What Is The Difference Between Basic Economy And Main Cabin? Find Out Here!

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If you’re a frequent traveler, you may have noticed that airlines are offering more and more fare options beyond just the standard economy ticket. Two of these newer options available on many airlines are basic economy and main cabin fares.

But what exactly do these terms mean? And how do they differ from each other?

This article will provide in-depth insight into the key differences between basic economy and main cabin fares that every traveler should know about before booking their next flight.

“Understanding these differences can help you make an informed decision when comparing airline ticket prices and determining which option best suits your budget and travel needs.”

We’ll explore factors such as pricing, seating arrangements, baggage allowance, boarding privileges, flexibility, and much more to give you a comprehensive understanding of what separates these two popular fare categories.

So whether you’re trying to save a few bucks or looking for a more comfortable flying experience, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about basic economy versus main cabin fares.


The cost of air travel is an important consideration for most people. When it comes to basic economy vs main cabin fare, there are significant differences in price. Basic economy tickets usually come with the lowest prices; however, they often have limitations that can make them less desirable, depending on your needs.

Main cabin fares are typically more expensive than basic economy tickets, but they also provide greater flexibility and benefits that many travelers value. The price difference between these two options can vary widely depending on the airline, route, and time of booking.

To find the best possible deal on airfare, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare prices from multiple airlines before making any final decisions. Many airlines offer promotions and discounts that can help you save money on your trip.

Fare Types

Airlines offer different types of fares to suit various traveler needs. Understanding the differences can help you determine which one is right for you. Two common fares include Basic Economy and Main Cabin.

  • Basic Economy Fare: This is the cheapest option available but comes with certain restrictions like no seat selection, no flight changes or refunds, and boarding last. However, you do get full-size carry-on bags/ personal item and complimentary snacks and drinks during the flight.
  • Main Cabin Fare: You’ll typically pay more for this type of ticket; however, there are additional features and amenities available including free seat selection at the time of booking (depending on rules laid down by respective airlines), early boarding, frequent flyer miles, and access to other services.

In general, Basic Economy fares are suitable for budget-conscious travelers who don’t require much convenience on their flights. On the other hand, main cabin fares may be preferred by those looking for more convenience and amenities on their trip.

Additional Fees

When comparing basic economy vs main cabin fares, it’s essential to consider any additional fees that may apply. While these fees can vary by airline, some of the most common ones include:

  • Bags Fees: Many airlines charge extra fees for checked baggage or overweight baggages which is typically not included in basic economy fare.
  • Premium seating: Upgrading your seat to premium classes like “First Class,” “Business Class” or an “Economy Plus” might come with an added cost. Passengers who purchase a Basic Economy ticket usually do not get an option to upgrade their seats to Premium ones.
  • Reservation Changes and Cancellations: Depending on the type of fare you’ve chosen, changing or canceling your reservation could result in additional fees. Generally, Basic Economy tickets are non-changeable and non-refundable whereas Normal tickets/Main Cabin fare comes with flexible options but may still require passengers to pay change/cancellation fee (ranging from $75 -$200 per passenger).

To avoid unexpected expenses, always make sure you understand all of the applicable fees before booking your flight. This will help you plan for any necessary expenses so you don’t have to worry about surprises down the line.

Promotions and Discounts

Airlines often offer promotions and discounts that can help travelers save money on airfare. Whether you’re looking for cheap flights for vacation or business travel, there are plenty of ways to find great deals on airline tickets.

One option is to sign up for an airline’s email newsletter or follow them on social media. These channels can be useful for getting early access to sales, promotional offers, and exclusive deals. Many airlines also offer rewards programs that allow frequent travelers to earn points, miles, or other perks.

Another option is to use online travel websites to compare prices from multiple airlines in one place. These websites often have access to unpublished deals and discounts that may not be available elsewhere. Some popular sites include Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, and Kayak.com

Payment Options

Many airlines offer various payment options for convenience while booking their tickets. Some of these options may come with additional benefits like cashback, free baggage drop-off service, among others. Below are some commonly accepted payment modes:

  • Credit/ Debit card payments: Most common method globally, readily accepted by all airlines, without any added processing fee. Among credit cards, VISA/Mastercard has the highest usage as it offers a similar level of protection against unauthorized transactions.
  • PayPal Payments:A secure online payment system, where the account holder can deposit money and use this balance to book travel without providing personal banking information to airlines. PayPal guarantees protection against fraud loss coverage (usually up to $1000 per eligible item purchased).
  • Bank Transfers/E-wallets: This mode of payment seems the most feasible option for those who desire to stick to digital methods only, internationally transferable, preferred for making bulk bookings.

The choice of payment mode depends on which airline you choose and your preference. It’s essential to read through the rules for each payment option carefully before choosing the right payment option.

Seat Selection

When booking a flight, passengers are often given the option to choose between basic economy and main cabin seating. But what is the difference between these two options?

Seat Availability

One of the biggest differences between basic economy and main cabin is seat availability. Basic economy fares typically offer more limited seat selection, with seats assigned at check-in or upon arrival at the gate. This means that if you are traveling with others, it may be difficult or even impossible to sit together unless you pay extra for advanced seat selection.

In contrast, main cabin fares generally offer a wider range of seat selection options. Depending on your airline and fare type, you may have access to preferred seating areas or be able to select specific seats in advance when booking your ticket. This can help ensure that you and your travel companions are seated together and may also provide additional benefits, such as more legroom or priority boarding.

Seat Upgrade Options

Another major difference between basic economy and main cabin is the ability to upgrade your seating options. With basic economy fares, upgrades are usually not permitted, meaning that you will need to stick with your assigned seat throughout the entire flight.

Main cabin fares may offer more flexibility when it comes to upgrading your seating arrangements. Depending on availability, you may be able to purchase an upgraded seating option either during the booking process or at check-in. Upgrades could include anything from economy plus seating with more legroom to first class seats with added amenities like meals and drinks.

“Choosing economy vs. basic economy does come with different perks, including seating arrangements and baggage fees.” -Caitlin Martin, Travel Courier

The decision between basic economy and main cabin seating should depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you are traveling alone or do not mind where you sit on the plane, basic economy may be a good option as it typically comes with lower fares. However, if you value seat selection and priority boarding, main cabin seating may be worth the extra cost.

Keep in mind that additional fees may apply for features like advanced seat selection or seat upgrades, so be sure to factor these costs into your travel budget when making your decision.

Carry-On Baggage

Baggage Allowance

All passengers traveling on Basic Economy and Main Cabin tickets are allowed to bring one personal item onboard, such as a purse or small backpack. However, the difference in baggage allowance between these ticket types lies in carry-on baggage. Passengers with Main Cabin tickets can bring one carry-on bag in addition to their personal item, while those with Basic Economy tickets must pay an additional fee for a full-size carry-on.

The maximum dimensions for the personal item allowed onboard both ticket types is 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm). The maximum dimensions for carry-on bags allowed onboard the aircraft depend on several factors: fare class, the traveler’s elite status, whether there is overhead bin space available at boarding time, and equipment limitations of smaller aircraft operated by the airline.

Restricted Items

It is important for all travelers to be aware that certain items are not permitted onboard the airplane, either in checked baggage or carry-on baggage. These include flammable items like lighter fluid or aerosol cans, weapons of any kind, and corrosive materials.

In particular, there are additional restrictions involved when carrying liquids onto a flight in your carry-on luggage. Per TSA regulations, you may only carry containers with liquid products if they don’t exceed three ounces per container and each container should fit into a single quart-sized plastic freezer-type lockable bag.

Baggage Fees

While Basic Economy ticket purchasers are charged an extra fee for bringing a full-size carry-on bag, Main Cabin travelers can check one piece of baggage for free. In case a passenger decides to add an additional checked suitcase, they’ll have to pay an excess baggage fee. Various other fees and charges can apply according to the fare class, elite status, route, and other factors.

It is important for passengers to familiarize themselves with whether their ticket includes baggage fees and what those costs might be. This information can typically be found on an airline’s website, often under a section labeled “baggage” or “fees and charges.”

Baggage Dimensions and Weight

The size and weight of checked bags allowed onboard Main Cabin flights differ based on an airline’s policy. Generally, airlines allow luggage measurements that don’t surpass 62 linear inches (length + width + height) and a weight limit between 50-70 lbs per bag depending on the carrier’s requirements. In contrast, carry-on dimensions generally cannot exceed a total linear length of 45 inches (15 x 14 x 16 in); including handles and wheels and should weigh less than approximately 40 pounds combined, as well.

“Being travel-savvy means knowing how to circle the globe without breaking the bank account,” -Ernest Hemingway

To avoid any discrepancies at check-in kiosks at the airport, it’s wise to reconfirm your flight itinerary and get clear on all TSA regulations beforehand. Prioritize packing items according to importance and required space; heavy items at the bottom, less essential ones on top allows easy access to frequently used articles.

While choosing economy vs basic tickets there are always tradeoffs: cost savings versus some added amenities and flexibility but no matter which one suits you most, make sure to read up closely on each carrier’s policies regarding baggage allowance to avoid any surprise costs when checking in at the airport so that your trip goes smoothly.

Boarding Order

When flying with major airlines, there are different types of tickets that you can purchase. Two of the most popular options include basic economy and main cabin tickets. If you’re traveling in one of these classes, you may be wondering how boarding order works. Here’s what you need to know:

Boarding Groups

Many airlines use a system where passengers are assigned into various boarding groups. Typically, those who paid for more expensive tickets are placed higher up in the group hierarchy and board earlier than those with less expensive fares.

For example, Delta Airlines uses six boarding groups labelled “pre-board,” “Delta One,” “First Class,” “Delta Premium Select/Comfort+,” “Main Cabin 1,” “Main Cabin 2,” and “Basic Economy.” Pre-board is reserved mainly for people with mobility or other special needs. The remaining five groups work based on ticket fares; an individual who pays for a Main Cabin 1 ticket will be put in the fifth boarding group and will board after Delta Comfort+

The purpose of assigning different boarding groups is to make getting onto your flight as easy and organized as possible.

Priorities and Exceptions

Even within the various boarding groups, there are specific protocols set in place. For instance, if you have elite status with an airline (based on frequent flyer miles or rewards card), then you’ll often be able to board ahead of others in your same group. Also, people travelling with young children or babies are sometimes given earlier access so they can get settled before everyone else boards.

It’s important to note that because Basic Economy is the cheapest fare option, it comes with certain restrictions like not being able to select seats before check-in; also, once boarded, Basic Economy pax are at the bottom of boarding priority. If there’s no overhead space left to store their luggage, they will have to check it in and pay an extra fee.

“The goal is for some level of order that gets as many people on-boarded comfortably as possible,” says aviation expert John Walton.

Airlines use a variety of methods to keep a smooth boarding process. By understanding what group you’re assigned to, knowing any exceptions or perks that may come with your ticket class, and arriving early to get situated, you can make the most out of your flying experience regardless of which ticket type you choose!

Flight Changes and Cancellations

Change Fees

If you have ever flown with an airline, you would know that things come up at the last minute very often. Sometimes these changes result in a rescheduling of flights or other itinerary details. As per Delta Airlines’ official website, Basic Economy tickets are non-refundable and cannot be changed. This means that if there is any change to your travel plans, you will lose your ticket’s value completely.

Main Cabin tickets, on the other hand, do not have such restrictions. You can make changes to your itinerary without losing the ticket value (as long as you comply with their policies). If you’re flying domestically within the US, changes made to Main Cabin tickets cost $200 or more (depending on several factors like flight distance etc.) but passengers may apply the unused amount to a new purchase without paying the applicable volatility-based change fee.

Cancellation Policies

The second major difference between Basic Economy and Main Cabin tickets is their cancellation policy. It’s important to keep in mind that every airline has different policies when it comes to cancellations. Cancelling a flight is never a pleasant experience for either party involved because someone inevitably loses out on money and time.

Basic Economy fares are considered “non-refundable” by Delta airlines’ definition, which means your fare won’t be returned to you if you cancel your booking. But Delta does offer something known as “Cancel Anytime” option which requires travelers to pay an additional charge of USD$200. For example: In case you need to alter or modify your plan under this fare type, you must pay fees.

In contrast, the Main cabin fares allow refunds for cancelled reservations; however, terms and conditions invariably apply. According to an official statement on Delta Airline’s website, if you purchase a Main Cabin ticket, and later decide to cancel the fare you’ll be entitled to receive the remaining value of your ticket back in “Emired Mileage points”.

“Travel only with whom you love.” -Jean Paul Sartre

Moral of the story — Basic Economy fares may seem more cost-effective at first glance. However, once it is time to reschedule or cancel due to an unexpected situation, one realizes the multitude of fees piling up adding on needless expenses.

Main Cabin bookings might come across as being pricier but they do offer far greater flexibility than their cheaper counterparts.


In-Flight Entertainment

One of the main differences between Basic Economy and Main Cabin on airlines is the In-Flight entertainment provided to passengers. In Main Cabin, many airlines offer seat-back screens with a wide range of movies, TV shows, live news channels, and other types of entertainment. However, in Basic Economy, most airlines do not provide any seat-back screens or tablets for their passengers.

Instead, some airlines may allow Basic Economy passengers to access their in-flight entertainment through their personal devices such as smartphones, laptops, or tablets by using Wi-Fi services that are provided upon payment. Alternatively, some airlines only offer headphones on request for passengers to use to listen to free music channels available on board.

“With an estimated 39% of U.S. airline travelers carrying a smartphone on planes…” – Skift.com

Food and Beverage Options

Dining options offered during the flight can make your travel experience much more pleasant. In Main Cabin, passengers receive complimentary food and beverages, such as snacks, meals, tea, coffee, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages depending on the flight duration and time of day. Airlines often cater to various dietary restrictions should they be made aware beforehand.

On the contrary, in Basic Economy cabins airlines usually do not provide complimentary food or beverage service. Some Basic Economy fares offer water bottles or small snacks included, but these also vary from airline to airline,’ said Prof Gathoni Njenga of James Cook University’s College of Business Law & Governance (cite source). Passengers who wish to eat or drink anything beyond those must purchase items for additional prices.

“Drinks tend to be a highlight of air travel.” -CNN Travel


Another essential aspect that passengers need to consider is their comfort while traveling in the air. In Main Cabin, usually airlines provide wider legroom space and comfortable seats; decorated pillows may be offered for additional lumbar support depending on the airline as compensation for a more delightful flight experience.

Basic Economy cabins typically offer less or minimal legroom between seats than what is given on Main cabin fares. Airlines advise it’s wise to check-in online early with these tickets and are often considered the “back of the bus” economy pool when assigning seating positions. Despite this difference, same quality cushions may still be provided to reduce discomfort levels during the flight time.

“Airline seats come in various shapes, sizes, and colors but no matter how they’re marketed to consumers, their main purpose is always identical: providing a place to sit.” -The Points Guy

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Basic Economy?

Basic Economy is a low-cost fare option offered by airlines, with limited benefits and services. It is designed for travelers who prioritize cost savings over comfort.

What is Main Cabin?

Main Cabin is a standard fare option offered by airlines, with more benefits and services compared to Basic Economy. It is designed for travelers who prioritize a balance between cost and comfort.

What are the fare differences between Basic Economy and Main Cabin?

The fare for Basic Economy is typically lower than the fare for Main Cabin. However, Basic Economy passengers have to pay extra for services such as seat selection and checked baggage, which are already included in Main Cabin fares.

What are the restrictions for Basic Economy passengers?

Basic Economy passengers have several restrictions, such as no seat selection until after check-in, no upgrades or changes allowed, and no access to overhead bin space unless they pay extra. They also board last and cannot earn full miles or elite status credits.

What are the benefits of booking Main Cabin over Basic Economy?

Booking Main Cabin comes with several benefits, such as seat selection, free checked baggage, priority boarding, and the ability to earn full miles and elite status credits. Main Cabin passengers also have more flexibility to make changes or upgrades to their ticket.

Can passengers upgrade from Basic Economy to Main Cabin?

Passengers can usually upgrade from Basic Economy to Main Cabin for an additional fee, depending on availability. However, the upgrade process may vary depending on the airline’s policies and restrictions.

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