Delta Eliminates Free Checked Bags On Some Transatlantic Itineraries

Filed Under: Delta

Delta was the first of the “big three” US carriers to roll out basic economy fares, which they did back in 2012. However, Delta’s basic economy fares come with significantly fewer restrictions than those basic economy fares offered by American and United (both of which just rolled out basic economy on a widespread basis earlier this year).

Delta’s basic economy fares offer no seat assignments until check-in, no refunds or ticket changes of any sorts, and no paid or complimentary upgrades to Comfort+, first class, etc.

Delta has been expanding basic economy to some longhaul international flights as well, though it looks like they’ve just added a more restriction on that front.

Delta has eliminated the free checked bag for those traveling on basic economy fares between the US/Canada and Europe/North Africa. This new policy applies for tickets booked as of December 6, 2017, for travel as of April 10, 2018.

Passengers on basic economy fares in these markets will have to pay the following fees:

  • 60USD/50EUR/75CAD for the first checked bag
  • 100USD/85EUR/120CAD for the second checked bag

Delta isn’t changing the baggage allowance for those booked on other types of fares. As before, other economy passengers continue to get one free checked bag weighing up to 50 pounds on these flights, while the second checked bag fee is 100USD, just as it would be on a basic economy fare.

This is a pretty noteworthy development. As far as I know it’s the first time that one of the “big three” US carriers is selling fares between the US and Europe that don’t include any sort of checked bags with the fare (someone correct me if I’m wrong). I suppose this development was inevitable, given how popular Norwegian, WOW Air, etc., have become.

While not all markets have basic economy fares, take a look at the below flight between New York and London, where a main cabin fare is $120 roundtrip more expensive than a basic economy fare. That’s exactly the same amount you’d pay for a first checked bag in both direction, so I guess they hope that people book main cabin so they can select seats, etc.

I’m curious to see how this works out, especially in a hyper competitive market like New York to London, where virtually all airlines compete on price, even those that require a connection. With American, British Airways, United, etc., all having the same or lower fares, it looks like Delta could lose some market share with such a policy. Then again, if history is any indicator, American and United will match in no time.

Let the transatlantic race to the bottom begin (or more accurately, continue?)!

What do you make of transatlantic basic economy fares with no free checked bags?

(Tip of the hat to @kevgutierrez & AJC)

  1. How will they work with Air France KLM As all flights are joint venture. They don’t follow suit therefore if sold as their flight or for virgin they matter , you still get a bag
    Elite plus get one anyhow

  2. Who travels from the states to Europe with NO bags!? I have serious questions about anyone that can go to Europe (AND IN ADDITION return) without any luggage. One thing I don’t understand is how airlines dictate what society is going to “accept” and everyone goes along with the program. If even 1/10th of society decided to boycott (delta in this case), that would change their business model so fast. You can’t run a business without customers. I’m sure United it right behind them with their decision to do the same.

  3. @ lucky In response to my question and as per Business Traveller AF KL will offer HBO “light” fares from 10 April. Aer Lingus and TAP already offer them

  4. Combined with the destruction of loyalty programs, bag fees like this means there are fewer and fewer reasons to ever select the legacy carriers. Why pick a crappy old AA 767 with no IFE or wifi when you can fly on a new 787 if it costs the same?

  5. Norwegian and Wow have never looked better. Round-trip to London is easily around $300 on Norwegian from NYC so it’s a no-brained.

  6. They don’t have to worry about the competition, the JV’s take care of that. I would be surprised if almost all the other carriers have not followed them by this time next year

  7. If you can’t travel for a week abroad with only a carry on luggage, you’re over-packing. One carry on and a backpack is more than enough for a week abroad.

  8. Just plain stupid… those prices are not competitive. Travelers who are looking for the cheapest prices most likely don’t mind a stopover somewhere if it saves them a decent amount of money. So that takes away the network advantages of DL & partners. I completely agree with rjb…

  9. And I assume that the default FFP redemption ticket on those routes will now be “Basic”, therefore not including a bag? Another devaluation of reward tickets in coach.

  10. @Icarus – AF/KLM has already followed suit with the same policy.

    In my opinion indeed one of the worst move. I guess this is something we have to accept in this free economy world and with LCC’s entering the market between US-Europe, there is nothing much that can be done unless Congress or the EU steps into this and by law make such options illegal.
    Sad to see how us customers are impacted by the open market and the different bankruptcy and take overs on both side of the Atlantic.

  11. How about Delta credit card holders that book these Basic Economy fares? do they still get access to free luggage?

  12. does delta gold skymiles amex feature a free bag on all delta flights or just on domestic? Question is: will the card get you out of paying for bags on those flights?

  13. @AJ I’ve been all over Europe for the past three months and I’ve got nothing but a carryon backpack… You’d be amazed at what you *actually* need to bring with you to travel… 2 pairs of jeans, joggers, 10 tee shirts (long and short sleeve), 2 weeks of underwear, a weeks worth of SmartWool socks (they’re antimicrobial and don’t ever smell—at least two days out of each pair), gym shorts, MacBook, camera and lenses… a 40L bag is plenty—I wish I could downsize to be honest!

  14. Don’t understand this competition between LCC and ULCC vs. legacies. The legacy airlines will never beat the LCC and ULCC when it comes to price, and the segment they’re competing in is extremely price sensitive. If you strip all the amenities and still cost more than LCC and ULCC, why would anyone fly with the legacy airlines?

  15. @Spruce Goods Sure. I agree. but everyone travels for different reasons. I am not going to be able to take a ski trip to Europe with a carry on. Sure, I can rent all my gear, but realistically why would I do that if I already own it all. In addition, some people use Europe as a transfer point to other flights. I am going camping in Africa later next year. I stopover for a week in Europe, but will have all my other gear with me. My point being is sure, you can make statements like that, but realistically there is no “one size fits all” traveler. We all travel for different reasons. So yes, if I am going to Paris for a week, I can take a carry on, but not everyone does that.

    I would say the thing that is most annoying about these fares is they are affecting people who do not even have competition from the LCCs that fly TATL. I am Denver based. Norwegian started flying here very recently to London, and soon to Paris. Those are more point to point flights, yet I am subjected to BE fares on Delta even if I connect on a flight. It makes little sense in my opinion. But I am sure that the internet trolls will point something out that I did not mention here. Such is life.

  16. So what exactly is the incentive to use the Big 3 instead of low fare carriers? Norwegian was selling LAX to LGW for $159 each way just last week. Why would I pay $700 + $60 for a bag when I could pay $60 for a bag and $159/each way? Puh-lease


  17. I recently paid 1000 euro’s for a roundtrip flight Amsterdam – Detroit (Economy) on Delta. It was one of their lowest fair classes. If they try to charge me for a f*cking bag for that price, I will smack the sh*t out of that ho.

  18. To be honest, I have always preferred legacy carriers and few years ago I could not imagine I will travel for a week within Europe with only hand luggage. Now it is common. I have finally realized travel is not so complicated without checked in baggage. Just remember, European carriers were following American with few years, I guess, delay with domestic baggage policy. I agree with Tom, this time harmonization will be very quick worldwide. Don’t forget, legacy carriers still can provide decent legroom compared to LCCs, but we can see also exceptions. It is true it is harder and harder to accept premium price for legacy carriers. It is said, but its time for everyone to travel. Lufthansa flies from Scandinavia to US for 260 EUR (return), without checked luggage certainly…

  19. Well, honestly, people who think transatlantic travel requires you to check a bag… I lived in Boston for a while, and people doing weekend trips to Paris, London, and Amsterdam were normal. They’d never check a bag, book the cheapest fair, leave Friday, get there early Saturday morning, and leave Monday in the early afternoon. That’s two nights, which is easy enough to do out of a carry-on sized bag.

    The people whining about needing those checked bags, well, it’s usually the people who can afford paying the fees or purchasing a higher fare ticket.

  20. @Andy:

    I had to chuckle at your reasonings. I mean, I understand exactly what you’re saying in response to @Spruce Goods, but I giggled thinking about someone who’s going skiing in the Alps or camping in the Serengeti complaining about how they have to pay to check their skis/boards and their tents and mosquito netting.

  21. It will be fascinating to see if other carriers follow. The smart thing would be for AA/BA/UA/LH etc to maintain full service and leave Delta to lose market share. Which of course means AA will probably probably introduce this next week…

  22. This is going to confuse a lot of non-American travelers who are not familiar with basic economy, especially if travel agencies are selling the tickets. That being said, offering basic economy isn’t unreasonable if you consider how short some transatlantic flights are.

    I always avoid U.S. carriers for transatlantic flights unless using miles anyway. Their fares are rarely competitive.

  23. Booking paid flights to Europe yesterday and I noticed this. Very disappointing. Booked with Air France and they too had it. It was the first time I had seen that. The new normal I guess.

  24. So many Asian airlines are flying from Hong Kong, Taipei to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver at USD350 to USD400 round trip including 2 free checked bags and full meal service, and they still make profits

  25. @AJ
    I made seven trips this year to Europe with just a carryon and a backpack. I haven’t checked a bag in the past five years and over 400,000 miles. And frankly, no one has ever asked me “serious questions” about my lack of baggage, checked or otherwise.


    This article is abouot bag charges, not about YOUR condesscension.

  27. @David, got it right.
    As the legacy carriers devalue loyalty and try to compete with the LCCs, at some point they will have neither their loyal customers nor the LCC market.

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