Delta Adds More Restrictions for Basic Economy Fares Delta Adds More Restrictions for Basic Economy Fares

Delta Adds More Restrictions for Basic Economy Fares

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Delta Air Lines seems to be the Edward Scissorhands of the airline industry these days — it just keeps cutting away at everything within reach. This week, Delta hacked away at its already bare-bones Basic Economy fare. If you thought it was doo doo before, wait until you hear these changes.

Key Changes

  • Basic Economy flights will no longer earn Delta SkyMiles.
  • Passengers flying in Basic Economy will not earn Medallion-qualifying elite credits.
  • Flights scheduled after December 31, 2021 in Basic Economy fares will no longer be changeable.
  • Cancellations can be made, but they are full of restrictions (see below).

Quick Overview of Delta Basic Economy

Basic Economy is Delta's cheapest fare class and includes exactly what the name implies: the basics. When you book a seat in Delta Basic Economy, you can expect the following:

  • No seat assignments until after check-in, and you are not guaranteed seats together when there's more than one person on the reservation.
  • Basic Economy passengers are the last to board.
  • Basic economy fares are not eligible for paid or complimentary upgrades.

But Delta is adding to this list of restrictions.

New Earning Structure – or Lack Thereof

Delta Adds More Restrictions for Basic Economy Fares, and They're Bad.
Earning SkyMiles and Medallion Qualifying miles is ‘much too good for' Delta Basic Economy flyers.

Beginning December 9, 2021 and applying to flights booked for January 1, 2022 and later, Delta Basic Economy flyers will no longer earn SkyMiles on their flights. Prior to this announcement, Basic Economy earned Delta's standard base rate of 5x SkyMiles per dollar (before elite bonuses).

Additionally, passengers in Basic Economy will no longer earn elite-qualifying miles for Delta Medallion status.

Cancellations and Changes

Aside from the changes in earning structure for Basic Economy, Delta is also “updating” its cancellation and change policies. Prior to Covid, Delta did not allow changes or cancellations for Basic Economy fares. While concessions were made due to the pandemic, those will soon end.

Delta will implement the following policies:

  • After December 31, 2021, no changes to Basic Economy tickets will be allowed.
  • Cancellations will receive a partial eCredit, according to the itinerary chart below.
  • You will need to pay cancellation fees.

For cancellations, depending on where the flight originates, you can expect to pay the following:

  • U.S. domestic flights: Subject to a $99 fee
  • Flights to the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico: Subject to a $99 fee.
  • Originating in the U.S. or Canada to an international destination: Subject to a $199 fee.
  • Europe: Cancellation charge is €150 for travel originating in Europe.
  • Africa, Middle East, and India: Cancellation charge is $199 for travel originating in one of these areas.
  • Mexico: Travel originating here cannot be changed or cancelled.

And for award tickets that are cancelled, you will be charged the following:

  • Domestic flights within the U.S. and Canada: 9,900 miles
  • International flights: 19,900 miles

Alternatives to Delta Basic Economy

Fortunately, not all other airlines have followed in Delta's footsteps. At least not yet. The following airlines are just a few of those that still allow members to earn miles on Basic Economy fares.

Related Content: American Airlines Simplifies Elite Status Requirements and Makes Changes to AAdvantage Program

Co-Branded Cards Can Help

American Express offers several co-branded Delta cards. These cards allow members to use various benefits, even with Basic Economy fares. For example, the following cards come with the first checked bag free. A checked bag would normally cost $30 when flying in Basic Economy.

Additionally, cardholders receive Main Cabin 1 priority boarding.

Related Content: How to Choose the Right Delta Credit Card

Final Thoughts

These changes regarding Delta's Basic Economy fares are a huge blow. Likely, most flyers pursuing status weren't flying in Basic Economy. However, passengers flying on Basic Economy tickets likely expected some normalcy with miles earning and respectable change/cancelation fees.

This is just another reminder of how quickly things can change in the industry. Fortunately, as a Delta co-branded cardholder, you can still get a few benefits that are typically excluded from Basic Economy fares. Overall, though…yuck.

What do you think of these changes?

3.9 / 5 - (7 votes)
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  • More and more restrictions. Time to find a different favorite airline.

  • Gustavo Retegui says:

    Delta is making us more and more difficult to keep loyalty on them

  • Wow – I didn’t think it could get any worse with Basic Economy

  • Delta is really watering down the Basic Economy fare. In a way, it makes sense, if they do not issue miles for this fare, it can keep the cost low. Some people might not care about miles, they just care about price. Of course I rather a win/win scenario, but the trade off makes sense in the grand scheme of things.

  • Chuck Warren says:

    There have been many changes in the past year or two. We haven’t flown in quite a while, but hope to get back to travelling soon. Thank you for the update on Delta.

  • Sad that Delta is changing this. I’ve personally never had a good experience with flying Delta (Delays, cancelations, price comparison, etc) so this is just one more reason for me to avoid them. Thank yoy Award Wallet for the updated info.

  • Well, with this changes the only factor to take into consideration will be the price and so I think the low cost airlines are very happy.

  • Leave it to Delta to make Basic Economy even more of a drag than before….guess they figure no matter what they do, it can’t be worse than Spirit Airlines….gee, thanks Delta!

  • Extremely disappointed in Delta for this decision, let me have my 250 miles or whatever for the cheap flight I buy. Seems really cheap of them, hope others don’t follow suit.

  • I never use basic economy fares anyway but I recently learned about the restrictions on American’s basic economy fares when I was trying to upgrade a friend’s flight…not possible since she had booked a basic economy fare. It looks like Delta has matched American now. I know that friends don’t let friends book basic economy but if they don’t listen to our advice, we can’t help them.

  • Julieta Belen Caraballo says:

    I believe Delta Airlines and its rewards program to be one of the best of the US. Their service is supreme and their frequency used to be pretty good. Now with those changes it seems that they don’t think their customers are valuable. It is a pity that we need to be informed everyday about changes in order to chose the best airline and don’t lose money,

  • It’s just a race to the bottom.

    I think most people buying (what is perceived as) the cheapest tickets shouldn’t / don’t really expect anything (be it miles, seat selection, luggage etc)…

  • I think that even more people will turn to buying miles for the awards in the future.

  • Such a shame to see these benefits going away. Keeps me wondering how the competition keeps getting further and further from Southwest.

  • It does seem very mean not to allow basic economy fares to earn status and miles even at much reduced rate.

  • I dont’ book basic economy, but I suppose getting some credit back is better than getting nothing back.

  • Although this is a mild devaluation, it makes sense from Delta’s end. It would’ve been more customer-friendly if they lowered the earn rate to 1x rather than 0, but this still isn’t a big deal. People who opt for basic economy are clearly not valuable to the airline long-term (Spirit flyers), and the those customers wouldn’t even care about these changes anyway. Just ask anyone who’s NOT into points and miles, and they would be at a loss to describe what a SkyMile is for, much less how much they’re earning, let’s be honest. Delta is communicating that the BE seat is clearly only for people who fly Delta once every few years, and that they really mean “you don’t get what you don’t pay for”. COVID permanently changed the market, and they’re adapting to reality. This is a pro-valuation for elites, as they’re now only competing with their peers for perks/upgrades. I rarely fly basic economy, don’t care about elite status, carry a Delta card, own Delta stock, and Delta dominates my local airport. Nothing will change. The PR problem is limited only to price-sensitive points enthusiasts, and no-one else. Business travelers, elites, and the average Joe flying once a year or less won’t care. They downsized due to COVID, and are taking a page from Amex’s book by putting a long-term focus more on quality customers, rather than quantity. Delta is emphasizing that theirs is a revenue-based program, first and foremost. Pay more, get more.

  • The changes are very much in line with the restrictions of KLM and Air France.

  • Delta is the worst!

  • Bad news for folks travelling on cheap tickets wanting to case status. At least Delta didn’t make the change retroactively and still allows a carry on unlike United for basic economy.

  • Here we go again, Delta is leading the way.