From the inability to pick a seat to boarding last, basic economy fares are a pain – even on Delta. While other airlines have backed away from these fares during the pandemic, Delta keeps charging more to upgrade to a main cabin fare.
And now, you can even use SkyMiles to avoid basic economy on Delta.
It's unclear exactly when Delta added this ability, but it seems to be a relatively new addition. You'll see the option at checkout if you're logged into your SkyMiles account – and if you have enough SkyMiles in your account to cover the charge. So far, it seems to only be available on domestic routes.
Regardless, it's a bad deal. Take a look and you'll see why.
No matter what, you'll get exactly 1 cent per SkyMile. On a standard domestic flight where avoiding basic economy usually costs $80 roundtrip, you can use 8,000 SkyMiles instead. Or is Delta charging an oddly specific $145.01 to avoid basic economy on a flight to Hawaii? That'll be 14,501 SkyMiles.
Delta SkyMiles may get a bad rap for their (lack of) value – especially lately, after two massive devaluations over just a few months. And Delta has also gone further than any other airline in selling basic economy award tickets outright – a move other U.S. carriers haven't yet copied.
But even so, there are far better ways to use your miles with Delta, like frequent SkyMiles flash sales with deeply discounted rates. Booking a cheap domestic flight starting at 8,000 SkyMiles roundtrip (or less) is a much better redemption. Heck, so is using SkyMiles to buy champagne in a Delta Sky Club.
From covering checked baggage costs to upgrading to first class or Comfort Plus, Delta continues to introduce new ways to redeem SkyMiles, all in the name of supposed convenience. But this is perhaps the worst option of all – and it's the clearest example yet of Delta's ceaseless pursuit to drive the value of SkyMiles down to just a penny apiece.
Avoiding Delta basic economy may not even be worth cashing in your SkyMiles anyway, especially now. While the restrictions are a pain, even Delta basic economy fares booked by March 30 can be changed or canceled for free. And with middle seats blocked through April, the risk of getting stuck between strangers because you can't pick a seat is next to none – plus there's a way to pick your seats free even when flying Delta basic economy.
What's Delta Up To?
Delta portrays moves like this as a good thing for flyers.
It gives members more options to use their SkyMiles the way they want, after all. And it's undeniably true that's something flyers want. The confusing world of frequent flyer miles and how they work is one of the primary complaints from travelers.
But trading convenience for value isn't a win at all. And just because Delta is making SkyMiles easier to use doesn't mean they're making them easier to use well. Just the opposite.
With more low-value options like baggage fees and now upgrading to avoid basic economy, Delta wants to keep convincing travelers to trade in their SkyMiles without getting much in return. These new options simply limit how much Delta loses on SkyMiles redemptions. As more of these creative options to use miles come onboard, Delta just claims more control over SkyMiles.
Delta now allows you to use SkyMiles to avoid basic economy. It's a simple, straight-forward way to use your SkyMiles.
Unfortunately, it's also an extraordinarily bad way to use your SkyMiles, too.