What is Delta Basic Economy?
The airline industry is slowly introducing various forms of a basic economy fare under the premise of offering passengers more “choice”. The worst form of this is with United’s Basic Economy, which does not offer carry-on or earn elite credit. American Airlines Basic Economy is only being offered in limited test markets but also does not allow carry-on, but does earn elite credit. Thankfully Delta Basic Economy hasn’t devolved to that level just yet.
Delta Basic Economy
- Seat assignment at check-in or at the gate
- Carry-on is allowed
- Last boarding group
- No ticket changes or upgrades
- Earns mileage and MQMs towards Delta status
- No upgrades or preferred seats (not even paid) even for Medallion members
- No same-day confirmed or same-day standby travel changes, even for Medallion members
- Free checked bag still allowed for Delta Amex credit card holders and Delta elites
Delta 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. Mrs. TT purchased two Delta Basic Economy fares in the last month and she did not receive her seat assignment until she was at the gate. 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.
What is Delta Basic Economy good for?
- Short trips
- Solo travelers
- Don’t mind a middle seat
- Non-medallion members (non-elites)
- Don’t need to make ticket changes
If you’re traveling for less than three hours, I’d say a middle seat is tolerable. It also makes sense if you are flying solo as you won’t be able to choose your seat.
If you typically bring carry-on luggage it’s probably best to pay more and avoid this fare, as you will be the last to board, and you likely won’t have overhead bin space. Of course, this can be avoided by checking your bag, which will likely carry a fee unless you are Delta elite or Amex cardholder.
Thrifty Tip: Carrying a Delta co-branded Amex card helps you beat Delta Basic Economy.
Learn how to earn SkyMiles with Amex Credit Cards:
Who should avoid Delta Basic Economy?
- International travel
- Tight connections with carry-on
- Traveling with a significant other
- Medallion members hoping for an upgrade
- Travelers who may make ticket changes
If you are traveling internationally, I’d avoid Delta Basic Economy. No one wants to spend 7-9 hours in a middle seat. I’d also pass on this fare if you have a tight connection with a carry-on. You may be required to gate check your bag which could slow you down if you need to grab it again after your flight.
If you are traveling with another person or group I’d also avoid this fare, as you won’t be able to make a seat selection and be seated near your group. Finally, I’d avoid this fare if you are a Medallion member, who typically expects an upgrade to Delta Comfort+ (pictured above) or First Class.
When are you are booking on an online travel agency such as Priceline or Kayak, it won’t be obvious that the fare is Delta Basic Economy until you look at the flight details. Always review this before booking, or simply book directly through Delta. The same goes for United & American Basic Economy tickets.
There are plenty of situations where snagging a basic economy fare makes sense. I hope that Delta continues to allow carry-on luggage as they are the only one of the legacy airlines which allow you to do so. I would expect at some point Delta will cut carry-on privileges to match what American & United offer. Until then, I’ll continue picking up the Delta Basic Economy fare on shorter routes.
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.