I Finally Booked A Basic Economy Flight: It Just Made Too Much Sense

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Delta devalued their program this week. Find out the details below.

Booking Basic Economy Made Too Much Sense For Me Not To

We are going to talk about those dirty little words, basic economy.  They carry the same disdain from travelers that words like Spirit and Frontier do. They are words that leave frequent flyers quivering in fear of that last row middle seat.  Okay, so maybe I am being overly dramatic but I have avoided basic economy for as long as possible. But, it finally got to the point that booking basic economy made too much sense and I couldn’t avoid it any longer.  I will share why it made sense to me and when it may, or may not, make sense for you.

Basic Economy Yellow Tape

Here are the rules that are unique to basic economy when flying Delta. In Basic Economy you’ll experience:
  • Complimentary carry-on bag. Overhead bin space may be limited, so your carry-on bag may be gate checked free of charge
  • Checked bag fee applies depending on the route. Please visit our Baggage and Travel Fees page for details
  • Seat assigned after check-in
  • Ticket changes or upgrades are not allowed*
    • Ticket changes or refunds not allowed after the Risk-Free Cancellation period. Basic Economy travelers are not eligible for paid or complimentary access or upgrades to premium seats, including to Delta Comfort+® or Preferred Seats.
Here are the rules for the new cancellation and waiver rules as well:

For Delta tickets purchased in 2021 (after the expiration of our Peace-of-Mind Purchasing waiver for all travel purchased through March 30, 2021), we’ve eliminated change fees and Award redeposit fees permanently for Delta tickets purchased for travel originating from North America to anywhere in the world (excluding Basic Economy fares).

Delta 737-900 economy cabin.

Upcoming Delta Flight

I shared over the weekend how I was able to change my Delta flight for free with their recent rule changes.  The process was quick and easy and completely done on Delta’s site. While I was picking out my new flight I ended up going with basic economy instead of main cabin.  Even though the flight I was changing was a main cabin booking the new flight in basic economy made too much sense for a few reasons.


The first, and probably most important, reason was the price.  My new flight had a price difference of $70 between main cabin and basic economy.  That was on top of the $50 I needed to already pay in fare difference between my flights.  I wasn’t too excited about forking over $120 more to make my changes so basic economy was looking like the best option.  Price wasn’t the only reason but it was the biggest one in my decision process.

Flight Time

The flight is only a little over two hours and it is direct.  For a short direct flight I think basic economy can make a lot of sense.  If you are not on the plane very long what does it really matter?

Blocked Middle Seat

This was probably the second biggest part of my decision making process. Since Delta is still blocking middle seats I know I wouldn’t get stuck in one as lowly basic economy flyer.  I don’t really care if I get aisle or window, both are a win in my book, and this guaranteed I would get one of those two.  No point in paying more if you are going to get it anyway.

Flight Is Fast Approaching

I already had to change the flight once because of an unexpected move by my parents.  And with the departure date fast approaching there is a very minimal chance I would need to change it again.  In the future basic economy will be exempt from the free changes so that is something to be aware of.  I didn’t think that would play a role in my decision making process this time around.

Still Earn Elite Credits

The really cool thing about basic economy, at least with Delta, is I will still earn Skymiles and MQMs like I would for a main cabin ticket (lower left in the picture above).  I am shooting for low tier Delta status this year with my rollover from 2020. With a mix of credit cards and flights I hope to get there and knowing that this flight would count helps out in that goal.

When It Doesn’t Make Sense To Book Basic Economy

This worked out perfectly for my situation but there are times when it won’t make sense for sure:

  • When middle seats are not blocked and choosing a seat (especially during Covid) makes a big difference to you.
  • If you already have status booking basic economy eliminates all of the perks you would have received in main cabin like upgrades etc.
  • If your travel plans are not 100% solid then I would stay away because the free changes will not apply in the future to basic economy bookings.  This is best suited for last minute flights etc.
  • If the price difference isn’t substantial enough to make it worth it.

Final Thoughts

Booking basic economy doesn’t always have to be a bad thing and it can make a lot of sense in certain circumstances. For my upcoming flight it was a perfect fit.  When considering Delta guaranteeing me a good seat, the cost savings and the flight duration I really had no other choice but to grab it.

Basic economy will not always be the best choice though and there are things to consider for sure.  If your travel plans are not firm or if you already have airline status you may want to avoid it. And, to be honest, that is exactly how they get you with loyalty programs.

What about you? Have you ever booked basic economy? Would you do it again?

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. I think the Peace-of-Mind Purchasing waiver for all travel purchased through March 30, 2021 is the big key with BE on Delta, especially given the increasing price difference for Main Cabin. My spouse and I have flown Delta almost exclusively for some mountain west ski trips due to the blocked middle seats and convenience of the Salt Lake City hub. If there are two people on the same itinerary, my experience is they will assign you in the same row together (ie. 24A, 24C). Even if you are on separate itineraries, check the seat map as soon it hits 24 hours before the flight for check-in. Even though you will be auto assigned a seat there is a good chance you can find a row with both seats open. As you pointed out Mark, Delta BE is best on non-stop flights as you will be auto-assigned a seat a check-in. If you have a connection, then you will need to see the gate agent for a seat assignment on the connecting flight. We have had no problem sitting together in Main Cabin on any flights. Now that the new year hit, I booked another BE Delta flights with leftover eCredits and my Hilton Aspire to get great use of my AMEX airline fee reimbursement. With the Delta Amex Gold to check my skis and boot bag for free, I am definitely happy with my experience with Delta BE during this time.

    • Maurice I was able to change my seat on my first flight to a row by myself and two empty rows on either side of me. I don’t think many people realize you can change the assigned seat with BE – it is a nice plus with Delta for sure.

  2. I haven’t flown BE on DL. However, I have flown it on American and there are couple of things I’d like to add if you have elite status. First of all you can pick a seat for no cost in advance. Next you can check a bag for free (if you need to). Lastly you board w your elite group (which eliminates the concern about finding room for a carry on). Not sure if DL let’s you get a seat in advance but know elites am an board w their group based on status there as well.

    Overall for someone like me who is lifetime elite BE is a no brained since all I really give up is earning FF miles which don’t matter that much due to my status and having around a million miles in my account.

  3. I also booked my first Basic Econ fare on DL as a Platinum Medallion last week. Since Delta’s in-flight service is pathetic right now getting an upgrade to First Class as an elite doesn’t mean much since I know I’ll have an empty middle seat on my A320 (3×3 seating) flight. Now once Delta eliminates seat blocking and starts serving something besides water and hard liqour on my 6AM flights I might reconsider. It’s a joke that Delta considers vodka at 6AM safe but a can of juice spreads the Covid. Stop using Covid as an excuse to cut costs Delta and just be honest.


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