Am I Crazy? I Flew Delta Basic Economy (Again)

by joeheg

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This quote, incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein, says that if you do the same thing as before and expect something different, you’re crazy. Of course, you can’t put too much stock into research with a single data point. Maybe the first result was an aberration or possibly some variables have changed.

It’s been several years since we purchased Basic Economy tickets with Delta. Afterward, we decided that the price difference wasn’t worth the restrictions put on the ticket. Since then, Delta has tweaked the restrictions of their basic tickets, making them even more unappealing.

Most important to Delta loyalists is that Basic Economy tickets have the following limitations:

  • You will not be eligible for: paid or complimentary upgrades; paid, complimentary or discounted Delta Comfort+; paid or complimentary Preferred Seats; or same-day confirmed or same-day standby travel changes.
  • No miles earned; no credit toward SkyMiles Medallion Status

That means you can’t pay for a better seat or change to a different flight and you will earn no redeemable miles or credit toward SkyMiles Medallion status.

However, I found a situation where saving money and buying a Basic Economy ticket could make sense. I needed to fly from Orlando to Atlanta. It’s only a 60-90 minute flight and I’d be going alone. Even if I got stuck in a middle seat, it would be OK. I was only traveling with a small bag and backpack so I didn’t worry about overhead space (which isn’t an issue because I board with Main Cabin 1 because I have the Delta co-brand credit card).

I have no Delta status, nor am I trying to get any and the flight price was so inexpensive that I’d hardly earn any miles for the trip. Basic Economy tickets cost $79 and Economy tickets go for $109. I’d save thirty dollars for 1 hour in a middle seat.

I went and booked the $79 Basic Economy ticket. I can’t say that I had buyer’s remorse, but I did go back and read my review of our experience to prepare myself for what I had in store.

The one big surprise was that, 24 hours before check-in, the Delta app allowed me to pay for a seat assignment. I only had a few seats in the back of the plane to choose from but I was glad to pay $14 to snag the final window seat.

a screenshot of a cell phone

I’ve read that Delta allows Basic Economy passengers to purchase seating assignments starting 7 days before their flight. Paying for a seat assignment cut my $30 profit in half but it was worth it not to sit in a middle seat, which I had already accepted as the likely scenario for the almost full flight.

With no checked bags, I could skip the check-in desk and head to the gate (something not allowed with United’s Basic Economy tickets). I spent time before the flight in the SkyClub with the access provided by the AMEX Platinum Card. Since I was traveling alone, there was no worry about paying for an extra guest.

At the flight boarding time, I headed to the gate. The flight (which was loaded from the middle door) boarded on time and from there I made the long hike back to my window seat in row 43. That’s a long way back.

a group of people sitting in an airplane

Once onboard. I got the same treatment as everyone else on the flight. That’s the thing with Delta’s Basic Economy ticket. The differences are with the booking process, points earning, seat selection and boarding priority. The flight experience is fine once you’ve made it onto the plane.

I’d say that my feelings about buying Basic Economy tickets have evolved since our last time. While it’s not worth the savings for most of our trips, I could see myself buying a cheap ticket if I’m flying alone on a short hop.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Gene September 19, 2022 - 5:22 pm

Are the two mutually exclusive?

joeheg September 19, 2022 - 9:43 pm

No. But one could be a sign of the other being true.

JohnB September 20, 2022 - 3:50 pm

I have observed Delta only charging like $25 more to buy the non-basic economy tickets recently. I am in the Midwest and everything is a connection. So for $25 more, I could pick all of my seats. Delta Basic Economy is much more consumer friendly.

Timothy Slade September 27, 2022 - 11:40 am

Good for Delta passengers & good for Delta Airlines. That’s why I continue to fly with Delta. Better overall, consistent service.


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