Ouch: Delta Cuts Basic Economy Mileage Earning

Ouch: Delta Cuts Basic Economy Mileage Earning

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Delta Air Lines is making some major changes to its basic economy fares, and SkyMiles members won’t be happy about this.

Basic economy fares will no longer earn miles, elite credits

Major changes are being made to Delta basic economy fares that are purchased as of December 9, 2021, for travel as of January 1, 2022. Specifically, Delta basic economy fares:

  • Will no longer earn redeemable Delta SkyMiles
  • Will no longer count towards Delta SkyMiles Medallion status, meaning they won’t earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs), Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs), or Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs)

This is a major policy change, because previously basic economy tickets earned miles and qualified for elite status at a similar rate to regular tickets, though that will no longer be the case. As before, Delta basic economy fares don’t let you assign seats until check-in, and aren’t eligible for upgrades. On the plus side, unlike United, Delta does let basic economy passengers bring a standard carry-on with them.

This is a major, punitive move. While Delta was the first of the “big three” US carriers to introduce basic economy, the airline has generally been the least restrictive with these fares. That will finally be changing, as Delta will have the strictest policy on basic economy fares when it comes to frequent flyer program earnings.

As a point of comparison:

  • American awards redeemable miles on basic economy fares, but doesn’t award elite miles; however, American does honor elite benefits on basic economy fares
  • United awards redeemable miles and Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) at the standard rate on basic economy fares; United honors select elite benefits on basic economy fares, like early boarding and a full size carry-on
Delta basic economy fares will no longer earn miles

Basic economy fares will be changeable for fee

Historically the biggest restriction with basic economy fares is that no changes and cancelation have been allowed. During the pandemic airlines have offered customers extra flexibility, and Delta even has a change fee waiver in place on basic economy fares through December 31, 2021.

What happens as of 2022? Delta basic economy fares will be changeable for a fee:

  • Basic economy fares within the United States, as well as to Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico, will be subjected to a $99 change fee
  • Basic economy fares from the United States to all other markets will be subjected to a $199 change fee

As you can tell, this new policy is better than the pre-pandemic policy, but not as good as the change fee waiver that has been in place during the pandemic. Given how inexpensive many basic economy fares are, there might not be much ticket credit left after the change fee.

Delta basic economy fares will be changeable for a fee

Bottom line

Delta is making major changes to basic economy fares as of 2022. The airline will no longer award redeemable miles or any elite qualification for basic economy fares, which is a major shift. In fairness, most frequent flyers probably already avoided these fares, given the lack of advance seat assignments and upgrades.

The other major change is that basic economy fares will be changeable for $99-199 fee. Before the pandemic no changes or cancelations were allowed, while during the pandemic a change fee waiver has been in place. This is a somewhat positive development, at least.

What do you make of these changes to Delta basic economy fares?

Conversations (32)
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  1. No Longer a Loyal Fan Guest

    Only discovered today that Delta doesn't aware freq flyer miles for economy. I didn't have a choice on seats, since my company purchased them and does not allow employees to fly anything but cargo. What is worse is that several of my co-workers were on other Delta flights going to the same destination and had their connecting flights canceled about 1hr before take off. They ended up spending the night in other places and didn't...

    Only discovered today that Delta doesn't aware freq flyer miles for economy. I didn't have a choice on seats, since my company purchased them and does not allow employees to fly anything but cargo. What is worse is that several of my co-workers were on other Delta flights going to the same destination and had their connecting flights canceled about 1hr before take off. They ended up spending the night in other places and didn't get to the destination until a day or so later. It was a nightmare. So despite being a loyal Delta fan for like 20yrs, I'm deleting my account and no longer going to ask for any flights on Delta. Delta really knows how to roll out the bad customer service and apparently is only for the elite crowd now.

  2. Joe Guest

    Boo
    I have no reason to remain loyal to Delta like when I would accumulate miles.
    2 calls to Delta for help in the last 2 weeks resulted in an 80 minute wait and 118 minute wait.
    Not acceptable. Going forward when booking an economy fair i will shop the other airlines and have no loyalty to Delta.

  3. Kristina Guest

    Very disappointed in Delta with this one. I have been a member of their program for many years. This is elitist and does not reward loyal flyers despite socio-economic background. Not everyone can regularly afford a standard international base fare of 900+ dollars, nor should anyone have to. Moreover, it shouldn't be necessary to buy a credit card, either (even though I have personally chosen to have one). On recent flights, their new "Premium Select"...

    Very disappointed in Delta with this one. I have been a member of their program for many years. This is elitist and does not reward loyal flyers despite socio-economic background. Not everyone can regularly afford a standard international base fare of 900+ dollars, nor should anyone have to. Moreover, it shouldn't be necessary to buy a credit card, either (even though I have personally chosen to have one). On recent flights, their new "Premium Select" seats have been all but empty aside from the handful of Comfort+ upgrades. Hope things revert back, but I suppose bottom line dictates all.

  4. Rob Guest

    Delta Airlines, once again showing complete arrogance and contempt towards your everyday consumer. The last time I check your airline needs all dollars coming in not just your medallion or first class passengers. As much as I enjoy my experience with this airline it's obvious we are invisible to them. I wish I knew they would make these changes to the sky miles program because I would not have gotten a Delta branded credit card....

    Delta Airlines, once again showing complete arrogance and contempt towards your everyday consumer. The last time I check your airline needs all dollars coming in not just your medallion or first class passengers. As much as I enjoy my experience with this airline it's obvious we are invisible to them. I wish I knew they would make these changes to the sky miles program because I would not have gotten a Delta branded credit card. It is a shame that it is more expensive to fly out of Delta home than any other location they service. It looks like the campaign to save the airline from the hostel take-over was not a benefit to the consumer. Atlanta needs more airlines to service Atlanta, competition brings the prices in line for your price conscious consumer.

  5. Eric Guest

    Airlines want to curate their elite members , and reward high yield loyal customers. It is unfair to have two customers with the same status competing head to head on upgrades and preferred seats , when one spends more money on your business and then other one is just a frequent flyer/ job related = cheapest ticket.

    1. Samo Guest

      There is another problem with frequent flyers in BE - most of those benefits cost money. No matter how much one flies with Delta in BE, ultimately it's unrealistic to provide good benefits on those fares. Some argue that even on BE, one may overal spend a lot of money per year with Delta - that's true, but that means flying a lot, therefore using benefits a lot.

      It's unrealistic to spend dozens of dollars...

      There is another problem with frequent flyers in BE - most of those benefits cost money. No matter how much one flies with Delta in BE, ultimately it's unrealistic to provide good benefits on those fares. Some argue that even on BE, one may overal spend a lot of money per year with Delta - that's true, but that means flying a lot, therefore using benefits a lot.

      It's unrealistic to spend dozens of dollars on FFP benefits for someone who pays 50 dollars for their ticket.

      There are three options here:
      - Cut benefits
      - Make status harder to get
      - Don't provide elite benefits on BE fares

  6. chris Guest

    So from here on, only occasions I will buy a delta ticket, would be when I have a delta GC I got for 20%+ off, or buy with miles.

    It's completely irrational to claim dollars from Basic ticket is somehow worth no loyalty reward. The skymiles program is getting worse by the day.

  7. George Romey Guest

    A few things:
    1. I would imagine most elites don't buy BE seats and those passengers that do aren't interested in loyalty programs
    2. As travel rebounds and eventually some return of business travel change fees will rebound again. Starting out on restrictive fares and for smaller amounts but will ultimately be back to $200
    3. AA will mostly certainly copy DL.

    1. chris Guest

      Is "AA will most certainly copy DL" supposed to be the defense for this pathetic move by DL?

  8. T H Guest

    And they wonder why I fly Sun Country, Southwest, American, ANYONE else but Delta despite being stuck in Minneapolis. I hope they lose 25% of their loyal customers!

  9. e30st Guest

    well, this is probably about me, and many other non-US skyteam flyers, who knew that delta's program is the sweetest spot to gain status. I have been platinum for years, with roughly $2000 per year spent on skyteam flights. No MQD requirements for non-US flyers, 100% status miles on Delta's close partners including AF/KL, it meant that I can earn platinum status with yearly 5 EU-US west coast returns in basic economy, which is usually...

    well, this is probably about me, and many other non-US skyteam flyers, who knew that delta's program is the sweetest spot to gain status. I have been platinum for years, with roughly $2000 per year spent on skyteam flights. No MQD requirements for non-US flyers, 100% status miles on Delta's close partners including AF/KL, it meant that I can earn platinum status with yearly 5 EU-US west coast returns in basic economy, which is usually around 400USD each. Totally understandable that they finally chagned this. I'll look after for other sweet spots, still there are many out there.

  10. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    A year or a year and a half ago, when planes were mostly empty and there was no real inflight service, buying basic economy on Delta was a bargain since at the time the seats were also blocked. This was especially true for aircraft with a 2×2 configuration.

  11. C Brown Guest

    Bottom Line. Don’t fly to earn elite status or miles. Just sit at home and figure out what Credit Card works out the best for Status and Miles. Its not a frequent flyer program anymore.

  12. SubwayNut Guest

    I used to buy and fly in BE all of the time, complete with our AMEX Platinum Cards for SkyClub Access. I would always check in late so a gate agents could assign us seats and there wasn't a single time (we asked at the gate a few times) that we weren't able to sit together, never got upgraded to Comfort Plus, got upgraded to Economy Plus and Main Cabin Extra on United and Americans...

    I used to buy and fly in BE all of the time, complete with our AMEX Platinum Cards for SkyClub Access. I would always check in late so a gate agents could assign us seats and there wasn't a single time (we asked at the gate a few times) that we weren't able to sit together, never got upgraded to Comfort Plus, got upgraded to Economy Plus and Main Cabin Extra on United and Americans Basic Economy Tickets at the gate plenty of times though. Don't know how much I care about the SkyMiles and if this will change my habits.

  13. Mike P Guest

    Even as a pax who never flies BE, I think this is a lousy shift (and didn't realize AA had changed from 50% EQM/S to 0% as well on basic).

  14. WarrenB Guest

    I have never bought an Economy seat at Delta. I’m guessing Delta did some homework and found out that none of their Sky Miles members (especially Medallions) are buying them either. For flights 3 hours or less, I almost always buy a Main and then take the upgrade to Comfort+. For longer flights, I usually buy Comfort+ and hope for an upgrade to first (happens about 25% of the time). I too will be interested...

    I have never bought an Economy seat at Delta. I’m guessing Delta did some homework and found out that none of their Sky Miles members (especially Medallions) are buying them either. For flights 3 hours or less, I almost always buy a Main and then take the upgrade to Comfort+. For longer flights, I usually buy Comfort+ and hope for an upgrade to first (happens about 25% of the time). I too will be interested to know what other medallions think about this? I bet we’ll hear they don’t buy Economy either?

    1. chris Guest

      I am gold medallion with delta for 3 years, I only buy BE. Nothing in main worth 50 bucks price difference for me.

  15. James Guest

    Good! Hopefully this leads to fewer BE tickets being purchased and the entire concept goes away. If you're a kettle wanting to travel at Spirit prices then you should receive Spirit service. Now if we can reverse the FCM trend and people stop paying Delta a premium for that pathetic FC service they might start serving real meals again, bring back PDB and actually hire some FA that are more concerned with service rather than...

    Good! Hopefully this leads to fewer BE tickets being purchased and the entire concept goes away. If you're a kettle wanting to travel at Spirit prices then you should receive Spirit service. Now if we can reverse the FCM trend and people stop paying Delta a premium for that pathetic FC service they might start serving real meals again, bring back PDB and actually hire some FA that are more concerned with service rather than being on their power trip barking nonstop mask reminders that would be just peachy.

    1. eponymous coward Guest

      If you think that cost cutting moves like removing marketing and promotional incentives to buy low cost Delta fares are a way for Delta to reduce first class monetization (which reduces revenue) and improve first class service levels (which increases cost), I have an excellent bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

      This is about improving their bottom line and thinking “these customers will take it and keep flying us”. Which is the same reason airlines...

      If you think that cost cutting moves like removing marketing and promotional incentives to buy low cost Delta fares are a way for Delta to reduce first class monetization (which reduces revenue) and improve first class service levels (which increases cost), I have an excellent bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

      This is about improving their bottom line and thinking “these customers will take it and keep flying us”. Which is the same reason airlines reduce first class service or upgrade space.

    2. David Guest

      You earn miles on $18 Spirit fares between Tampa and Atlanta. Perfect for someone who only travels with a backpack. And there is a way to avoid the middle seats on a full flight; wait to check in until a couple minutes before the one hour cutoff.

  16. Khatl Diamond

    So the end game for basic ec is finally revealed. When basic economy was launched, it was basically the lowest main cabin price, so little change, the service was broadly the same, and so it essentially represented the lowest main cabin price. Now with all the benefits gone, Delta will turn even more people to buying main cabin. In so doing, Delta has essentially managed to raise the average ticket price that will be paid....

    So the end game for basic ec is finally revealed. When basic economy was launched, it was basically the lowest main cabin price, so little change, the service was broadly the same, and so it essentially represented the lowest main cabin price. Now with all the benefits gone, Delta will turn even more people to buying main cabin. In so doing, Delta has essentially managed to raise the average ticket price that will be paid. Great way to increase average revenue per customer without really changing prices

  17. Anthony Diamond

    I’ve never bought a basic economy fare, but this seems like a pretty poor move on Delta’s part, airlines should be trying to get more casual customers engaged in the loyalty programs

  18. Santastico Guest

    Never booked it since the price difference is usually very small. I think these are attractive for people that fly for leisure and have no intent to have status or will ever have enough miles to use it for any redemption.

  19. No Name Guest

    A correction: United awards full PQP for basic economy but no PQF. The 50% earning you quoted above applied to PQMs from before the switch to PQPs.

  20. SQ51 Guest

    wonder how long until AA copies this

  21. DWT Guest

    Ironically, starting in 2022, Basic Economy fares are once again elite qualifying on AA.

  22. John Guest

    As most people reading this blog are gonna know, Delta has its strengths when compared to other US carriers.

    Even prior to this change, the FFP was a bit of a mixed bag, though. With the EQD waivers, I slightly favored the status qualification process over AA and UA. MQM still had a real meaning. And yeah, nobody loves flying Basic Eco. But if you were missing 10k MQM or whatever, you could do a...

    As most people reading this blog are gonna know, Delta has its strengths when compared to other US carriers.

    Even prior to this change, the FFP was a bit of a mixed bag, though. With the EQD waivers, I slightly favored the status qualification process over AA and UA. MQM still had a real meaning. And yeah, nobody loves flying Basic Eco. But if you were missing 10k MQM or whatever, you could do a TATL return in Basic Eco on the cheap. That's gone now.

    I also think it is very surprising they eliminate redeemable mile earning. Users of the DL FFP often complain about poor redemption value. You know, some of your fellow bloggers ridiculed what Delta calls a SkyMiles award promotion the other day. This announcement means they are enhancing not just on the "burn" but also on the "earn" side.

    Not happy about this at all.

    1. ARN_SEA New Member

      Agree this sucks on the 'earn' side. I bought the BE quite a lot actually. Normally $30 per ticket cheaper than main, but earned the same amount of miles as main. So for a family of 4 on a RT ticket it'd save about $240 vs main cabin.

      I see this as Delta slowly re-introducing change fees to all tickets. The phony advertising from the various airlines saying 'Change fees gone forever'. I think everyone...

      Agree this sucks on the 'earn' side. I bought the BE quite a lot actually. Normally $30 per ticket cheaper than main, but earned the same amount of miles as main. So for a family of 4 on a RT ticket it'd save about $240 vs main cabin.

      I see this as Delta slowly re-introducing change fees to all tickets. The phony advertising from the various airlines saying 'Change fees gone forever'. I think everyone knew it was only until the pandemic subsided...

      Had Gold status years ago with DL, but now I'm not finding value in any FF program...

  23. Ivan X Guest

    The whole point of Basic Economy is to have prices that seem competitive when looked at in aggregators, but making the whole proposition so unattractive that you shell out for an inflated price on regular economy. Next they’ll make you sit in the cargo hold, or charge for lav access.

    1. John Guest

      I think you might be breaking things down a bit too much. It is true that the airlines sort of suggest to you in the booking process "you do not want to book basic eco...it's too restrictive." However, the big legacy carriers have also implemented some changes over the last few years which make basic eco less punitive.

    2. Regis Guest

      Somewhat comparable to hotel resort fees. They get your attention with low fares but you are forced to pay extra at checkout. Jet Blue's basic economy comes without overhead bin space. Who travels carrying only a backpack that fits underneath the seat in front of you?

  24. Woolman Guest

    Expect the buy-ups to MC to be moderated, encouraging PAX to spend incremental revenue.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

C Brown Guest

Bottom Line. Don’t fly to earn elite status or miles. Just sit at home and figure out what Credit Card works out the best for Status and Miles. Its not a frequent flyer program anymore.

1
No Longer a Loyal Fan Guest

Only discovered today that Delta doesn't aware freq flyer miles for economy. I didn't have a choice on seats, since my company purchased them and does not allow employees to fly anything but cargo. What is worse is that several of my co-workers were on other Delta flights going to the same destination and had their connecting flights canceled about 1hr before take off. They ended up spending the night in other places and didn't get to the destination until a day or so later. It was a nightmare. So despite being a loyal Delta fan for like 20yrs, I'm deleting my account and no longer going to ask for any flights on Delta. Delta really knows how to roll out the bad customer service and apparently is only for the elite crowd now.

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Joe Guest

Boo I have no reason to remain loyal to Delta like when I would accumulate miles. 2 calls to Delta for help in the last 2 weeks resulted in an 80 minute wait and 118 minute wait. Not acceptable. Going forward when booking an economy fair i will shop the other airlines and have no loyalty to Delta.

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