Delta Basic Economy Spreading To Transatlantic Flights

Filed Under: Delta

For quite a while Delta has been offering Basic Economy fares. Here’s how Delta describes this “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 after check-in, pending availability and limited Medallion® benefits.

Currently, Basic Economy is only available in select markets, but look out for it on more flights soon.  More flexibility including the ability to select an available Main Cabin seat at booking is available with the Main Cabin product.


Airline revenue management is in the business of segmenting consumers as much as possible, in order to get everyone to pay as much as they can for a ticket. They do this by offering several types of seating options, all kinds of add-ons, minimum stay requirements, etc.

Part of that is competing with low cost carriers, even ones like Spirit. That’s why Delta originally introduced these Basic Economy fares. Specifically, Basic Economy fares come with the following warning at the time of booking:


Since the intent was to compete with low cost carriers, these fares have only been available in very limited markets, typically also ones served by low cost carriers. At least officially, the intent has never been for Basic Economy to become the new standard entry level fare.

However, we’ve slowly seen Basic Economy fares spread, to the point that Basic Economy fares now seem to be available for select transatlantic flights as of next summer. Via Points, Miles & Martinis, Delta is selling Basic Economy fares between Salt Lake City and Paris, and this offering will expand to other international routes soon. I’m not sure if this is actually brand new, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it.

In the below instance, the Basic Economy fare between Salt Lake City and London is $2,427 roundtrip, while the normal economy fare is just $40 more roundtrip:


In theory Basic Economy doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s a further product offering which allows people to pay for exactly what they want. However, that assumes that Basic Economy pricing isn’t impacting the normal economy pricing.

Long term I think Delta’s plan is to make Basic Economy the new standard as much as possible, by making that the entry level ticket cost, and then charging more for economy fares without those restrictions.

Bottom line

I view Basic Economy much the same way I view the new premium economy that American is introducing. In and of itself it’s a positive new addition, as it gives consumers more options. However, inevitably over time it changes the landscape and basically means you end up paying for something which was previously free. In the case of premium economy, my concern is that economy to business class upgrades will no longer be possible, for example.

I’m not sure I get the rationale of offering Basic Economy on transatlantic flights, in particular on routes like Salt Lake City to London, where Delta is the only carrier. It would be one thing to offer them on routes also operated by airlines like Norwegian, but on a route where they’re charging $2,000+ and are the only carrier? Hmmm, that doesn’t seem to be within the spirit of what Basic Economy is meant to be.

What do you make of Basic Economy expanding to transatlantic flights?

  1. I’m certainly nervous that I am seeing them show up on domestic flights through my corporate travel portal. Given that my employer is probably the top business customer at Delta (or at least one of top few) it is scary to think they try to force me into a situation where to pick Delta, I have to give up my Medallion perks and mileage earning. The portal is obviously smart enough not to let me go to a higher fare class on the same flight. Surely, someone at Delta will realize that this will cause business people to book away if that happens as I can at least earn miles on AA or UA or JB even if I don’t currently have status.

  2. As PM, that $40…. For $40 dollars less… I get to sit in the back of a plane… Probably in a middle seat… A comfort+ upgrade costs a lot more than $40 and to be able to access it for free… I’ll take regular.

  3. The portal is obviously smart enough not to let me go to a higher fare class on the same flight.

    I doubt your travel department would do that. Recruiters would pounce and poach your best road warriors when corporate travel announced that everyone would now be sitting in 22E.

  4. $40 savings on a $2,400 fare?!!! Ummmmm

    Anyone that doesn’t have their head screwed on backwards would never choose a $40 savings when they are already forking out $2,400 for a coach seat on an 8+ hour flight.

    I never understood these Delta E fares because the savings are never significant and are usually not competitively priced against the likes of Spirit. For example, when I lived in MSP Spirit to LAS often could be had for around $130 round trip where Delta would charge upwards of $300+ for an E fare. This in no way competes with Spirit’s pricing, even once you add on bag and seat fees to the $130 Spirit fare.

  5. Not sure why anyone would pay that price to SLC non stop from LHR – Just fly into LAX, SFO, or SEA for almost half the price and then book an internal flight.

  6. The folks at Delta are delusional
    I was planning to buy thousands of dollars in full fare business class tickets to return to the US from Tokyo next month
    We will purchase them today from Japan Airlines instead and post to American or BA
    Almost everything Delta does with its business behavior and frequent flyer program continues to be so negative it stops me dead in my tracks from doing business with them
    They have destroyed frequent flyer programs as we know them and even damaged indirectly other carriers programs due to their greed and the very nature of the monkey see monkey do world of how airlines and their programs operate
    They forget that they are building relationships through their ff program and their customers
    They have alienated me to the point of no return. The long negative list isn’t worth reciting here
    Delta already holds the record for stingy on award redemption seats at fair and reasonable redemption value.I will do whatever it takes to avoid flying them in Premium cabin or discount economy
    That extends to my business colleagues, conferences family and friends
    Loyalty is not a one way street

  7. i flew dtw-las on a basic economy fare. Flight filled up, no seat at checkin, at gate got bumped to economy comfort. suckers.

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