When it comes to travel for students, the cheapest option is often the best option. Saving money on flights, for example, means money you can visit that museum or eat at that restaurant you found on Instagram. And as airline tickets usually are one of the most pricey parts of your trip, many airlines have now started offering basic economy tickets.

But what is a basic economy ticket? Well, we’re glad you asked. It’s basically a ‘no-frills’ ticket option. What may seem like the best deal at the time may not work out that way after adding any additional extras. It’s important that you know what you’re buying before you do so and that’s why we’ve created this guide on basic economy flights. From the restrictions and guidelines to the pros and cons, we’ve got the 411 on basic economy for you.

The lowdown on Basic Economy

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Have you seen these pop-ups on our website when booking a flight? This is where you will be able to stick with your basic economy ticket or upgrade to an economy seat for a fee. Basic economy is a cheaper option when you purchase a ticket. But sometimes the fares don’t cover all the benefits you would expect when flying. We’re talking online check-in or overhead space for your hand luggage. To put it bluntly, basic economy books you a seat on the plane and not much else

If you’re planning a quick weekend away to Europe, with no luggage, basic economy may be the best option for you. But if you’re taking a longer trip, with a lot more luggage and with friends you may want to sit with, you may have to end up paying more later on. 

Just so you know what to expect when buying basic economy, we’ll break down the pros and cons below.


Airplane cabin


If you’re flying basic economy you’re going to need to pack light. If you choose to fly short-haul with British Airways you’ll only be allowed to take two pieces of hand luggage, paying a fee for a checked bag. Or if you choose to fly with Virgin Atlantic, your basic economy ticket (or Economy Light as they call it) will allow you to have hand luggage only, with an additional fee to pay for checked luggage. Do keep in mind that all airlines will charge a different amount for checked baggage than for a basic economy ticket. So do check the airlines’ website for a breakdown of these costs.


If you’re a basic economy passenger you will be spending a lot more time at the airport compared to those in economy. First up is online check-in. This varies from airline to airline, but some basic economy ticket passengers will not be able to check-in online. Meaning you’ll have to make your way to the airport earlier to do this. But don’t worry, your airline will let you know before your flight what you need to do.  As a basic economy passenger, you’re also going to find yourself boarding the plane last.

Restrictions & Flexibility

The type of flexibility you’ll face as a basic economy passenger will vary depending on who you fly with. In general, you can expect less flexibility with your ticket. If you decide to change the date of your ticket or even cancel your trip, you won’t be able to do so. If you decide you want to upgrade to economy or business later, you won’t have the option to do that either. 

Seat selection is another thing to look out for. You will be assigned your seat once you check-in, which you will not be able to change or upgrade. In some cases, certain airlines will allow you to change seats for a small fee, but most do not.

And finally, let’s talk air miles. As a basic economy passenger, you are still able to collect air miles on your journey, but you may be awarded a reduced number of miles dependent on the reward programme you belong to.  

When you purchase

Are you looking for a quick weekend break to Budapest? Or want to surprise your friend who’s studying abroad in Italy? Well, basic economy may not be the cheapest option for you, especially if it’s a last-minute flight booking. For flights that are within the next two weeks, basic economy is not usually any cheaper than an economy flight. 


Young woman looking out of plane window to blue sky and clouds

The Cost

In general basic economy, fares tend to be around £20 to £60 less than economy seats. But in some cases, students could save as much as £200! It’s a great way to watch your spending when travelling, but just be careful not to get caught out by any additional fees. Factor in costs of changing your seat or checking luggage (if you need these) into your planning!

In-Flight Experience

On most major airlines basic economy is still in the same section of the cabin as regular economy customers. So you’ll still enjoy snacks & meals, entertainment and Wifi options that are available to anyone with an economy ticket. Just bear in mind that this is not the case for all airlines. Some of the lower-cost airlines will have a separate seating section for basic economy passengers (read: less leg room), meaning snacks and drinks may not be included. Before you book we suggest taking a look at the airlines’ website to see what will be included in your ticket.

Our Conclusion?

You’ll know what type of ticket is best for your travels and where best to make a saving or spend a little extra money. If you know that you won’t want to change your flight, are ace at packing light and don’t mind where you sit, the basic economy is the perfect option for you. But if you’re the type who needs to take checked luggage on your trip with you and wants to have the freedom to pick your seat on the plane, you may be better off buying a regular economy ticket. 

Good news for StudentUniverse customers. Whether you choose basic economy or economy, you can still enjoy student & youth discounts on your flights. Plus you can still make the most of any promo codes live on-site too! So you can travel more, spend less. 

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