When you're looking for a budget flight on Delta Air Lines, chances are good you'll choose to fly Basic Economy. This class of airfare comes at the lowest price, but you’ll have to make some trade-offs for these seats, including accepting many restrictions that affect your travel experience.
Thankfully, it’s possible to fly Delta Basic Economy to make your trip affordable while still finding ways around some of the limitations that come with these cheap tickets. You just need to know the right approach, such as joining Delta's loyalty club or getting one of the Delta credit cards that offers perks.
This guide will help you understand more about what it means to get a basic economy ticket and provide you with some tips on how you can improve your flying experience, even when you're opting for tickets at a budget price.
What is Basic Economy on Delta Airlines?
When you fly on most airlines, there are different classes of seats. Even within the main cabin, there may be different fare classes, each with their own perks, benefits, and limitations.
On Delta, Basic Economy is it’s most budget-friendly fare class. While you still get a seat in the main cabin, you give up some amenities when you fly on Basic Economy.
You still get a complimentary snack and a non-alcoholic beverage at no cost, and you're still able to watch movies and shows if your flight offers in-flight entertainment. You even get a complimentary carry-on bag, although that bag may be gate checked if space is limited.
But amenities you aren’t eligible for include:
- A free checked bag: You'll have to pay to check your luggage; Delta baggage fees varying depending on the weight of your bag and your destination, but are typically around $30 for your first bag.
- A seat assignment in advance: You'll have your seat assigned to you after you check in, and you don't get to pick where you sit unless you pay extra in advance.
- The opportunity to change your ticket: You're not permitted to upgrade your ticket or make other changes after you book. You also aren't entitled to a refund if you need to cancel after an initial 24-hour risk-free cancellation period
- The ability to pay for Priority Boarding: You can't get onto your flight early by paying for Priority Boarding if you've bought a Basic Economy ticket.
How to make Delta Basic Economy seats suck less
While Basic Economy comes with lots of restrictions, some of them can be avoided if you employ smart strategies. See which of these options, if any, are right for you.
Become a Delta Medallion Elite member or a SkyTeam Elite Member
Delta Medallion Elite and SkyTeam Elite members can get special perks that make flying Basic Economy a better experience. These include:
- Priority check-in
- Priority boarding
- Waived fees for checked bags
Despite your Elite status, however, you aren't eligible to make changes to a Basic Economy ticket, and you’re not eligible for paid or complimentary upgrades to Preferred Seats even with Medallion or SkyTeam status.
You can become a Delta Medallion member by joining the Delta SkyMiles program and by fulfilling certain requirements to earn Medallion Status. You could even match your status from another airline if you’re eligible.
The miles you need to earn status on Delta and the perks you benefit from depend on which Medallion level you are. For example:
- Silver status can be earned with 25,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles or 30 Medallion Qualifying Segments. You'll also need $3,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars unless you qualify for a waiver.
- Gold status can be earned with 50,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles or 60 Medallion Qualifying Segments. You'll also need $6,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars unless you qualify for a waiver.
- Platinum status can be earned with 75,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles or 100 Medallion Qualifying Segments. You'll also need $9,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars unless you qualify for a waiver.
- Diamond status can be earned with 125,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles or 140 Medallion Qualifying Segments. You'll also need $15,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars unless you qualify for a waiver.
While there are big differences between the perks at each level — for example, Gold and Platinum status allow priority access to security lines, but Silver status doesn't — you can't take advantage of many of the perks with a Basic Economy ticket.
If you're a SkyTeam member and have special status with partner airlines, it's also possible to gain Medallion Status with Delta.
Get a Delta credit card
If you have a Delta-branded credit card, these are some of the best airline credit cards for frequent Delta flyers. Further, your card may come with perks that could help you sidestep some of Basic Economy’s drawbacks. Though you still won’t be able to select your seats in advance without added fees, you could get the following perks — even in Basic Economy. But, if you don't use Delta often, these may not be the best travel credit cards for you. See all the perks of Delta credit cards here.
|Card||Basic Economy perks||Other Delta perks||Annual fee|
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||
||$0 intro annual fee for the first year, $99 per year thereafter (Terms apply)|
|Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card||
||$250 (Terms apply)|
|Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card||
||$550 (Terms apply)|
FAQs about Delta Basic Economy
Do you get a carry on with Delta Basic Economy?
When you fly Basic Economy with Delta, you are entitled to a free carry-on bag. However, overhead space is limited and because you board late, you may be unable to find space. If this happens to you, your carry-on could be gate checked at no cost to you.
What is the difference between main cabin and Basic Economy on Delta?
Basic Economy tickets provide the same general experience as other main cabin tickets, including standard reclining seats as well as a sleep kit provided on long-haul flights.
But there are some key differences. For example, main cabin members can pick a seat prior to check-in while Basic Economy flyers cannot. Main cabin members will also board before Basic Economy flyers.
When can you check in to Delta Basic Economy?
Like other tickets, you can check into your flight up to 24 hours in advance. However, you will still be the last to board when you buy a Basic Economy ticket. You will also not be given a seat assignment until after you check in and, if seating is limited, it’s possible you will not be given an assigned seat until you are at the gate shortly before boarding.
Can I change a Delta Basic Economy ticket?
Delta Basic Economy tickets cannot be changed and you are not entitled to a refund if you cancel your ticket after an initial 24-hour risk free period right after you book your ticket. You cannot upgrade your ticket later either, even with SkyMiles Medallion status.
Can you upgrade from Basic Economy on Delta?
You are not eligible for either paid or complimentary upgrades with a Basic Economy ticket on Delta. You are also not permitted to pay for Priority Boarding to get on the plane early. Even Medallion Status won't entitle you to an upgrade or preferred seat.
Basic Economy saves you money — but there are tradeoffs
Basic Economy tickets undeniably provide substantial savings. Plus, you can mitigate some of the downsides, such as no free checked bag, by getting a Delta credit card or becoming a Medallion Member.
Unfortunately, certain limitations of a basic economy ticket — such as an inability to upgrade seats or make changes to your flight — can't be overcome. You'll need to decide if you're willing to accept this in exchange for getting a cheaper ticket when you book your flight.
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