What’s Included with a Delta Basic Economy Ticket?

Delta Basic Economy

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Like it or not, Basic Economy fares are here to stay. These fares allow the big three domestic airlines (Delta, American, and United) to compete with budget carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and Sun Country offering no-frills fares.

Whether you’re flying domestically or heading to the Caribbean, Central America or Europe, these fares are unavoidable regardless of which of the three legacy carriers you choose. In fact, the airlines measure the success of their basic economy offering by how many passengers pay to avoid it.

For better or for worse, Delta has long been a leader within the airline industry. Delta started the slide into basic economy by rolling out these no-frills fares way back in 2013. In this post, we will take a deeper dive into what’s included and everything you need to know about the Delta Basic Economy offering.


What You Get with Delta Basic Economy

While there’s no question basic economy on Delta has restrictions, it’s more generous than what other airlines offer.

  • Baggage: Get a carry-on bag and personal item for free; pay $30 each way for a checked bag (or $60 each way to Europe).
  • Seat Selection: Seats are typically assigned at check-in or at the gate, but you can also pay for seat selection on some flights or pick your own for free after check-in.
  • Boarding: Boards last in Delta’s new boarding order.
  • Earning SkyMiles: Yes.
  • Earning Delta Medallion Status: Yes, basic economy flights earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs) and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs)
  • Upgrades: Not eligible for complimentary upgrades. Even if you have Delta Medallion status, you will not be eligible for upgrades.
  • Ticket Changes and Cancellation: Not allowed, except for within 24 hours of booking.


delta basic economy

a comparison between a Delta Basic Economy and Main Cabin fare


How to Beat Delta Basic Economy

By carrying one of the co-branded Delta credit cards offered from American Express you beat basic economy. As a benefit of card membership on the Gold, Platinum, and Reserve Delta American Express cards, you will receive a free checked bag and priority boarding. So while a Delta basic economy ticket would normally board last, holding one of these cards allows you to board in group 5 (formerly Zone 1).



If you don’t hold one of the co-branded cards, finding a spot for your carry-on bag once onboard the aircraft will be a challenge as you will be the last to board. So even though you are allowed a free checked bag, it may end up getting gate checked.

Additionally, 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. You don’t even need to pay for your ticket with the card to receive these benefits. See our post on this topic here.


Beat Delta Basic Economy with the American Express Delta Cards

There are three different versions of the Delta SkyMiles American Express cards that offer a free checked bag and priority boarding. Each of them offers different benefits that will appeal to different travelers. Need help deciding which one is right for you? See our post outlining which Delta card is right for you.


How Delta SkyMiles Work


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


How Delta SkyMiles


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



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


What Routes Include Delta Basic Economy Fares?

Right now, Delta Basic Economy has been rolled out on all routes heading to the following locations:

  • US Domestic Fares
  • Mexico and Central America
  • The Caribbean
  • Europe

There is currently no basic economy offering on Delta flights originating out of the US heading to the following locations:

  • Asia
  • Africa
  • South America
  • Australia

Any economy ticket you book on these routes will be a main cabin fare including advanced seat assignment, carry-on bag, ticket changes, and subject to upgrades for Medallion members (depending on the destination).


Our Analysis

Delta’s Basic Economy is generally priced at what used to be included with a main cabin fare. You now have to pay more to receive what you used to get included with your economy class ticket.

Since seat assignment happens at check-in, there is a high likelihood of getting a middle seat. If you have multiple people on your itinerary, there is also no guarantee you would be sitting together, though the gate agents may make an attempt to seat you together if possible. This will depend on the agent working at the gate and the capacity of your flight.

If you don’t want to be in the middle seat or are traveling with a significant other we recommend paying the fee to upgrade to a Main Cabin fare. 


Bottom Line

Basic economy has transformed the airfare world. By offering these bare-bones fares, Delta can compete with budget carriers on price while pitting flyers with new restrictions – largely in hopes that they’ll pay up to upgrade. Basic Economy has been extremely profitable for Delta so don’t expect it to change any time soon.


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Lead Photo (CC BY 2.0):  Delta News Hub via Flickr

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.

2 Responses

  1. Carolyn Berger says:

    Can you book a pet with basic economy?

    • Kyle Potter says:

      It’s our understanding that carry-on pets/emotional support animals are handled separately by Delta, and what kind of fare you have isn’t a factor. But please check with Delta directly before booking!

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