Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg
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American Takes On Norwegian Air With Trans-Atlantic Basic Fares

American Airlines Group Inc. will introduce its basic-economy fares to select flights across the Atlantic as it competes with a growing number of discount carriers flying between Europe and the U.S.

The international version of the bargain-basement fare will launch in April, American said in a statement Thursday. Travelers will be charged for their first checked bag, instead of getting one free. Seats won’t be assigned until check-in, but can be assigned earlier for a fee. Passengers will be allowed to carry on a personal item and a bag, while domestic basic economy allows only a personal item that fits under the seat.

The initiative puts American in a race with Europe’s biggest long-distance carriers to counter Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA’s rapidly growing discount trans-Atlantic operation. British Airways owner IAG SA is expanding two of its newest discount brands quickly, while Air France-KLM Group and Deutsche Lufthansa AG are preparing low-cost offerings. American and other U.S. carriers created basic economy to compete better with discounters at home.

American’s move is in conjunction with joint-venture partners British Airways, Iberia and Finnair, meaning that customers will be able to buy the discounted fare on flights by all four carriers. Delta Air Lines Inc. already offers basic-economy fares across the Atlantic.

American’s basic-economy tickets -- domestic and trans-Atlantic -- are nonrefundable, don’t allow upgrades and can’t be changed on the day of flight. The international tickets will allow changes before the travel day for a fee; the domestic offering doesn’t allow such adjustments.

— With assistance by Benjamin D Katz

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