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Basic economy fares meet American Airline's and Delta’s expectations; United needs to catch up

One of the most closely watched developments in the US aviation industry during 2017 was the roll-out of basic economy fare structures by the three large US global network airlines – American, Delta and United.

The fares were designed as a means to match prices with ultra low cost discounters, but ULCCs have argued that basic economy pricing has ultimately created a tool for those large airlines to revenue manage their inventory better. Indeed, American and Delta have both cited close to 50% upsale rates from basic economy, and Delta believes the income from those bare bones fares represents a small contribution to its incremental revenue base.

United had a different experience with its roll-out of basic economy, and has not experienced the same benefits as it rivals. Now the airline is making tweaks to the offering, and its performance in managing its basic economy offering will be closely watched in 2018.

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