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Delta’s ‘Basic’ Fares Come with a Warning

Delta’s so-called Basic Economy fares have been available in limited markets since 2012. They were “updated” in October 2014, and most recently in March 2015.

What they are are heavily discounted, highly restricted coach fares offered by Delta to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers. They’re generally only available in markets served by Spirit and the like. But as the flight networks of those ultra-cheap carriers have expanded, Delta has made its Basic fares available in more and more markets, with even more to come. From Delta’s Atlanta hub, for instance, Basic fares now can be booked to more than 75 destinations.

Here’s how Delta describes the Basic product:

If you’re looking for a low fare, your travel plans aren’t likely to change, and you don’t mind where you sit, Basic Economy just may be your ticket. With Basic Economy, you’ll find low fares while still enjoying access to our premier onboard experience, including Wi-Fi, free personal video entertainment with Delta Studio, complimentary snacks and award-winning service. This fare option includes no ticket changes, Main Cabin seat assignments at check-in, pending availability and limited Medallion benefits.

So, some sacrifice in flexibility in exchange for a cheaper ticket. That seems like an acceptable tradeoff, and probably a good deal.

The picture darkens considerably, however, when customers attempt to book a Basic fare on Delta’s website. A recently installed popup warns would-be bookers as follows:

  • Last to board and last to access overhead bin space except Medallion members and other Priority Boarding eligible customers
  • Other restrictions apply to all customers including but not limited to Medallion members and SkyTeam elites
  • No seat assignment until check-in
  • No refunds
  • No ticket changes
  • No paid or complimentary upgrades to Delta One First Class, Business Class, Delta Comfort or Preferred Seats
  • No Priority Boarding for purchase
  • No same-day confirmed or same-day standby travel changes

With the spotlight now squarely focused on the restrictions, the deal looks a lot less enticing. Still interested? You’ll have to check the “I agree to the restrictions” box before the booking will be confirmed.

It’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Because once booked, there are no ticket changes or refunds allowed. That’s Basic.

Reader Reality Check

How much flexibility and comfort are you willing to forego to get a better price?

This article originally appeared on

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