Ouch: Delta Basic Economy Tickets Will No Longer Earn SkyMiles, Status

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Ouch: Delta Basic Economy Tickets Will No Longer Earn SkyMiles, Status

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It’s a good news, horrible news day for Delta basic economy fares. While the airline is giving flyers with their cheapest, most restrictive fares a new way to cancel upcoming trips for a fee and get an eCredit, they’re gutting basic economy fares far deeper in another way.

Any Delta basic economy tickets booked starting Thursday, Dec. 9 for travel in 2022 and beyond will no longer earn any SkyMiles or any credits toward Delta Medallion status. Main cabin economy fares will still earn at least 5x SkyMiles per $1 spent on your ticket – but you’ll have to pay more for that better standard fare.

So you’ll earn no miles you can use on a future Delta trip when you buy Delta’s cheapest fare. And you also won’t earn any Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs), or Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) – the essential building blocks to earning status with Delta.

For years, Delta basic economy fares have earned SkyMiles just like any other fare. You’d earn at least 5x SkyMiles per $1 you spent on the ticket – or more if you’ve got status with the airline.

This change was quietly rolled out on Thursday, but it’s reflected on Delta’s website. The airline has not yet formally announced the change.
 

delta basic economy skymiles 

That is brutal. While some other major airlines exempt basic economy fares from building toward elite status, none have exempted them from earning redeemable miles.

Delta travelers with a co-branded Delta credit card in their wallet will still earn some SkyMiles when they purchase a Delta basic economy ticket with their card – just far fewer SkyMiles. Here’s an example:

  • Before this change, buying a $300 basic fare with your Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card would earn at least 2,100 SkyMiles: 600 SkyMiles for the purchase plus at least 1,500 SkyMiles once you take the flight.
  • With this change, you’d earn just 600 SkyMiles for the exact same flight

While Delta has led the way throughout much of the pandemic with customer-friendly moves, the airline is also notorious for punishing its SkyMiles program and other decisions that hurt consumers.

Delta was the first major U.S. airline to introduce basic economy fares way back in 2013, restrictive fares without free seat selection and other benefits that were designed to compete with budget carriers. To date, it’s the only airline to sell basic economy award tickets when using SkyMiles – and that has expanded to much of Delta’s network.

And Delta is notorious for charging an arm and a leg for redeeming SkyMiles, with constantly changing rates that fluctuate largely based on the cash price. They reminded travelers of that fact with a series of price hikes when booking partner airlines like Air France, KLM, and Korean Air using SkyMiles over the last year.

Now, they’re getting even harder to earn. This change draws an even sharper line between basic economy and more-inclusive standard main cabin fares, which come with free seat assignment, free change and cancellation – and they earn SkyMiles.

As more Americans return to travel, it’s all about convincing them to pay more to avoid basic economy – and get the “perks” that they once got for free. Delta typically charges an extra $35 or more each way to upgrade from basic to a main cabin fare within the U.S. – and often much, much more for an international ticket.

This isn’t subtle. Delta executives have wondered aloud over the years “how much are people willing to pay” to avoid basic economy. This brutal change from Delta makes that upsell far more enticing.

That’s a win for Delta’s bottom line and a massive loss for consumers.

 

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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.

24 Responses

  • Personally I don’t see this as an issue at all. The typical person who purchase a basic economy fair will not tend to be airline loyal anyway, so it allows them to carve out a lower class fair cheaper while still valuing points higher for the rest of us. Smart move by delta

    • I completely disagree. I’m a teacher in a long distance relationship and I fly 7-8 times a year. If possible, I always opt to fly Delta but most often book basic economy fairs because that’s what I can afford.

  • This is short-sighted.

    This will only push the person who travels a 3-6 times a year toward budget carriers. If a family is heading to FL or CO, why book a basic economy seat on Delta with no seat selection (I know you can select 24 hours before technically) and no elite earnings, when you can book a Spirit Big Front Seat or Frontier Stretch Seat for the same price, but arguably get a much more comfortable experience in the form of 5-8 more inches of leg room?

    Or, I could be wrong, and most consumers that fit the above demographic will simply go with the main cabin ticket instead, rather than an upgraded seat on a budget carrier.

    • I looked at a flight in January from MKE-FLL. Did both Delta and Spirit. Spirit is $38 cheaper than a normal economy ticket on Delta. Add in the big front seat, and it’s not much cheaper (yes, a bigger seat, but it’s still Spirit). I’ve only flown a LCC once…never again.

  • No miles at all is disgusting. That will cause me to pause choosing Delta in the future. I just booked an April flight two weeks ago, but that looks okay. Wow, unbelievable.

  • Yes too bad they couldn’t have just excluded the mqm portion. The upgrade list on every flight is pretty much half the flight eligible for upgrades and not many get them anyway

  • Why? You have loyal customers like myself that can’t afford to pay Main fare. This change will definitely make me look elsewhere. I have always been a delta girl, now I will be looking at other airlines.
    Respectfully,
    Loyal customer no more

    • Just did a simple flight search, basic to main, a difference of $32. The flight is already cheap, and you are complaining about $32?!!!

      • $32 is on the low end. I buy main cabin but on a recent flight it was $200 more than basic. Usually its $50-75 more, at least for my normal destinations.

      • I’m looking at booking a flight right now and the difference from basic to main is $150. I travel 7-8 times a year. That’s over $1000 difference.

  • I’m curious to know if travelers who care about accumulating miles and or status generally book Basic Economy fares? I NEVER do. I won’t ever be trapped in a middle seat if I can help it. I’m only Silver medallion, but wouldn’t a BE ticket make me ineligible for a seat upgrade or even picking a free exit row seat? My impression – and I’d be interested to know if I’m stereotyping – is that in general, the people who book BE are more infrequent travelers who are only interested in getting from point A to point B as cheaply as possible and aren’t savvy about earning and using miles. All the online chatter among people who care about how luxurious a lounge is, or about the perks that come with their level of status, I just can’t imagine any of them booking a BE ticket.

    • You are absolutely correct in your observation. Consumers will choose what works for them regardless. Trust me, Delta will not feel the cut from seasonal/ less infrequent fliers. Their end goal is bigger than that. Usually, the loyal ones remain loyal to any brand ( no matter cost ). Delta has to almost take this stand as their tiers have become so saturated. Their are thousands of Diamonds around the system. Unheard of numbers. Believe me, this is just a start to get back to the true locals. Wait and see

    • I fly transatlantic to ATL 3 times a year. This was a lifesaver for me as it was a way of gaining Silver status and maintaining it over the years. As I fly alone I travel light and don’t need to choose a seat but the free checked baggage allowance was a great advantage. At 5’ 2” I feel comfortable sitting in any seat as I don’t need legroom. In recent times I’ve discovered I’m paying over the odds for this trip even with a Basic Economy fare. Flying into ATL is a premium hub which costs. Other airlines are now cheaper than Delta and now that these perks are gone makes me reconsider flying Delta in the future. Paying an extra €180 x 3 transatlantic trips for economy seats to earn medallion miles is a bit steep by anyones standards. Pre pandemic I used to be able to purchase my flights for €450. These same flights are now costing €825, soon to be €1005 for Economy as they now need to be booked directly with the airline for the luggage/Economy option. Hopefully they will reconsider their decision.

  • I care about accumulating miles towards free/discounted fares but dont care about status. (I fly about 10 flights per year.) I can’t afford Main fare. I have preferred to only fly Delta to accumulate my miles all on one airline and take advantage of that program. Delta has always been my go-to and will not be any more. Very disappointing, to say the least. Time to give another carrier my money.

  • Everyone reading this post should text Delta and if you are a medallion member ask to be connected via text to a live agent at The medallion desk and tell them of your unpleasant feelings around this.

  • Passengers so price sensitive that they are willing to purchase a no-frills seat often landing them in middle seats likely have little interest in FF miles and status. This is a nothingburger. You still fly in the most reliable airline in the US. Isn’t that really what the basic economy passenger is mostly interest in anyway? Anyway, they’ve got to find a way to stop the bleeding given that Biden is doing everything in his power to destroy the travel industry.

    • As someone who worked 43 years with this Airline I have observed the programs have to change.
      There aren’t enough seats for everyone in the program to upgrade. At some point if 75% of the cabin are Platinum, 65% are going to be mad they can’t get an upgrade.

  • I fly transatlantic to ATL 3 times a year. This was a lifesaver for me as it was a way of gaining Silver status and maintaining it over the years. As I fly alone I travel light and don’t need to choose a seat but the free checked baggage allowance was a great advantage. In recent times I’ve discovered I’m paying over the odds for this trip even with a Basic Economy fare. Flying into ATL is a premium hub which costs. Other airlines are now cheaper than Delta and now that these perks are gone makes me reconsider flying Delta in the future. Paying an extra €180 x 3 transatlantic trips for economy seats to earn medallion miles is a bit steep by anyones standards. Pre pandemic I used to be able to book these trips for as little as €450 and now they are costing €825 for Basic Economy soon to be €1,005 Economy!!! Hopefully Delta will reconsider their decision.

  • I’m a loyal Delta flyer who enjoys earning skymiles and medallian status and am on pace for platinum this year. I didn’t like it but was willing to put up with the change/cancellation and seat assignment restrictions to save $50+ by flying basic. But I believe they’ve gone too far in eliminating miles/status earning.

    This all about Delta executives being greedy. All the Delta defenders on this thread who stereotype basic economy flyers as people who don’t care about earning miles/status are wrong. Who wants to spend an extra $50 per passenger for a 2 hour flight if they can avoid it?

    Let’s not forget one important thing – Delta invented the “basic economy” fare as a justification to charge more for what used to be main cabin. They didn’t lower their fares to compete with low-cost carriers. It just gave them an excuse to charge $50-$200 more for what used to be included for free.

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