My Experience With Delta Basic Economy

delta basic economy

First of all, I apologize for not posting an article last week. I was on the road and had really spotty internet. But that also gave me the opportunity to try out Delta Basic Economy from PHF to SAV via ATL.

 

What is Basic Economy?

Basic Economy is offered by all “big 3” airlines (United, American Airlines and Delta) and is basically their response to the recent influx, and increase in popularity, of budget carriers worldwide. It’s cheaper than Main Cabin, but some people actually claim that the airlines simply replaced what used to be “Economy” with Basic Economy and now sell the new Main Cabin seats at a premium. Basic Economy is not another seat class, but rather a reduction in services and conveniences. Some of these limitations include:

  • No PQD, PQM, PQS earning
  • No seat selection
  • Last boarding group
  • No seat upgrade
  • No full size carry-on luggage

There are more limitations, but these are the main ones. Keep in mind that the limitations vary drastically by carrier and you should really do your research before choosing Basic Economy. United has been heavily criticized recently, as they seem to impose the brunt of the new restrictions. I think Delta’s limitations are pretty fair and my only real limitation was that I did not fully get to select my seat.

 

Delta Basic Economy

The ticket itself was $359.60, which wasn’t too bad, given that the flight was over the 4th of July weekend. I ended up paying just $259.60 because I still had a $100 Delta voucher that was getting ready to expire and I’m awaiting on another $100 credit from American Express as part of my Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum card sign-up bonus. So in all, the flight will have set me back $159.60 once everything is said and done. Not bad, as I would’ve had to spend roughly 9 hours in holiday traffic each way as an alternative, and had probably spend that same amount of money in fuel cost and on food and drinks.

In return for my investment in Delta, I earned 1,465 base miles, 2,016 MQMs, 4 MQSs and $293 in MQDs. That actually made this trip a pretty decent mileage run. That was not my intent, as I was visiting a good friend, but I am not complaining. Had I flown on United Basic Economy, I wouldn’t have earned anything past the base miles. Here are the limitations Delta imposes on Basic Economy fares, directly from Delta.com:

“With Basic Economy, you will not receive a seat assignment until after check-in or at the gate. Passengers traveling together, including families, may not be seated together. You will not be eligible for same-day changes or ticket refunds after the Risk Free Cancellation Period. You will board in the last zone and not be eligible for paid or complimentary upgrades or preferred seats, even with Medallion® Status.”

Again, if you check the United website, you will see the exact same restrictions, and then some. For instance, Delta uses the words “may not be seated together“, United uses the words “will not“. Subtle, but I think potentially significant differences.

Still had all window seats

My Experience

My experience with Delta Basic Economy was actually rather pleasant. The Delta website states that seat selection is not possible until after check-in or at the gate. Well, it’s definitely at the gate. The ticket agent who checked my bag even tried to assign me a seat with his gate agent ID, but wasn’t able to. Kudos, by the way, for trying. At this point I’d like to point out that with Basic Economy, you’re still eligible for two complimentary checked bags when presenting your military ID at the counter. You are also still eligible for one checked bag as a SkyMiles credit card holder. Either way, after a quick stop at the USO lounge to grab a few snacks I made my way through security. PHF does not have TSA PreCheck, but PreCheck members still receive an “Expedited Screening” process. It’s basically the same as TSA PreCheck, except that you still have to remove laptops from bags. The only real hold up was the person in line in front of me who’s driver license had been expired for 4 years.

Once at the gate, I was finally able to have my seat assigned. I was actually asked if I’m interested in an exit row seat. I said yes, of course, and was given an exit row window seat for free. Didn’t complain one bit. I was also booked for Zone 1, as part of my SkyMiles Platinum Amex benefit. That was a surprise, because as part of Basic Economy restrictions, you’re supposed to be in the last boarding zone. Unfortunately, the agent wasn’t able to assign me a seat for my connecting flight and told me I’d have to do it at the gate in ATL. The flight was on a CRJ-900 and the exit row seat offered more than enough legroom. The window was slightly offset, but that didn’t really bother me. Once in ATL, I changed concourses and headed to the nearest SkyClub. There too, the rep was unable to assign me a seat, so I decided to try again once I’m at the gate. I had an almost 3 hour scheduled layover, plenty of time to relax and refuel.

delta basic economy

More than enough legroom on the CRJ-900

I finally received my seat assignment at the gate, unfortunately without any choice of seats and it ended up being a “window” seat in the very back. “Window”, because there would be no window in the back of my aircraft. Kind of a bummer, but it’s only a 40 minute flight from ATL to SAV, so I didn’t care. I did care about our flight being delayed. Turned out that our planned MD-88 had mechanical problems and was being replaced with an A319. But the unplanned aircraft had to still be de-fueled for the route. An airplane can actually have too much fuel for a projected route and amount of passengers, which could result in a hard landing.

Once on the plane, I made my way to my window-less, non-reclining seat in the back. It was a full flight with one exception: the seat next to me. Not surprising, who wants a middle seat all the way in the back of the plane? Anyway, I did not mind one bit. There was another slight delay because the de-fueling had caused a fuel imbalance, so the pilot had to burn fuel in one wing before we took off.

Always a nice place to relax: Delta SkyClub

My return flight was very similar, with the exception that I received both seat assignments at the gate in SAV and not the choice of an exit row seat. Also noteworthy was that I was never able to get a mobile boarding pass for either of my connecting flights. Wasn’t a big deal, just a bit strange. I did receive one for both of my initial legs, and both immediately updated once I got my seat assignments at the gate.

 

Bottom Line

In all, it was noticeable that Basic Economy is new. No mobile boarding passes on connecting flights, inconsistent seat assignments, etc. Another thing I noticed was that all my seats were window (“window”) seats, without me even asking for one. I do have window seat selected in my SkyMiles preferences, but I was surprised that it was even taken into consideration (this is just an assumption). Also, if you’re a SkyMiles credit card holder, you will still enjoy Zone 1 boarding and a free checked bag. You can also carry a full sized carry-on bag on board with Delta, as well as a small personal bag. It also seems like you have a pretty good chance of landing a seat assignment in the very back. 2 out of 4 of the flight were in the very back. This is not really a bad thing, however, as those seem to be the safest seats on an airplane. I’ll definitely use Delta Basic Economy again, as it was actually a much more pleasant experience than my Delta Economy Comfort+ flight.

Have you experienced Delta Basic Economy, or any other Basic Economy?

 

  • It’s nice to know the Skymiles AMEX will still get you Zone 1 and a free bag. I wonder if this still applies if you don’t book the flight on that AMEX card.

    • Yes. Your SkyMiles number is tied to your Amex card. As long as you enter your SkyMiles number into the frequent flyer field, you’re all set and you can use any CC (or miles) you like for the actual purchase.