NOT Good!! Delta Introduces Basic Economy to Award Flights

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You’re well aware of Delta Basic Economy.  That conniving fare that’s best known for inconvenience and fees.

It’s the cheapest fare available.  But you’ll have to pay for “extras” like choosing your own seat (which is a pain when you’re traveling with friends and family).  And there are no ticket changes or upgrades allowed.  Plus, you’ll have to board in the last group, so you’ll have the hardest time finding space for your carry-on luggage.

Fortunately, if you have cards like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express, you’ll receive priority boarding.  So you can purchase Basic Economy tickets and still board the plane before most other folks.

This fare used to be irrelevant for folks booking award flights.  But in the interest of progress, Delta is now “testing” award pricing for Basic Economy tickets on certain routes.

It’s always good to have options when it comes to using our miles & points, right?  If that’s the case, what’s so awful about Delta giving its loyalty members the option to redeem miles for Basic Economy?

Delta Is Once Again Flatulating on Its Loyalty Program by Introducing Basic Economy Award Flights

Delta Testing Out Basic Economy Award Flights

Delta doesn’t have an award chart.  So you really can’t know for sure how many miles your desired flight is going to cost until you actually look it up.

For example, if I want to fly from Cincinnati to Miami, the lowest I’ll pay is 7,500 Delta miles one-way.  But other days I’ll pay 9,500 miles for the same ticket.  Other days, 19,000 miles.  Basically, Delta charges whatever it wants each day.

Now, select Delta routes will have an additional option to book Basic Economy with miles.  Because there is no award chart, it might be difficult to tell if Delta is raising coach prices or truly giving folks a cheaper option.  View From the Wing observes that the difference between Basic Economy and regular coach (with none of the silly extra charges) looks to be 2,500 Delta miles.

We don’t know when or if Delta will decide to roll out this option to all its routes.  However, Delta is generally the trailblazer among US airlines.  When they implement a new policy, both United Airlines and American Airlines have no problem following along.

Whether or not Delta finds Basic Economy award flights to be a success, these other airlines could well adopt the idea.  And we could begin seeing award prices rise for the same benefits we’ve all enjoyed in the past, like the ability to change flights, choose seats, even bring carry-on luggage (though if you have the right credit card with airline miles, that will never be an issue).

What do you make of this experiment by Delta?  Are you worried other airlines will jump on the bandwagon?

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Bean Counter
1 year ago

I have little doublt that this move will become a devaluation of the SkyMiles, but the golden rule of award travel is not to hord your miles!! Rather than anticipating and complaining about one’s SkyMiles holding depreciates 25% over time, use them up now and wait to see if SkyMiles are still worth earning in the future. Say for example, if I value SkyMiles at 1.2 cents/mile, then I am going to redeem my miles every time they are worth that much for ticket purchase. By the time SkyMiles depreciates to 0.9 cents/mile, I might pledge loyalty to something else that’s more valuable or simply lament it becoming a more difficult game all around, but I won’t have lost any value I built up.

1 year ago

Trust me. It “sounds like” another option, but it’s just another way to increase the cost of a regular reward ticket.

I can see “the other guy” airlines doing this without blinking. It’s discouraging to see Delta try and find ways of blindsiding their most loyal customers.

At this point, it seems none of the airlines hold any shame in attempting to steal lollipops from babies while pretending to kiss.

1 year ago

Seems all the airlines are getting horrible about using air miles.
We have almost 60,000 miles in British airways, and 30, 000 in United, both tout their programs but make it extremely difficult to use.
Next time….. cargo ship across the Atlantic?

1 year ago

What a ridiculous article. “For example, if I want to fly from Cincinnati to Miami, the lowest I’ll pay is 7,500 Delta miles one-way. But other days I’ll pay 9,500 miles for the same ticket. Other days, 19,000 miles. Basically, Delta charges whatever it wants each day.” Convert those amounts to dollars and you’ll see what a ridiculous statement it is. One day I might pay $200 to fly Cincinnati to Miami, another might be $275. Other days $600. Yep, that’s how it works, it’s based on availability, how far out you book, if there might be a sale giving you a lower fare than normal. So how is different mileage amounts different than different dollar amounts again? And although I would never purchase a basic economy fare purposely, if I needed to take a trip and I was short on the miles for a standard fare, I’d gladly take it to get to where I needed to go.

What everyone seems to forget is that these are OPTIONS. If you don’t like them, DON’T BUY THEM! If a supermarket had a basket of apples for 50 cents each, and another basket with the same type of apples with a soft spot or bruise or 2 for 10 cents less would you say “Oh my God, I have to pay MORE for an apple without a bruise!? What a rip-off! I’ll never shop here again! It’s price gauging!” No, you wouldn’t. And it’s the same thing. They are both apples, one is slightly better than than the other and more enjoyable to eat. They are also both Delta seats on Delta flights, one price is more enjoyable than the other. If you want the better experience, your paying a different price for the normal apple/standard fare, if you want to save some money deal with the soft-spot/ fare restrictions.

I’m sick of reading about how airlines shouldn’t offer reduced priced fare options because you don’t like the restrictions. So DON’T BUY IT!! For some people these reduced fares may be the only reason they are able to get a ticket at all!

I’m removing your site from my regular news feed. Promote competition, don’t discourage it.

Reply to  Sam
1 year ago

Hey genius, this is the equivalent of supermarkets introducing bad apples at the regular 50 cent rate and bumping the price of acceptable apples to a higher rate. You can still buy apples for the same price but if you want an enjoyable apple you now pay more. Devaluation.

Reply to  Rockford
1 year ago

Hey window licker, show me a single piece of evidence that the average price in miles or money has gone up for domestic main cabin fares with Delta. They haven’t, and if you don’t follow TPG and see the ridiculously low flash sales they’ve had in the past year (before basic economy award tickets were a thing) you should.

So if the main cabin fares are staying the same or dropping, as data clearly shows, and basic economy is lower than that… you need me to still hold your hand though this? Put down the crayons for a second and think like an adult instead of demonizing a carrier for introducing a fare designed to give people MORE options and opportunity to use their miles, not less.

Reply to  Sam
1 year ago

Much stock in this us carrier or do you work for them?

Reply to  Steven
1 year ago

No. But this is the only headline I read that said “Not Good” in it, when the basic economy award tickets topic showed up in my news feed. So, obviously I read the article because I typically agree with this publication, but the complaining and comparisons were ridiculous. Everyone is assuming they are taking things away from us flyers, when I see it the opposite. Depending on how many miles I have, I now have another option to use them, and use less of them. Granted it’s not the best experience, but if that’s all my miles can afford me, at least it gets me on the damn plane.

There’s no evidence that these fares are replacing the main cabin fares and that main cabin fares are increasing, in fact the evidence shows the opposite.

1 year ago

Just another scheme to implement deceptive price gouging.

1 year ago

Possible devaluation of miles is yet another reason that cash back cards, e.g. Fidelity Rewards 2% cash back card, are gaining in popularity.