Delta Expands Basic Economy Award Tickets Worldwide Delta Expands Basic Economy Award Tickets Worldwide

Delta Expands Basic Economy Award Tickets Worldwide

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Basic economy flights are the bane of many travelers. While purporting to decrease airline fares, the reality is that most folks end up paying similar ticket prices for basic economy tickets — plus fees for benefits such as advanced seat assignments and checked luggage. Now, Delta has taken another leap forward in its bid to charge more while providing less.

Delta has long been the only airline to sell basic economy tickets on award flights — although limited to specific routings. Now that's changed. First noted by Thrifty Traveler, Delta has begun selling basic economy award tickets on additional routes, including many of its international destinations.

Let's take a look at how these changes will impact travelers, the kind of costs you can expect, and how to minimize your expenses when traveling on these tickets.

Delta's Basic Economy Award Tickets

Delta's basic economy awards aren't as restrictive as other airlines. After all, you can bring a full-size carry-on with you — unlike when flying on United basic economy tickets. However, Delta basic economy is still devoid of many benefits you'd otherwise hope to have, such as sitting with your family and not being the last to board the plane.

For those who really don't mind sitting in 52B with their backpack shoved between their feet, basic economy can present an opportunity to spend marginally fewer dollars than a “Main Cabin” (standard economy) fare. The same is true of basic economy award tickets.

Historically, Delta basic economy tickets have been limited to very specific routes, but now it looks like the fare is spreading. Everywhere. Ok, you aren't going to find basic economy tickets on every single flight search you complete. However, Delta basic economy is now far closer to the norm than the exception. And that's quite a dismal development.

Delta Basic Economy Goes Global

Here's a look at a flight from San Francisco (SFO) to London (LHR) this October. Although Delta's website is populating basic economy tickets for its own flights, it's still possible to book economy class partner awards at the newest iteration of partner award rates.

SFO-LHR Delta economy

Meanwhile, here's what it looks like to fly Delta's nonstop routing from Atlanta (ATL) to London (LHR) over those same dates:

ATL-LHR Delta basic economy

Note also that a lot of these changes seem to be date-based. On the route from San Francisco (SFO) to London (LHR), basic economy didn't pop up for flights in September. It was only by moving the dates further afield that they started appearing.

Saving Money on Delta Basic Economy Award Flights

Look, nobody wants to fly in basic economy, but sometimes it's necessary. Now that Delta appears to be expanding its basic economy award tickets, it may also become inevitable to book basic economy — or pay more miles for Main Cabin.

However, that doesn't mean that you have to deal with the worst of its attributes. For example, Delta's co-branded credit card lineup lets cardholders — even those in basic economy — check a bag for free. This is valid for Delta-operated (and marketed) flights and appears to include international routings as well.

These co-branded credit cards also provide priority boarding. That perk trumps the last-place boarding you'd otherwise receive as a basic economy ticket holder. This can be invaluable if you're planning to carry on your luggage.

Alternatively, you can take advantage of the airline fee credits offered by cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express to cover these types of charges. While you won't be able to choose your seat — even if you're willing to pay for it — the airline fee credit can handle other costs such as checked bag fees.

The Bottom Line

Delta SkyMiles have nearly always lagged behind its peers when it comes to redemptions and this is just another drop in the bucket. Although these tickets are meant to lower costs for travelers, rarely does this actually happen. Instead, customers are left paying the same (or more) for their tickets while also enjoying significantly fewer amenities.

Delta increasing its basic economy award tickets isn't much of a surprise as the company has done its best to minimize the value travelers can extract from its loyalty program. However, it is a disappointing move by an airline that focuses so heavily on the customer experience.

If you end up traveling on a basic economy ticket, do yourself a favor and grab a Delta card that'll help you avoid being one of the last passengers to get on the plane and the cost of checking a bag.

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