Basic economy has spread like wildfire, and we're not big fans. These no-frills fares without seat assignments or checked baggage and other once-free perks just give airlines an excuse to charge more.
Frequent flyer miles have been the solution – airlines don't sell basic economy when travelers use miles. But sadly, Delta is starting to change that.
On some routes, basic economy fares are now available when using SkyMiles on Delta.com. Points, Miles & Martinis found the first of these routes, saying Delta “plans to roll them out on a widespread basis in the coming months” on other domestic flights.
So far, it's very limited. All we can find for award tickets getting the basic economy treatment are flights in and out of Charleston (CHS). There's no telling when basic economy might be an option for award tickets on more flights. Delta did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this development.
It's tough to put into words how disappointing this development is.
It'd be one thing if a basic economy offering when using SkyMiles offered a truly cheaper option. Unfortunately, that's difficult to determine. Delta no longer publishes an award chart, the cheat sheet that tells you what a flight should cost in miles.
But it's probably safe to say that basic economy for SkyMiles award tickets will assume the current prices of standard economy fares, which will see a bump. That's largely how it played out as basic economy cash fares spread across the airline world.
In short: This doesn't mean it's going to get cheaper to use your SkyMiles. Just the opposite – you'll likely end up paying a few thousand SkyMiles more for what you once got.
Thrifty Tip: Learn how to beat Delta Basic Economy!
Delta SkyMiles can be difficult to understand. Much like cash fares, the airline charges often wildly different amounts for the same flight, varying by time, demand, and more.
That flexibility comes with some big upsides, like the fantastic flash sales on award tickets we see nearly every week. Unfortunately, this seems to be the massive downside. Without an award chart, Delta is free to make moves like this.
But there could be more bad news.
Delta is a trendsetter in the airline world, and particularly for competitors American Airlines and United. If Delta rolls out basic economy award fares on a widespread basis, it's likely only a matter of time before the others follow suit.
And if basic economy award fares spread nationwide, there's no denying it's a bad thing for travelers.
While many bloggers bash Delta and SkyMiles, we're unabashed fans of the airline and see tremendous value in SkyMiles. But there's no spinning this one: It's a big loss.
We're anxious to hear more details on how basic economy fares may roll out to award tickets nationwide. Frequent flyer miles have been a reprieve from basic economy, but those days may be gone soon.
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.