Do airlines make you board last if you buy the lowest class of ticket?

I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. On all four legs of my trip this week I boarded last… it didn’t matter where I was sitting in the plane.

The airline was Air Canada (never again), and on my first leg I was zone 5 (5th in boarding order) - I was puzzled because my row was second from the back, I would expect to board 3rd, behind first class and club members. When I got to my seat, the entire back section was completely settled. I asked my row mates what zone they were in and they said zone 3.

I asked a gate agent and she couldn’t give me a definite answer, but she did say that my ticket was basic economy (non-refundable, non-changeable) and that might be the reason.

So, is this a thing? Are they all gonna start doing it, torment you in every possible way to get you to cough out a few more bucks? :mad:

I take it you are not familiar with Ryanair and Easyjet? :slight_smile:

Did you have an assigned seat? And did you get that seat? If so, what’s the problem with boarding last? Do you really want to be on that plane any longer than necessary?

Now if it is like Southwest where there aren’t assigned seats, then yeah, you need to check in as early as possible to get boarded first for the primo seats.

Yes, they all do it. Hand bag only fares (no carry on or overhead bin access), no seat assignment before the gate, no changes allowed.

I was looking at booking a flight on British Airways in Business Class. Unless you are an elite traveller in their frequent flyer program, even business class has a fee to select a seat before check in!

It’s because you bought a cheap fare. And the reason to want to board earlier is because overhead bin space always gets completely full, so you might be forced to gate check a carry on when you didn’t want to.

Pro tip: If you ARE checking at least one bag anyway, go up to the gate before boarding and ask if they’ll be gate-checking some carry ons. The answer is almost certainly yes. Offer to go ahead and save them the time later by gate checking now. You just got a second checked bag free and saved the hassle of wrestling it in and out of an overhead bin.

Air Canada Boarding by Zone

Yes, non-elite Basic Economy passengers board in Zone 6.

And, as a side note, most airlines have dropped the back-to-front boarding order.

Ah, thanks for that link Alley. I was thinking on my way home that I need to search their web site. Oh well, I only have a backpack that I always put under the seat, so fuck 'em.

You pay less, you get less amenities. Seems totally fair to me. The last time I flew Basic Economy I was very happy to board last in order to save $400 on the ticket. I usually board last even if I’m in an earlier group anyway. I’m in no hurry to cram myself into the airplane seat.

Be aware that United has an economy fare that restricts your carry-on to a small item under the seat.

Why is this surprising? Of course different fares get different levels of service & privileges. Some people who can afford to pay a bit more are subsidizing the cheaper tickets for those on a budget, don’t knock it.


Once upon a time it was the case that higher status = later boarding. Then came the fight for overhead space - so now everyone thinks they want to be first on board.

I mostly try to be last, which has several advantages:

  • less time crammed in your seat
  • you can “gate check” your carry-on bag: no checked bag fee; quick claim upon arrival
  • sometimes possible to grab a better seat than the one assigned (knowing no one will come along later to claim it)

Yeah, I don’t get why boarding early in assigned seating situations is preferable.(ETA: Oh, overhead space, a ha. Yeah, my carry-on fits fine under my seat, so not a concern.)

Because I have flown several times a year for the past 20 years and I’ve never seen this before. So, back to Westjet or maybe Flair. Flair is a low-cost carrier and at least they are honest and up-front about having to pay for all extras.

Then there’s the usual stare down of the final three passengers who are all competing to be the absolute last one on the plane, while the gate attendant repeats the final boarding call and simultaneously gives all three of us the evil eye.

Not being a masochist, I don’t even consider Air Canada for domestic flights. I don’t fly much but I hope Westjet continues their level of service for the odd time that I need it.

Flying sucks. TSA sucks. The whole thing sucks.

Just accept this, and think of the fun you will have at your final destination. I consume an edible immediately before going through security, then grab a bloody right after if possible.

Many airlines have introduced a lower economy fair that doesn’t give you access to the overhead space anyways. Those are the last to load since it doesn’t matter to them.

For those reading about gate checking, do be aware that you won’t get your bag back at the next gate; you’ll have to wait at baggage for it. That’s why TSBG says to do this only if you’re already checking a bag anyway.

This must be a very recent change - has never been the case when I’ve gate-checked a bag.

It depends, I’ve had it happen both ways in the past year.

Moreover in cases of overbooking or standby they seat the higher-paying people first. This was from a gate agent for Air Canada.