Basic Economy Offering Introduced By China Eastern

In a move designed to compete with Asian low cost carriers, China Eastern is now offering basic economy tickets on its Far East routes.

China Eastern introduces Basic Economy seating. Photo: mark Finlay/Flickr

If you are frugal when it comes to flying, you’ll be pleased to hear that China Eastern is now selling no-frills tickets on some of its routes. The move by the Shanghai-based carrier puts China Eastern in competition with the likes of AirAsia, Australia’s Jetstar Airways and local rival Spring Airlines.

Currently, China Eastern basic economy tickets will only be available on flights within Asia, so anyone hoping to pick up an inexpensive flight to Europe or North America will be out of luck.

Is basic economy on China Eastern worth the savings?

This new ticket option by the Sky Team member cuts amenities down to the basics.

China Eastern introduces Basic Economy fares. Photo: China Eastern

Gone are online check-in, checked in luggage, and the ability to select your seat. What you do get with basic economy is the chance to save money over the regular fare as you can see in the example below (the prices are in Singapore dollars).


Based on a flight from Singapore to Shanghai if you flew basic economy instead of standard economy, would save the equivalent of about $30 USD. Where China Eastern differs from other low cost carriers is that even as a basic economy ticket holder, you are still served a meal without having to pay extra.

This is pretty good if you consider you have to pre-pay 35 ($40) for a meal on-board a Norwegian Air long-haul flight.

What is basic economy?

Essentially, basic economy is the cheapest ticket you will find on a full-service airline. Once you buy the ticket, you are at the mercy of the airline with no changes or alterations allowed.

Basic Economy Offering Introduced By China Eastern
Passengers in Basic Economy will still get a meal. Photo: Mark Finlay/Flicker

If for some reason your plans change, you will lose the ticket as refunds and rebooking are prohibited with basic economy fares. Generally, you will also board the plane last and be seated where the airline decides to fit you into their seating plan.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of no luggage. With basic economy, you are not allowed to check a bag, but can bring a carry-on so long as it adheres to the airlines carry-on baggage policy.

Passengers flying on some basic economy tickets will find they aren’t entitled to a meal or complimentary beverage, although they can opt to buy on board. China Eastern, however, is an exception to this rule.

Delta Airlines was the first American airline to offer basic economy seating back in 2012, and expanded it to transatlantic flights in April of 2018. Seeing Delta’s success with their approach to low cost flying, other American full-service airlines soon followed suit.

Why is China Eastern offering basic economy?

Coincidentally, Delta Airlines is a part owner of China Eastern and, just like Delta has been a trendsetter in the United States, China Eastern has decided to take on the budget airlines in Asia.

China Eastern is trying basic economy in Asia first. Photo: China Eastern

While basic economy is only available on flights in Asia, I have a sneaky feeling that this is akin to dipping your toe in the water first rather than jumping straight into the pool.

China Eastern wants to test the market, and if they find that there is a demand for basic economy they will likely follow what the American carriers did and offer it on more of their routes.

Personally, the $30 saving on a five-hour-plus flight like Singapore to Shanghai that we used as an example would not be enough savings for me to fly basic economy. If the price difference was $100, then I would seriously consider it.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.