How to Beat Delta Basic Economy Fares

Beat Delta Basic Economy

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Over the past year, we’ve seen American, Delta & United Airlines all implement some version of a no-frills “Basic Economy” fare. What this means is you are now required to pay more for the benefits you previously got for free (seat assignment, checked bag).

Basic Economy fares can be confusing as they are different from carrier to carrier. Delta basic economy fares are the only ones that include a free carry-on bag and generally are not as restrictive as American and United’s basic economy product. In this post, I will cover how you can beat Delta basic economy fares to make it even less restrictive.


Delta Gold SkyMiles Card

  • 30,000 SkyMiles – after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months.
  • $50 statement credit after you make any Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • No annual fee the first year, then $95
  • Priority Boarding (even with a basic economy ticket)
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar on Delta purchases. Earn 1 mile for all other spending.
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight – savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
  • No foreign transaction fees



Click Here to learn more about the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express. 


Delta Basic Economy

Delta’s Basic Economy ticket includes carry-on and earns Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) towards elite status. The worst part of the fare is that you won’t receive a seat assignment until check-in or at the gate, and you are in the last boarding group (Zone 4). It’s likely you will be assigned a middle seat as those are usually all that is left at the gate. It’s also possible you won’t have space for your carry-on bag in the overhead bins, although there is much more space on long-haul international flights. Another negative feature of this fare is ticket changes or upgrades are not allowed. Below is a list of what you get with a Delta basic economy ticket.

  • Seat assignment at check-in or more likely assigned at the gate
  • Carry-on is allowed with access to overhead bins
  • Last boarding group (Zone 4)
  • Ticket changes or upgrades are not allowed
  • Earns mileage and MQMs towards Delta status
  • No upgrades or preferred seats, not even paid (even for Delta elites)
  • No same-day confirmed or same-day standby travel changes (even for Delta elites)
  • Free checked bag still allowed for Delta Amex credit card holders and Delta elites


How to Beat Delta Basic Economy

If you are booked on a Delta Basic Economy ticket, you will receive Zone 4 boarding. Because of this, it might be a challenge to find a spot for your carry-on bag once onboard the aircraft. So even though you are allowed a free carry-on, you might struggle to find space for it in the overhead bin because of your boarding position.

You can beat Delta Basic Economy by having one of the Delta co-branded credit cards. All of these offer Zone 1 priority boarding which will apply to a basic economy ticket. Priority boarding should ensure you find a spot for your bag. All of the cards also offer a free checked bag which would allow you to check and not worry about a spot for your bag once on the aircraft all-together.


Bottom Line

There is no question that Delta’s basic economy product is the least restrictive of the three legacy carriers. Delta does plan to roll this out worldwide at some point this year which doesn’t come as a surprise. Having one of the Delta co-branded credit cards can help you beat Delta basic economy and have a better all-around experience.

I would still try and avoid basic economy on long-haul international routes as there is a good chance you will be in a middle seat. To learn more about these cards and other travel rewards credit cards, visit our Top Credit Cards page.


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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

11 Responses

  1. Andrea says:

    Thanks for this! Just wondering, if I use a Delta branded credit card, will all the tickets purchased be eligible for Zone 1 boarding? Thanks!

  2. Jeremy says:

    “Seat assignment at check-in or more likely assigned at the gate” – Do they attempt to keep bookings together if they can? Can we change the seats they give us if there are open seats?

    I have a flight MSP-DEN booked for 6 people at the end of April on my Platinum Delta Skymiles card. While we’re all adults and it doesn’t matter if we are together, we’d obviously prefer to be.

  3. ktn says:

    If I already booked via Chase UR weeks ago and now have the platinum card, do you know if we still get priority boarding?

  4. ktn says:

    I already booked via Chase UR weeks ago and now have the platinum card, do you know if we still get priority boarding? Anything I need to do now?

    • Nick Serati says:

      You don’t need to book the reservation with the card to receive the benefits. As long as you have activated your new card and it is associated with your SkyMiles number, you will receive priority boarding on your upcoming reservations.

  5. George says:

    Can you pay to upgrade to comfort+ or even first class? Someone else purchased the tickets and now I’d like to upgrade them.

  6. Heikki says:

    Hi, if flying in basic economy is it possible to reserve a seat by paying something in advance?

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