How You Can Still Pick a Seat with a Delta Basic Economy Fare
Delta Basic Economy Pick Seat

How You Can Still Pick a Seat with a Delta Basic Economy Fare

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Of the many things that make restrictive basic economy fares a bummer, the inability to pick a seat is the worst. It often leaves you stuck in a middle seat between strangers, rows away from your travel companion.

But if you’re flying Delta, there are a few ways you can still pick a seat. You’ll have to pay up with one method. And with some vigilance and luck, there’s another way you can snag a better seat for free. 

Read on to learn how it’s done. And if you want to take it to the next level, keep reading to learn how you can beat Delta basic economy fares altogether and make it even better.


Option #1: Pay Up

Delta was the first of the major airlines to roll out no-frills basic economy fares way back in 2013.

And while these come with some major restrictions – you can’t change your flight or get free upgrades from Delta Medallion status – Delta’s spin on basic economy is more generous than many of its competitors. The airline has always allowed a carry-on, while others like United Airlines still don’t.

Read up on what you get – and what you don’t – flying Delta basic economy.

But for years, Delta hasn’t allowed basic economy flyers to pick a seat in advance. The airline’s own policies and warnings make clear it’s not possible.

Delta Basic Economy Pick Seat 

Yet that’s not exactly the case. Delta allows basic economy passengers to pick a seat starting seven days before departure – for a fee.  A Delta spokeswoman confirmed that the airline rolled out this ability “partway through 2018.”

“Delta does provide an option for Basic Economy customers to purchase a seat assignment because customers have told us that having a seat assignment further in advance than 24 hours from departure is important to them,” spokeswoman Kate Modolo said.

The fees for picking a seat with a basic economy ticket vary by route – seemingly from as low as $10 to $45 or more per flight. And you have to purchase a seat assignment separately for each leg of a trip. The norm for years was $29 per seat, whether you pick an aisle, window, or middle seat. But lately, we’ve seen much cheaper seats available for purchase.

delta basic economy seat 

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s a lot more – like this flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Las Vegas (LAS).

delta seat chart las

Once the seat selection window opens starting seven days before your flight, log in to your Delta account and check on your flight. You’ll be able to hit the “Select Seat” – a function that’s typically grayed out for basic economy passengers. Or just pull up the flight on your Delta app and hit “Purchase Seat.”

delta BE seats 

Just keep in mind the selection may be somewhat limited, and the price per seat may vary. Here was what was available for an older flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to New York-LaGuardia (LGA) about four days before takeoff.

Delta Basic Economy Pick Seat 

In this case, the seats are almost entirely at the back half of the plane. On the bright side, there were plenty of window and aisle seats available. And no matter which you choose, it would cost $29.00.

But if Delta is charging $30 a seat, that’s not a good deal. Consider this: Delta typically charges about $70 more for a main cabin round-trip fare, allowing you to pick your seats for free. So you may be able to get a seat assignment on each leg of the trip for the same price, plus the other benefits that main cabin fares have over basic economy.

Still, if you want to make sure you’re sitting next to your companion, it’s worth considering. And if you’re willing to roll the dice, there may be a way to do it for free.


Option #2: Last Chance at a Free Seat

Airlines have conditioned us to expect next to nothing for a basic economy fare. But it doesn’t always have to be that way.

Depending on how many seats are still open on the plane after check-in opens 24 hours before take-off (or 48 hours on international flights), you’ve got a window to make a choice for free.

Once check-in opens, basic economy flyers on Delta (and other airlines) have a chance to pick the best of what seats are left. And just how many seats are left will vary wildly by route, time of day, time of year, etc.

Sometimes, you might have a nearly empty cabin to choose from. Other times, the entire cabin may be booked and you’ll be left to get a seat assignment at the gate. It just depends.

But if you want to avoid a middle seat or get seats together, you have to watch the seating chart like a hawk. Check the seating chart on the site or via app every hour or so for the few hours after the check-in window opens. And check again the morning before your flight. And then again. As other passengers move around the cabin or cancel flights, better seats may open up.

On a flight last year from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Las Vegas (LAS), there were just a few dreaded middle seats open when online check-in opened 24 hours in advance. But after checking the seat map religiously for the next few hours, it happened: There was an open aisle seat.

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So I chose it immediately. And, as luck would have it, there was another seat just across the aisle for my friend. It couldn’t have worked out better.

This is the best-case scenario – it won’t always go so smoothly. But it can pay off huge to watch closely and snag a seat.


How to Beat Delta Basic Economy Fares

These options to pick a seat are phenomenal. They can solve one of the biggest sources of frustration behind basic economy fares.

But you can take it even further and take even more of the pain out of basic economy. That’s why I’ve learned to stop fearing Delta’s basic economy.

What’s the secret? Read our guide to beat Delta basic economy.


Bottom Line

You can never count on getting a choice seat when flying basic economy. With a basic economy fare, you get the best of what’s left. And sometimes, a middle seat far away from your companion is all there is.

But if you’re willing to pay up, you can get a better seat. And with some vigilance and luck, you can beat Delta’s basic economy game for free.


Lead photo courtesy of Delta News Hub via Flickr

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: 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.

18 Responses

  • Def. appreciate this one, thanks! I had no idea that you could choose a seat online with Basic Econ after you check in for a Delta flight.

  • I haven’t flown on an airplane in over 20 year’s, what happened to military’s discounts, went to Las Vegas and back, also had to pay $30.00 each way for my luggage

  • I understand having to pay to ensure you can sit with your companion, but if I’m understanding this correctly, even if I fork out an extra 30$ to sit together, I will still be in zone 4 if I have basic economy, correct? (my concern is that they will make me check my carry-on and since I bought two separate tickets, I do not want to have to go to baggage claim to get my bags and go thru security to come back in for my next flight)

  • Booked a flight from ATL to JFK. 72 hours before flight bought a seat as i’m flying with my family and really not so much left to choose. And they make good money on selling those seats, damn should pay for baggage too, next time will consider different airlines to fly with.

  • Yeah, didn’t realize Delta would nickel and dime the seats like this—-next time, I’ll travel with another airline. They clearly see that I have a travel companion, they could have easily programmed us to sit together! This is beyond annoying!!!!

      • Nope, not Finnair, not Icelandair, I’ve experienced! I thonk SAS and Norwegian are quite the same as the otner Nordic countries.

          • Actually quite a few airlines let you sit together. Southwest is all open cabin but it works great. Jet blue sells seat gor $11.00, united let’s you get seats and sas is a fojestic aitline, for norwsy lol

  • So, if I wait until check-in at the airport to get my seats and I have done the 24 hour pre-check to get my tickets, do I still have to pay for my seat(economy seating) assignment?

    • If you’ve done the 24-hour check-in from home, that’s when you’ll be able to start selecting any remaining seats for free.

  • Kinda lame click bait that you take an old post from 2019; slap an updated headline on it and post it as new with new date line. And on top of it link back to the almost duplicate original post within the new copy. I hope you are spending the time you save looking for deals for premium members.

    • Certainly not trying for clickbait, Dave. You’re right this is an older post, but the information is all up to date. And we always hear from travelers frustrated about basic economy, especially when it comes to seat selection. Plenty of readers may have missed this guide when we originally posted it last spring.

      Safe to say we are always looking for more deals to Premium members.

  • I fly to Atlanta to visit my daughter and family by myself. I am a 77-year-old grandma who the airline company always tends to put me between two strangers! Why? I’m flying Down in March and I will try to pick a seat after I check in online. I hope I can figure it out!

  • Middle seats on delta are always left open now. Also, ask the gate agent if you can sit together. If there is room, they will do it.

  • Delta does this for one reason and one reason alone: ancillary fees collected by airlines are not taxed. Only the fare is taxed. So it’s 100% gravy for every person who pays for a seat assignment.

    Oh yes they dress it up as offering “choice” but behind the curtains lurks a pure profit motive. It’s a business. No problem with that but call it what it is…a money grab.

  • I was wondering what the definition of close family friend means when reading the requirement recouerd to enter Austria My life companion lives in Austria and we are in a (LDR)My flight was canceled in april and I was hoping to be able to go this xmas getting up in age time is flying by any info would be so appreciated thankyou Gary

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