economy

In this case, 'economy' stands for 'economy class' on a plane, as opposed to business class or first class.

In this sentence, 'fly' is intransitive. 'Economy' or 'economy class' acts as an adverbial to modify 'fly' and describes the manner in which these passengers flew.

'Fly' can be transitive, as in 'fly the plane' or 'fly the passengers.' However, that is not the case in your sentence,Coco.
The present perfect might be possible in certain contexts:

1. "Even if we did get to the airport in time, we couldn't fly economy because all the tickets have been sold out.”

2. "What about if we only stay three nights and fly economy? Could we afford it then?" "Well, only staying three nights would make a difference. But we couldn't fly economy, because all the tickets have been sold out."

Best wishes,

MrP
Yes, thank you, MrP, for pointing it out.


quote:
1. "Even if we did get to the airport in time, we couldn't fly economy because all the tickets have been sold out.”

Hypothetical situation expressed by "could"

quote:
2. "What about if we only stay three nights and fly economy? Could we afford it then?" "Well, only staying three nights would make a difference. But we couldn't fly economy, because all the tickets have been sold out."

A present/future possibility expressed by "could"


The original example, however, without further context, would be most naturally interpreted as expressing a past ability:
quote:
We couldn’t fly economy because all the tickets had been sold out.
Mehrdad said:

quote:
The original example, however, without further context, would be most naturally interpreted as expressing a past ability:


We couldn’t fly economy because all the tickets had been sold out.


The original has simple perfect, "have been sold out", not past perfect. As such, it refers to a situation leading to the present time.

However, it could use a correction:

“We couldn’t fly economy [meaning: now, or in the immediate future], even if we wanted (to), because all the tickets have been sold out.”

Your modified sentence, which is OK, applies to past time, meaning "we were not able to ...."

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