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Low Fare with Restrictions
Save with Basic Economy, but please remember refunds and upgrades are not available at any time. Basic Economy is best for those traveling by themselves with firm travel plans. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the restrictions so you know if Basic Economy is right for you.
Keep in Mind, Basic Economy is Just the Basics
With Basic Economy, you'll enjoy:
- A Main Cabin seat
- Delta’s signature service
- Complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages like Starbucks® coffee, tea, juice, sodas or water
- Connect to Delta Wi-Fi to book, change, or check the status of your flight on delta.com
- Complimentary access to in-flight messaging as well as hours of movies, shows and more on Delta Studio®
With Basic Economy, you’ll experience:
- No seat(s) assigned until after check-in, not together
- No changes allowed*
- Cancelable for partial eCredit (cancellation charge applies)**
- Last to board & not eligible for upgrades
- No miles earned; no credit toward SkyMiles Medallion Status***
Know the Details on Basic Economy
Other limitations, seat assignment.
*Ticket changes or refunds not allowed after the Risk-Free Cancellation period.
**Basic Economy tickets are generally non-refundable and non-changeable. However, some Basic Economy tickets originating from Europe, Africa, and other international markets may be changeable for a fee. Check the ticket restrictions for details. For tickets issued for travel originating in Korea, tickets will be refunded to original form of payment after deducting the cancellation charge. For tickets issued for travel originating in Europe , the cancellation charge is €200 for tickets issued on or after February 23, 2023 (€150 for tickets issued prior to that date). For tickets issued for travel originating in the United Kingdom , the cancellation charge is £200 for tickets issued on or after February 23, 2023 (€150 for tickets issued prior to that date). For tickets issued for travel originating in Africa, Middle East and India , the cancellation charge is $200 for tickets issued on or after February 23, 2023 (€150 for tickets issued prior to that date). Check your ticket along with the Baggage & Travel Fees page to view the fees that apply to Basic Economy tickets.
***Not eligible for MQM, MQS or MQD earn, paid or complimentary access or upgrades to premium seats, including to Delta Comfort+® or Preferred Seats; and no paid access to Priority Boarding.
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The Guide to Delta Basic Economy
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Table of Contents
What to expect flying basic economy with Delta
How to book a basic economy ticket with delta, delta basic economy vs. main cabin, additional ways to get good value, delta basic economy, recapped.
Are you willing to accept a bare-bones airplane experience if it means saving money? Basic economy seating on Delta Air Lines offers a less expensive way to fly, but it does have fewer perks than a regular main cabin ticket. You might be wondering: does it include a carry-on? Am I even guaranteed a seat? What is basic economy on Delta like, really?
Find out what to expect when flying Delta basic economy, how to book a ticket and other ways to add value to your flight.
What’s included in Delta’s basic economy fare and what does it offer passengers looking to save money? Here are the basics.
Delta basic economy baggage
Checked bag allowance: Delta basic economy baggage rules depend on your destination. Those on domestic flights will pay the same as other main cabin passengers: $30 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second.
International travelers will likely have to pay for a checked bag, but the rate varies based on destination. Fees start from $30 in each direction to the Caribbean to $75 in each direction to Europe. However, on flights to Asia, basic economy passengers get one checked bag for free.
If you get free checked bags as a Medallion elite member or by holding a co-branded Delta credit card , the baggage allowance applies according to your benefits.
Carry-on allowance: When flying Delta basic economy, a carry-on and a personal item are permitted free of charge.
Delta basic economy seats and in-flight experience
Seats: Although you get to sit in the main cabin, you don’t get to select your seat for free. If you book multiple people on the same reservation, it’s possible that your party may be split up. Unless you pay for a seat, you’ll be assigned one either at check-in or at boarding time. You are, however, guaranteed a seat as much as with any other ticket.
Entertainment: If you’re wondering whether you’d be bored on your flight, don’t worry. A basic economy ticket doesn’t take away your seatback screen or the option to watch in-flight movies or TV with your personal device through Delta Studio.
Food and beverages: In-flight refreshments are also the same as you would receive in the main cabin: snacks on domestic trips and full meals on international flights.
Rewards earnings: Passengers flying basic economy on Delta will not earn redeemable Delta SkyMiles or credit toward Medallion status.
Delta basic economy lounge access
Lounges: As you might have guessed, a basic economy ticket doesn’t grant any lounge access. However, if you have Delta Sky Club access by other means, such as an annual membership or a credit card benefit, a basic economy ticket doesn’t prevent entry.
» Learn more: Basic economy versus main cabin
Booking a basic economy ticket with Delta is quite easy. Search for a flight like you normally would — enter the city pair, travel dates and the number of passengers. Select the red arrow to view the results. In this example, we’re looking for a one-way ticket from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles on Dec. 15.
If a basic economy option is available, it’ll be the first option displayed on the left. Whether you want to pay for your ticket with dollars or miles, the results are going to be displayed the same way.
Once you select the flight you want, a disclaimer will appear notifying you that there are limitations when booking a basic economy ticket:
No seat(s) assigned until after check-in, not together.
No changes allowed.
Cancel for partial eCredit (ticket minus $99/person).
Last to board and not eligible for upgrades .
No miles earned; no credit toward SkyMiles Medallion status.
If you wish to proceed with purchasing a basic economy ticket, you must check the “Accept Restrictions” box to continue booking the flight.
By checking the box, you avoid any miscommunications about the kind of fare you’re purchasing and acknowledge the restrictions associated with a basic economy ticket on Delta.
» Learn more: How to save on Delta flights
Delta offers its economy passengers three options: basic economy, main cabin and Comfort Plus . So, what exactly are the differences between Delta basic economy and main cabin tickets?
As mentioned above, Delta’s basic economy fares don’t allow seat selections, ticket changes, full refunds or rewards-earning opportunities. Additionally, basic economy passengers are the last to board a Delta aircraft and aren’t eligible for upgrades.
Main cabin passengers can choose their seats, change or cancel a ticket at no extra cost, earn flight rewards and board the plane before basic economy passengers.
If you choose to book a basic economy ticket, you have to accept a random seat assignment (even if it’s the middle seat) and be absolutely sure you don’t need to cancel or change your flight. You’ll also give up earning miles for the trip.
Before you make a final decision, compare the benefits against the difference in price and decide whether an upcharge is worth the extra perks.
» Learn more: Delta basic economy vs. main cabin
Although a basic economy ticket offers just the basics — literally — there are still ways you can make your travel experience more enjoyable.
Book with Delta SkyMiles
Because you won’t earn rewards on basic economy flights paid with cash, you might as well redeem miles to book one of these fares and save the money for a future trip. In our example flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, the earlier flight costs $89 and the later flight is $129. If you were to pay with miles, the rates are also different: 6,000 SkyMiles and 9,500 SkyMiles, respectively.
The first option yields 1.39 cents per mile in value and the second option yields 1.30 cents per mile, which is below average for Delta SkyMiles, according to our NerdWallet valuations . Not a huge difference in value in this case, but still make sure to look carefully at all the flight choices and take advantage of the redemption rates that benefit you the most.
» Learn more: Your guide to earning Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
Take advantage of credit card perks
Delta basic economy passengers get on the plane in the final boarding zone.
However, cardholders with a Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card , Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card board with Main Cabin 1, which is three groups before most basic economy flyers. This means that you can book a basic economy flight and still find room for a carry-on bag in the overhead bin. Terms apply.
If you often check luggage, more perks await: select co-branded credit card holders can check their first bag for free, as can up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation. Terms apply.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
Basic economy across U.S. airlines
In NerdWallet's annual analysis of the best airlines, we compared the basic economy experience across the major U.S. airlines currently offering a basic economy fare. We looked at restrictions and allowances, including baggage, miles earning and trip modification policies. Here's how they stacked up:
When flying basic economy on Delta, don’t expect anything fancy. Although the seats are the same as in the main economy cabin, you can’t pick one for free, and it’s not possible to change or cancel your ticket if something unexpected comes up.
The final nail in the coffin is the lack of rewards you can earn on these types of flights. If the price difference is manageable, we suggest opting for a main cabin ticket instead.
Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines.
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How to survive basic economy on Delta Air Lines
Editor's note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
If you're preparing for a trip and notice you've booked a basic economy fare on Delta Air Lines, you may have a lot of questions about what this fare allows and how your experience may be different from any previous trips you've taken with Delta. This guide aims to answer all of your questions.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter .
What's Delta basic economy?
Delta has three types of economy fares: Comfort+ , Main Cabin and basic economy . Basic economy provides a lower-priced fare but places restrictions or fees on seat assignment, upgrades, changes and — for some destinations — checked baggage. Also, since early 2022, basic economy flights no longer earn Delta miles. This guide will answer common questions about these restrictions and the basic economy experience on Delta, but be sure to also check out TPG's review of Delta's basic economy .
Note that some basic economy restrictions are waived for elites and cardholders of Delta cobranded credit cards. So, if you fall into either of these groups, see the specific section related to your group to see which restrictions are waived for you.
Related reading: Comparing basic economy fares across U.S. airlines
Can I check a bag?
Yes, but it's going to cost you ( see the price chart here ). Baggage fees are generally the same for basic economy, economy and Comfort+ passengers on most routes that currently sell basic economy fares. Some notable exceptions are below:
- U.S. and El Salvador, Ecuador, Panama ($30 for basic economy)
- U.S. and South America, excluding Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Guyana ($60 for basic economy)
- U.S. and Canada and Tahiti ($60 for basic economy)
- U.S. and Colombia ($30 for basic economy)
- U.S. and Israel ($60 for basic economy)
- U.S. and Canada and Europe and North Africa ($60 for basic economy)
- Mexico and Europe ($60 for basic economy)
Basic economy flights to the following countries and regions do allow one free checked bag:
- Australia and New Zealand
- Southern and West Africa
Related: How to avoid checked baggage fees on major domestic airlines
Can I bring a carry-on?
Yes, you're always allowed one carry-on bag that's no larger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches and one personal item such as a purse, briefcase, camera bag or diaper bag. Delta will not count items like jackets, umbrellas, or medical devices as your permitted personal item. Note that because you'll probably board last (more on that below), overhead bin space may be limited.
Also bear in mind that with new efforts to reduce touchpoints on board, flight attendants can no longer help passengers stow their bags overhead. If overhead space is unavailable, your carry-on bag may be gate-checked. Don't worry, though—you won't have to pay if your bag is gate-checked.
Can I select a seat?
Yes, but it might cost you. From seven days to 24 hours before departure, it's possible to pay to select seats on itineraries that are fully domestic. Pricing varies by trip and may be purchased leg by leg. If you don't purchase a seat assignment, Delta will assign you one after check-in.
Flying internationally, or don't want to pay? If non-preferred seats remain at check-in, you'll get a seat assignment for free. Reports show that you may be able to choose your seat for free at this time . However, if no non-preferred seats remain, you'll be assigned a seat shortly before boarding.
Travelers on the same reservation — including families with young children — aren't guaranteed to be seated together unless they pay to select seats together. You might luck out by checking in exactly 24 hours before departure, but there's a risk you won't sit together.
When can I board?
You'll board in the last group. Basic economy passengers can't purchase Priority Boarding.
Can I change my flight?
Within the 24-hour risk-free cancellation period, you can change your flight; however, you will still have to pay any price difference. After 24 hours of purchasing the ticket, you cannot change your flight.
Can I cancel my flight?
You can cancel a basic economy ticket within 24 hours of purchase or if the cancellation is involuntary for a full refund.
For voluntary cancellations, you'll receive a partial travel credit. Basic economy fares for domestic flights or flights to the Caribbean, Central America or Mexico will be subject to a $99 fee deducted from the value of your ticket. Meanwhile, basic economy travel originating in the U.S. or Canada to any other international destination will be subject to a $199 fee.
On basic economy award tickets, the cancellation charge is 9,900 miles for domestic travel (within the United States and Canada) and 19,900 miles for international travel.
Do I still earn miles?
No. In January 2022, Delta changed its policy to exclude basic economy travelers from earning miles on its Skymiles program. Customers who want to earn Delta miles will have to buy a Main Cabin ticket.
Related: What is Delta elite status worth ?
Does having a cobranded credit card help?
Yes, having a cobranded Delta credit card can help you defeat basic economy . As a cardholder you'll get the following benefits even when flying on a basic economy fare:
- First checked bag free (for you and up to eight other passengers traveling with you on the same reservation)
- Priority boarding
Note that you only need to have the card — you don't have to purchase your ticket with the card. If you're looking for a card that provides these benefits, consider getting one of the following cards (eligible when flying with Delta):
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card ($0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $99 ) (see rates and fees )
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card ($250 annual fee) (see rates and fees )
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card ($550 annual fee) (see rates and fees )
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card ($0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $99 ) (see rates and fees )
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card ($250 annual fee) (see rates and fees )
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card ($550 annual fee) (see rates and fees )
Does having elite status help?
Yes. When flying on a basic economy fare, Delta Medallion elites and SkyTeam elites receive many of the same benefits they'd get on normal Main Cabin fares:
- Waived checked baggage fees: always at least one free checked bag, more for some itineraries and for some elite levels
- Priority check-in
However, Medallion Members will not receive paid or complimentary upgrades (such as Comfort+ or Preferred Seats) when flying on basic economy fares.
Related reading: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on Delta
Delta Air Lines' basic economy fares come with restrictions on seat selection and boarding zone, and this type of ticket doesn't allow for upgrades or a free checked bag. Moreover, with recent policy changes, basic economy flights no longer earn miles.
On the positive side, basic economy passengers can always bring a personal item and carry-on bag, and Delta has made it slightly easier to change or cancel basic economy flights. In other words, if you're traveling light and willing to sacrifice some comfort to save money, Delta basic economy might make sense.
The Delta basic economy experience can be made better with elite status or an eligible cobranded Delta Air Lines credit card . Elite members and cardholders maintain the baggage allowance and boarding zone provided by their elite status or eligible credit card. In particular, having a credit card like the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card provides priority boarding and the first bag checked free for up to nine passengers traveling on the same reservation. This means your introductory annual fee for the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card will be $0 for your first year of Card Membership. After the first year, your annual fee will be $99, and could quickly pay for itself if you or your travel companions travel frequently with checked baggage.
You can also check out our guides to basic economy on American Airlines and United Airlines .
If you're new to The Points Guy, check out our points and miles guide for beginners .
Additional reporting by Benét J.Wilson
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card, please click here . For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex Card, please click here . For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, please click here . For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Card, please click here . For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Card, please click here . For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card, please click here .
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How to get around some of delta’s basic economy restrictions.
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When you're looking for a budget flight on Delta Air Lines, chances are good you'll choose to fly Basic Economy. This class of airfare comes at the lowest price, but you’ll have to make some trade-offs for these seats, including accepting many restrictions that affect your travel experience.
Thankfully, it’s possible to fly Delta Basic Economy to make your trip affordable while still finding ways around some of the limitations that come with these cheap tickets. You just need to know the right approach, such as joining Delta's loyalty club or getting one of the Delta credit cards that offers perks.
This guide will help you understand more about what it means to get a basic economy ticket and provide you with some tips on how you can improve your flying experience, even when you're opting for tickets at a budget price.
What is Basic Economy on Delta Airlines?
How to make delta basic economy seats suck less, faqs about delta basic economy, basic economy saves you money — but there are tradeoffs.
When you fly on most airlines, there are different classes of seats. Even within the main cabin, there may be different fare classes, each with their own perks, benefits, and limitations.
On Delta, Basic Economy is it’s most budget-friendly fare class. While you still get a seat in the main cabin, you give up some amenities when you fly on Basic Economy.
You still get a complimentary snack and a non-alcoholic beverage at no cost, and you're still able to watch movies and shows if your flight offers in-flight entertainment. You even get a complimentary carry-on bag, although that bag may be gate checked if space is limited.
But amenities you aren’t eligible for include:
- A free checked bag : You'll have to pay to check your luggage; Delta baggage fees varying depending on the weight of your bag and your destination, but are typically around $30 for your first bag.
- A seat assignment in advance : You'll have your seat assigned to you after you check in, and you don't get to pick where you sit unless you pay extra in advance.
- The opportunity to change your ticket : You're not permitted to upgrade your ticket or make other changes after you book. You also aren't entitled to a refund if you need to cancel after an initial 24-hour risk-free cancellation period
- The ability to pay for Priority Boarding : You can't get onto your flight early by paying for Priority Boarding if you've bought a Basic Economy ticket.
It is still possible to accrue Delta miles when you fly Basic Economy, though, so at least your inexpensive ticket can help you to potentially earn free trips or other upgrades in the future .
While Basic Economy comes with lots of restrictions, some of them can be avoided if you employ smart strategies. See which of these options, if any, are right for you.
Become a Delta Medallion Elite member or a SkyTeam Elite Member
Delta Medallion Elite and SkyTeam Elite members can get special perks that make flying Basic Economy a better experience. These include:
- Priority check-in
- Priority boarding
- Waived fees for checked bags
Despite your Elite status, however, you aren't eligible to make changes to a Basic Economy ticket, and you’re not eligible for paid or complimentary upgrades to Preferred Seats even with Medallion or SkyTeam status.
You can become a Delta Medallion member by joining the Delta SkyMiles program and by fulfilling certain requirements to earn Medallion Status. You could even match your status from another airline if you’re eligible.
The miles you need to earn status on Delta and the perks you benefit from depend on which Medallion level you are. For example:
- Silver status can be earned with 25,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles or 30 Medallion Qualifying Segments. You'll also need $3,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars unless you qualify for a waiver.
- Gold status can be earned with 50,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles or 60 Medallion Qualifying Segments. You'll also need $6,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars unless you qualify for a waiver.
- Platinum status can be earned with 75,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles or 100 Medallion Qualifying Segments. You'll also need $9,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars unless you qualify for a waiver.
- Diamond status can be earned with 125,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles or 140 Medallion Qualifying Segments. You'll also need $15,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars unless you qualify for a waiver.
While there are big differences between the perks at each level — for example, Gold and Platinum status allow priority access to security lines, but Silver status doesn't — you can't take advantage of many of the perks with a Basic Economy ticket.
If you're a SkyTeam member and have special status with partner airlines, it's also possible to gain Medallion Status with Delta.
Get a Delta credit card
If you have a Delta-branded credit card, these are some of the best airline credit cards for frequent Delta flyers. Further, your card may come with perks that could help you sidestep some of Basic Economy’s drawbacks. Though you still won’t be able to select your seats in advance without added fees, you could get the following perks — even in Basic Economy. But, if you don't use Delta often, these may not be the best travel credit cards for you. See all the perks of Delta credit cards here .
Do you get a carry on with Delta Basic Economy?
When you fly Basic Economy with Delta, you are entitled to a free carry-on bag. However, overhead space is limited and because you board late, you may be unable to find space. If this happens to you, your carry-on could be gate checked at no cost to you.
What is the difference between main cabin and Basic Economy on Delta?
Basic Economy tickets provide the same general experience as other main cabin tickets, including standard reclining seats as well as a sleep kit provided on long-haul flights.
But there are some key differences. For example, main cabin members can pick a seat prior to check-in while Basic Economy flyers cannot. Main cabin members will also board before Basic Economy flyers.
When can you check in to Delta Basic Economy?
Like other tickets, you can check into your flight up to 24 hours in advance. However, you will still be the last to board when you buy a Basic Economy ticket. You will also not be given a seat assignment until after you check in and, if seating is limited, it’s possible you will not be given an assigned seat until you are at the gate shortly before boarding.
Can I change a Delta Basic Economy ticket?
Delta Basic Economy tickets cannot be changed and you are not entitled to a refund if you cancel your ticket after an initial 24-hour risk free period right after you book your ticket. You cannot upgrade your ticket later either, even with SkyMiles Medallion status.
Can you upgrade from Basic Economy on Delta?
You are not eligible for either paid or complimentary upgrades with a Basic Economy ticket on Delta. You are also not permitted to pay for Priority Boarding to get on the plane early. Even Medallion Status won't entitle you to an upgrade or preferred seat.
Basic Economy tickets undeniably provide substantial savings. Plus, you can mitigate some of the downsides, such as no free checked bag, by getting a Delta credit card or becoming a Medallion Member.
Unfortunately, certain limitations of a basic economy ticket — such as an inability to upgrade seats or make changes to your flight — can't be overcome. You'll need to decide if you're willing to accept this in exchange for getting a cheaper ticket when you book your flight.
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Delta Air Lines: Basic Economy vs. Main Cabin — What Are the Differences?
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Basic Economy is the relatively new cheapest airline ticket you can buy, coming with a new set of restrictions that some flyers may not be used to. While Basic Economy seats are located in the same section of the plane as those who purchase traditional, full-fare seats, it’s important to understand the differences between Main Cabin and Basic Economy tickets.
Let’s compare Basic Economy and Main Cabin when flying on Delta Air Lines, review the benefits of each, and offer things to keep in mind while you go through the ticket purchase process. In many cases, you may want to purchase one ticket type over the other based on how you’d like to travel.
Overview of Delta’s Classes of Service
Delta has several classes of service that are offered on different flights and to different travelers. It’s important to review these class offerings to understand where Basic Economy and traditional Main Cabin fit in.
First class is offered on all narrow-body jets on routes in the U.S. and to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean . On regional jets, these seats are usually laid out in a 1-2 layout, and on mainline planes, they are set in a 2-2 fashion.
First class comes with priority boarding, dedicated bins to stow bags, complimentary beverages, and on some flights, full meals depending on the route and time of day.
Delta One is Delta’s highest cabin of service on long-haul or premium flights . Delta One seats are all flat-bed seats and are offered on a variety of aircraft types, including 757s and 767s, to name a few.
These flat-bed seats are offered on most international services to Europe, Asia, Oceania, and Africa, and feature an upgraded meal service on china, lounge access, priority boarding, and more.
Hot Tip: Want to see what it’s like to fly Delta One? Check out these flight reviews: Delta One Suites aboard the Airbus A350 and Delta One on a Boeing 767-300 .
Premium Select is Delta’s variation on Premium Economy , featuring a seat similar to the one in its domestic first class cabin.
These seats are featured on most wide-body aircraft and feature more personal space, seatback televisions, and upgraded meal service. While this cabin is roomier than coach, the service flow is similar to the Main Cabin offering.
Delta Comfort+ is Delta’s extra legroom seating , located in prime areas of the Main Cabin. These could be exit rows or bulkheads or other areas where there is additional room.
These seats come with complimentary alcoholic beverages and light snacks , though continue to be part of the Main Cabin. Elite members can generally select these seats for free or be upgraded to them shortly after booking.
For more information, check out our comparison of Delta Comfort+ vs. Delta first class .
Main Cabin features traditional economy seats and is located in the rear of the aircraft. These seats usually feature inflight entertainment (except on regional jets) and are where the majority of customers sit.
For explanatory purposes, Delta uses the same term as American Airlines for its economy class product, so be sure to know which airline you’re looking at when purchasing tickets.
Basic Economy is a ticket type that allows travelers to sit in the Main Cabin, with limited amenities and no advance seat allocation .
Basic Economy ticket holders will be assigned seats in the Main Cabin within 24 hours of departure, or at check-in, and users will not be able to designate which seat they sit in.
Basic Economy was created several years ago to appeal to the traveler who is not only price-sensitive but also one who doesn’t want to pay for extra services and add-ons. As many low-cost carriers, such as Frontier or Spirit, continued to win over customers, traditional legacy carriers had to change their business model to win over flyers who were going to other airlines.
Some airlines, including Delta, used to include checked bags in their traditional fares. There was no restriction on seating assignments and anyone could upgrade if they had the means. As time passed, travelers realized they did not want to pay for services that they did not utilize, and fare segmentation was born.
Low-cost carriers worldwide began to break apart fares and charge a base rate with additional rates for things such as checked bags, seat assignments, upgrades, and even food.
What Does a Delta Basic Economy Ticket Include?
Delta’s Basic Economy tickets carry several important differences compared to standard Main Cabin tickets, so it’s important to note these restrictions so that you can travel smarter.
If you’re on a Basic Economy fare, you’re allowed to bring on the same amount of baggage as a Main Cabin traveler — a bag that fits under the seat in front of you and then a larger carry-on bag to fit in the overhead bin above your seat.
That said, Basic Economy passengers board last , so there may be limited overhead bin space to store bags — plan ahead and pack light if you’re on a Basic Economy fare .
Hot Tip: If you’re looking for more information about Delta’s baggage policies , explore our guide and learn some tips to cover any baggage expenses.
Basic Economy tickets are the most restrictive ticket option Delta has — there are no changes allowed on these trips under any circumstance. Main Cabin tickets now have no change fee where you can change your ticket’s destination, routing, or more for the cost of any fare difference. On a Basic Economy ticket, however, there’s no amount of money you can pay to change your ticket — if you must make a change, you’ll lose the full fare value of your ticket and will essentially start over from scratch.
If you wish to cancel your ticket and receive a credit, you’ll need to pay up to a $199 penalty and will receive the remaining difference as an eVoucher. Keep in mind, however, that most Basic Economy tickets will be under this amount, and you’ll likely forfeit the entire ticket value in most circumstances.
Basic Economy tickets are also not eligible for same-day standby or same-day changes , even for elite passengers.
The lesson here is to only purchase a Basic Economy ticket if you’re absolutely sure of your travel plans. If you’re not, purchase a standard Main Cabin ticket with the ability to make changes.
Basic Economy passengers are the very last passengers to board the aircraft . A Basic Economy passenger can avoid this by either being an elite member or a Delta-branded credit cardholder , which will allow them to board earlier.
Hot Tip: Delta-branded credit cards deliver benefits for Delta flyers, but other credit cards can, too. Our guide to the best credit cards for Delta flyers includes lounge access, priority boarding, and upgrades.
Main Cabin passengers are divided into 3 groups, just prior to Basic Economy. Delta’s boarding zones and order are:
Basic Economy passengers do not get any choice of seats and are randomly assigned seats at check-in.
For this reason, Basic Economy fares should be avoided by families who may wish to sit together as there’s no guarantee of any sort that you’ll be able to sit together.
Bottom Line: If you wish to sit next to a particular person, do not purchase a Basic Economy ticket — purchase a Main Cabin ticket, instead.
Unfortunately, Basic Economy passengers cannot upgrade — either via a paid upgrade or as part of elite benefits. For long-haul flights, this could be a major issue.
Several scenarios where you could face this challenge include:
- Since all Delta Medallions receive complimentary upgrades, there’s always a reason to request the upgrade. However, even if the flight has empty seats you would otherwise be able to upgrade into, you won’t be able to upgrade your Basic Economy ticket.
- If you’re on a long-haul flight and there is an opportunity to upgrade using miles or a global upgrade, you won’t be able to do so.
- Passengers typically will receive upgrade offers during the ticketing process and after purchase, usually for a very good price. Even if it only may cost a few dollars more to upgrade, a Basic Economy passenger won’t be able to do so.
When you book a Basic Economy ticket, you’re among the last on your aircraft to be accommodated on other flights , as passengers who are on traditional Main Cabin tickets will get protected on alternative arrangements first.
Generally, elite status members will receive help no matter what ticket type they are on, but if you’re on a Basic Economy ticket without status, it may be difficult to get rebooked since other options may be full.
Hot Tip: If you’re a business traveler that needs to be in a particular city at a certain time, it may be better to book a Main Cabin ticket — that way if things go wrong, you’ll be accommodated much faster than someone on a Basic Economy fare.
Delta’s Basic Economy does not earn SkyMiles , Medallion Qualifying Miles, Medallion Qualifying Dollars, or Medallion Qualifying Segments.
Remember that because the fares are cheaper, you’ll need to purchase traditional Main Cabin tickets if you wish to earn status.
What Does a Delta Main Cabin Ticket Include?
When you purchase a traditional Delta Main Cabin ticket, you can bring on 2 carry-on bags: 1 to fit under the seat in front of you and 1 to put in the overhead bin.
You can also purchase checked bags, or additional checked bags if you get the first one for free.
You can change your ticket prior to departure for no fee .
Elites on Main Cabin tickets can standby for other flights at no charge, or do same-day changes for free, within their elite tier rules. If not free, they pay the applicable fee.
If you purchase a Main Cabin ticket, you’ll board with either Main Cabin group 1, 2, or 3 , depending on your elite tier, if any.
When you purchase a Main Cabin ticket, you can choose any non-Comfort+ seat in the Main Cabin , including aisles, windows, and middles. Unlike Basic Economy, you can select any seat in the Main Cabin, though some may come with charges depending on if they have extra legroom or not.
This is by far one of the best benefits of having a Main Cabin ticket — you can assure yourself of a halfway decent seat without worrying about being assigned a middle seat at check-in like Basic Economy tickets.
Here are the locations of all Delta Main Cabin seats on all aircraft (not including Comfort+), according to SeatGuru :
Here are the seat dimensions of Main Cabin on all Delta aircraft, according to SeatGuru:
Unlike Basic Economy tickets, all Main Cabin fares are eligible for upgrade :
- Elites members can list for complimentary upgrades
- You can pay for an upgrade to Comfort+
- You can use a regional upgrade or a global upgrade on longer flights however this will only upgrade you to Premium Select
- You can pay the fare difference between economy class and first class
Bottom Line: If you’re a Delta Medallion elite member, one of the biggest benefits of your status is upgrades. Don’t purchase a Basic Economy ticket if you wish to take advantage of these upgrades.
If your flight gets delayed or canceled, you will be rebooked ahead of Basic Economy customers, and receive priority for seats on other flights.
Unlike Basic Economy, you’ll continue to earn SkyMiles as well as Medallion Qualifying Dollars, Segments, and Miles. Delta penalizes passengers in this regard for having a Basic Economy fare.
Delta used to be one of the more generous carriers when it came to Basic Economy, however it has recently revised the Basic Economy program to become more restrictive.
- American and United will auto-assign seats when you check in within 24 hours of your flight. You may be assigned what’s considered an undesirable seat, and if you wish to move out of it, it may cost you. On Delta, you can choose what seats are left over once you have checked in.
- Most carriers except Delta offer award miles on basic fares, so regardless of how cheap your ticket is, you’ll still accumulate miles toward desirable awards.
- No carrier offers any upgrades or ticketing changes on basic fares (except for American Airlines AAdvantage members). If you need to make such a change, you need to buy a new ticket.
Basic Economy isn’t for everyone.
There are several types of people who should avoid Basic Economy :
- Elite status passengers may care about upgrades, in which case they’ll want to buy a regular fare.
- Those who make ticket changes often will want to buy a regular fare.
- Those who check bags will want to buy a regular fare.
- Those who prefer certain seats on the plane will want to buy a regular fare.
A Basic Economy ticket is perfect for budget-minded travelers who simply want to get between A and B and don’t care which amenities come with the ticket.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles ® Gold American Express Card, click here . For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles ® Platinum American Express Card, click here . For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles ® Reserve American Express Card, click here .
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you get a carry-on with delta basic economy.
Yes! Similar to Delta’s traditional Main Cabin product, you are allowed to bring on 1 carry-on bag to be stowed in the overhead bin and 1 personal item to fit underneath the seat in front of you. Keep in mind that Basic Economy passengers are the last to board the plane, so there may be limited storage opportunities if the flight is very full.
What is the difference between Basic Economy and Main Cabin on Delta?
In short, Delta Basic Economy tickets do not include any upgrade opportunities, advanced seat selection, or checked baggage. If you normally check a bag, are an elite passenger who likes to upgrade, or a passenger who cares what seat you sit in, a Delta Basic Economy fare is not for you.
Does Basic Economy guarantee a seat?
On a Basic Economy ticket, you are always guaranteed a seat on the aircraft. Your seat selection will be limited until you check in for your flight, so at that time, the seats available may be in the very rear of the plane, in the middle of rows, or in other undesirable locations, but regardless of this, you will always be guaranteed a seat on the plane.
Does basic economy come with checked bag?
Basic Economy tickets do not come with a free checked bag. You’ll need to pay the required fees to check a bag if you do not hold elite status.
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About James Larounis
James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.
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Delta Basic Economy: What You Need to Know
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Have you looked at booking a Delta Basic Economy vs a Main Cabin ticket to save money on your flight purchase?
Delta Airlines offers Basic Economy on many routes and the price savings could tempt you to book the flight. But, there are some important things you need to know about selecting one of these cheap Delta fares.
In this guide, we take a look at Basic Economy on Delta and how utilizing Delta co-branded credit cards can reduce the restrictions that come with these bargain fares.
What is Delta Basic Economy?
Just like American Airlines and United Airlines , Delta Airlines offers its own version of an unbundled service. This refers to fares that are à la carte from everything from seat selection to checked baggage.
Delta offers Basic Economy fares on both domestic and international fares. This includes both paid and award tickets. Although, not all award flights allow Basic Economy as an option.
Basic Economy Restrictions on Delta
As with other airlines’ Basic Economy fares, there will be restrictions when flying this basic fare on Delta. Let’s start with Delta Basic Economy baggage restrictions.
Unlike United, you’re allowed a full-size carry-on and a personal item at no cost. The size requirement for Delta Basic Economy carry-on luggage is 22” x 14” x 9” and can’t be more than 45 linear inches in combined length, width, and height.
As for your personal item, you’re allowed 1:
- Camera Bag,
- Diaper Bag,
- Laptop computer, or
- An item of similar/smaller size
Items that don’t count as personal items include:
- A jacket or umbrella,
- Duty-free merchandise,
- Child-restraint seats, or
- Medical assistive devices
Delta also allows a free checked bag for Basic Economy depending on the route you’re flying from the U.S.
These include flights to:
- Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen
- Brazil (excluding select G3-operated flights)
- Australia and New Zealand
- Southern and West Africa
This is quite generous considering the Basic Economy checked baggage restrictions on other airlines.
Other Basic Economy restrictions include:
- Receiving seat assignment at check-in or, in some cases, at the gate,
- Ticket changes and upgrades are not allowed after the 24-hour cancellation period,
- No refunds or same-day changes allowed, and
- Not being eligible to combine with other Delta fares.
Families Traveling in Basic Economy
Your Delta Basic Economy seat assignment does NOT guarantee you’ll be seated together. This is especially important for families traveling with young children. While there’s a chance you could sit together, it’s also just as likely that you won’t be sitting together.
So, if you’re traveling with young children or don’t want to be separated from your family, you might want to avoid Delta’s basic economy fares.
Delta Credit Card Benefits
Having a Delta co-branded credit helps to ease some of the Basic Economy restrictions.
Even when you book a Basic Economy ticket, Delta cardholders receive priority boarding and a free checked bag. The free checked bag benefit is eligible for you and up to 8 other people (maximum of 9 waivers per reservation).
Delta Skymiles credit cards with this benefit include:
When it comes to priority boarding, you’ll receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding. Typical basic economy boarding is after Main Cabin 3 boarding.
Delta Airlines Basic Economy Check-In
You’re eligible to check in 24 hours before departure, either through the mobile app or online. If you do use the Delta Airlines mobile app, it can automatically check you in at the appropriate time.
With Delta Basic Economy, seat selection is not included. Rather you’re assigned a seat.
In some cases, your seat may not be assigned at check-in.
Instead, you’ll see “Seat Assigned at Gate” on your boarding pass. This is likely because no non-preferred seats remain and the agents are moving others into preferred seats before assigning your seat.
Booking Basic Economy Fares with Chase Points
Chase Ultimate Rewards are extremely popular and they offer great flexibility, including when you book through the Chase Travel portal.
The great news is you can book a Basic Economy ticket on Delta with your Ultimate Rewards points, through the Chase Travel portal.
In this example, flying from Los Angeles to Miami (LAX to MIA), a basic economy fare with 1 stop would cost $341.40.
Plus, if you have a Delta Skymiles credit card, you’ll still receive your free checked bag and priority boarding. You’ll just need to enter your Delta Skymiles number when booking your flight.
Earning Delta Miles on Basic Economy Flights
Bad news! When you book a Basic Economy fare on Delta, you will not earn redeemable miles.
It’s still possible to earn 50% of the miles flown when flying Virgin Atlantic on a Basic Economy fare. The same is true for Flying Blue – Air France/KLM but at 20%.
Earning Status Flying Delta Basic Economy
Delta isn’t the friendliest in this department either. Basic Economy with Delta will not earn qualifying Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM), Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQS), or Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MDQ).
Basic Economy fares are fare class E bucket. As such, they’ll earn 100% of the miles flown for your MQM and full MQS. You’ll also receive full credit for MQD as well.
Redeeming Delta Miles for Basic Economy
You can redeem Skymiles for Basic Economy. In fact, Delta was the first of the US3 (United, American Airlines, and Delta), to offer Basic Economy award redemptions.
Remember, Delta Airlines is dynamic in its pricing, which means the award prices are tied to the ticket price.
When you look at the Basic Economy fares offered by Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines, Delta is one of the friendlier Basic Economy options.
But, even while it might be a bit better, there are still restrictions to consider, especially if you’re a family traveling with children.
Lastly, understanding Delta’s Basic Economy rules will reduce any issues and ensure you have a smooth experience flying on one of these cheap fares.
Have you flown Delta Basic Economy? How was your experience?
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