I see cheap rates on this category American Airlines Basic Economy. But it says "No flight changes or refunds" and "Board in last group". Has anyone tried this option? Is there a chance you will not get on the flight?
I have used Basic Economy multiple times this year and I have never had an issue. Usually, the non-revenue flyers are the first ones to be bumped off of a flight, unless they are traveling for work reasons.
In addition, when the plane is overbooked, there is almost always an offer for a $600-$800 travel voucher for those who volunteer to remove themselves from the flight and get booked on a different flight. Usually, there are no issues as people like the idea of having an extra $800 to use for flights.
Rest assured that you will get on the flight and that your money is safe in this option. Just make sure to make note of the different baggage rules from the standard economy.
I know it has happened. I know a story about an American airline removing someone from a flight to make room for a crew if I recall it correctly has made the news even in Europe. However, the chances of this happening are extremely low. I can’t give actual numbers, but my guesstimate is somewhere around the probability of getting struck by lighting.
When you book a plane ticket for a certain flight and that flight is not cancelled you will get on that flight. The only exceptions being you doing something wrong like not having the required documents for flying on check-in or being late — or, if it’s the airline’s fault that you’re late, but then you will be put on a different flight.
The ticket is cheap because a lot of extras are missing as all the terms state. You may not have check-in luggage allowance, you will not get to choose a seat until check-in, you cannot cancel or rebook the ticket, you are not entitled to any priviledged boarding and so on and so forth, but you will still be getting on that flight.
One thing to note is that practically all flights nowadays are overbooked. The airlines do this because they know a certain percentage of passengers will either not make it or choose not to make it. Thus, even though they sell tickets for 110 % of the seats only 98 % of the people will show up. In rare cases but still somewhat regularly, their estimates are off because a certain flight’s passenger list represents an outlier. In that case, they usually announce that any passengers happy and willing to forfeit this flight and be put on the next one will get benefit X (cash or travel vouchers). Usually, once they have offered high enough, someone will grab the offer because the benefit to them is higher than the cost. It is only in those extremely rare cases I outlined in the beginning that they need to draw lots which passenger will be removed.
If you happen to be booked on one of those flights, rest assured that having taken a more expensive (but still economy) ticket does not guarantee your spot on the flight. They may not have sold anything at the cheapest fare. So if your only incentive to take the higher fare is to be safe from being bounced due to an overbooked flight, at least book business. Everything else means you are still susceptible to the same (extremely minute) risk.