and not available for purchase.
  •  Basic Economy ticket-holders are the last to board. Among the disadvantages of this would be no remaining overhead bin space, in which case you would be required to check your carry-on luggage.
  •  Full-sized carry-on luggage is not permitted on select routes.
  •  Checked luggage may be subject to a higher fee compared to standard economy fares.  

While budget considerations are important, when these important factors are highlighted, the basic economy fare may not be a suitable choice for your business trip.

Is Basic Economy the Right Choice for Your Trip?

The answer is YES if:

  • You’re certain that no flight changes or cancellations would need to be made
  • Your schedule allows for extra time to wait for checked luggage (even if you’ve only packed a carry-on. See above)
  • You do not require extra time to board
  • You do not have a seat preference
  • You do not collect reward miles or frequent flyer points
  • You are prepared to pay an additional fee for in-flight meals, or you plan to pack your own food

The answer is NO if:

  • There is a chance you may need to change or cancel your flight
  • You want an efficient travelling experience so you can make the most of your business trip
  • You require priority boarding
  • You want to select your seat in advance
  • You wish to access the Maple Leaf Lounge or other airport lounges
  • You collect reward miles or frequent flyer points
  • You travel only with a carry-on and you do not want to spend time waiting for your luggage at the baggage carousel OR You travel with checked luggage and do not want to pay an additional fee.

What are Premium Economy Fares?

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Premium Economy Class: in terms of comfort, amenities and service, it’s what Business Class used to be, or in today’s world, a kinda-sorta Business Class Light.

Economy Class vs Premium Economy Class

So, exactly how different is Economy Class from Premium Economy? Let’s see.

While not quite offering lie-flat beds, Premium Economy seats are a lot more comfortable than those at the back of the plane, reclining noticeably further, with a headrest, and maybe a place for your feet, too (each airline has its own seat style). Meal and beverage service is enhanced in both choice and quality, and service is much more attentive. Tickets are more flexible and sometimes even offer more frequent flyer points, too.

Premium Economy seats also tend to include some precious extras, like in-flight wireless connectivity, USB charging and in-seat power ports, and complimentary amenities like noise-cancelling headphones, eye-shades and blankets.

Is Premium Economy the Right Choice for Your Trip?

The answer is YES if:

  • You want to be able to make changes to your booking if something comes up
  • Standard airplane seats are too small or uncomfortable for you
  • You don’t want to have to pack your own airplane snacks
  • You’re planning on packing more than just a carry-on item
  • You collect frequent flyer points

The answer is NO if:

  • Price is the only factor that’s important for you

Talking to a Travel Expert couldn’t be easier.

We offer travel consultations in-person, by phone, email, online chat, video chat, and our 24/7 Customer Care line. Whatever works for you! 

1-877-967-5302

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