Delta's recent earnings have been bolstered by their Basic Economy product, or rather by consumers avoiding it. CEO Ed Bastian stated that 50% of passengers will opt to pay $30 to $40 more for the Main Cabin product, which offers more amenities than Basic Economy. So it comes as no surprise that Delta plans to expand Basic Economy worldwide in 2018. I would expect even more passengers will want to avoid this fare on longer routes.
The airline industry has been quickly implementing various basic economy fares 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's Basic Economy also does not allow carry-on, but at least earns elite credit. Thankfully, Delta’s Basic Economy hasn’t devolved to that level just yet.
Delta Basic Economy
- Seat assignment at check-in or more likely assigned at the gate
- Carry-on is allowed with access to overhead bins
- Last boarding group
- No ticket changes or upgrades are 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
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. 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.
Who should avoid this fare?
- International travelers
- Those that hate the middle seat
- Tight connections with carry-on
- Traveling with a significant other
- Medallion members hoping for an upgrade
- Travelers who may need to change their ticket
No wants to spend 6+ hours in a middle seat on an international flight. I’d also pass on this fare if you have a tight connection with a carry-on bag. 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+ or Delta One/First Class.
International basic economy is not ideal. I imagine that Delta will see an increase over their current 50% upgrade rate to the Main Cabin fare. Most passengers will gladly pay $30 more each way to assign their seat and enjoy a more comfortable international flight. Delta currently only offers Basic Economy on flights in North America and select international routes, but expect to see big changes in the coming months.
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.