Delta Plans to Expand Use of Their Restrictive No Seat Assignment, No Change, No Upgrade Fares

Cranky Flier points out that with Delta’s rebranding of their cabins they’re going to be rolling out restrictive ‘basic economy’ fares into more markets.

Last week I wrote about Delta’s cabin rebranding efforts, but I failed to really grasp something that is likely going to become a big issue. The lowest fare, Basic Economy, is going to roll out into more markets and become much more restrictive. It’s structured in a way that virtually guarantees a segment of people who buy it are going to be really pissed off. Those who may not understand what they’re buying have no way to remedy their situation. Not even ultra low cost carriers like Spirit do that, probably because it doesn’t make financial sense to do it that way.

Delta’s ‘Basic Economy’ fares will no longer offer same-day confirmed changes or standby. They already don’t include seat assignments. And elites, regardless of status level, will no longer be able to upgrade on them.

These are fares that started out as a reaction to Spirit Airlines. Delta wanted to offer a product just as bad as Spirit’s. But Spirit lets you pay for a seat assignment. Delta won’t give you a seat assignment at all on these fares.

As I explained,

Delta customers flying routes where the airline competes with Spirit, beware. A Detroit-based flyer doesn’t just have to pay attention on their Florida trips, anymore, since Spirit is flying to Dallas, Houston, and Denver as well. In fairness, Delta does make it clear on their website what sort of fare is being booked.

Delta has minimum revenue requirements for elite status, so presumably customers fly on these fares are doing so only occasionally. Delta sees the customers as profitable enough to reward — just not all the time. A revenue-based program isn’t enough: they need to punish their most loyal flyers on individual trips, too.

What Cranky is saying, though, is that it will no longer just be Spirit routes.

And he points out that customers, especially booking through online travel agencies, may find themselves with these fares ($10 less than otherwise lowest price) without even realizing it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, sigh. Once again no sourcing here but you’re happy to smear Delta at every opportunity. The Basic Economy fares have been around awhile but in limited markets. There is no expansion in the works that has been made public or discussed by Delta. Crankly Flier is merely speculating that they will eventually roll out the E fares to more markets. Somehow you’ve taken another blogger’s speculation (which may or may not be justified, but that’s not the issue) and announced it as fact on your blog because you’ll publish anything anti-Delta.

    Jesus, Gary, at least do some fact-checking. There is ZERO newsworthiness to this post. Nothing is new here. Nothing has been announced.

  2. I am thrilled to bits with this news. We love the Delta “E” fares in our house. Rock-bottom price so we’re not subsidizing someone else’s baggage or elite benefits. Even though our family is usually separated in the plane in middle seats, every seat is basically like Economy Comfort compared to the seats we’d otherwise buy on Spirit Airlines. And since little Jimmy is only 2 years old, we usually end up switching for at least one aisle seat when he’s seated alone. Bravo, Delta. Bravo.

  3. @jose – yes I did, it’s a web security hole not ‘security’ in the traditional sense. Haven’t tested it myself but looks like an opportunity for random (not targeted) mischief, and one i’m sure will now get closed down quickly!

  4. This is pure speculation on Cranky’s part, plus you can be sure Delta won’t be leaving money on the table for long.

    Why do you constantly pick on Delta? I continue to maintain top status with the “Big 3” (albeit, I’m kissing UA goodbye after next year), and I prefer Delta. They must have some redeeming qualities, no? Maybe you should get a status match to Delta and give them a try for a year?

  5. @Nick: I challenge you to name one single bad prediction about Delta made in the last two years that was proven untrue? I recall Gary saying two years before Delta announced a revenue-based program was coming, and so many of the Delta apologists said he was way off base. Why would Delta waste so much money rolling out a branding scam if they weren’t planning on making it more widespread?

  6. Delta is looking at making money in every way it can and it has proven that it is only interested in customers paying big money day of travel only and does not care about you the times you try to save money with a cheaper fare.

    Delta didn’t announce 5 fare types if it didn’t plan to expand on all of them.

    While the article is speculative, I think it is right to point out that this is probably coming.

    I have no problem with people flying Delta, but don’t do it because of loyalty, because the second you’re not paying Top Dollar, Delta doesn’t give a crap about your business.

  7. @Gene I think Delta runs a great operation by US standards, better than their competitors. I don’t think the mileage program is as good as the rest of the airline.

  8. I predict Delta will start charging for carry-on bags that don’t fit under your seat on these restrictive fares at some point, like Spirit does. Why not?

  9. Gary – thanks for the info, this was news to me and probably to a lot of people who rarely fly DL. Very helpful to many who may think of defecting to DL as the grass is not always greener…

    What is most interesting here is that DL elites essentially have no status perks when it comes to these fares. Many airlines charge more for their best seats, but they still permit advance seating. Even WN allows you to buy up to early boarding.

    It is one thing to eliminate upgrades, but quite another to send a family of 4 into random middle seats. If I wanted that treatment I would fly Spirit.

    Another example of where shoddy treatment of elites on discounted leisure tix is going to backfire when they decline to purchase high rev business tix.

  10. Last week tried to use miles to upgrade. Not in the “correct” class. Moving up to the proper class was pricy enough to just purchase first class instead of dealing with 40,000 miles that would only cover half the trip (no upgrades available on the other half). It’s getting way to complicated, and time consuming to figure out what it costs for a flight.

  11. “they need to punish their most loyal flyers on individual trips, too.”

    Punish? C’mon. If you want more services, pay a higher fare. Simple as that. If you want cut rate – it is available. If you value pre-selecting a seat, then that option is always available to you (for a higher fare).

    There is no “punishment” here. Some customers demand lower fares – that is available. Some prefer certain accouterments – those are also available.

    You make the call.

    You like cheapest fare and a pre-assigned seat… you might consider linking to here…

  12. I agree with Judy, 100%. Though stuck in ATL, I plan to start looking into all my options. I’d rather change planes than not be permitted to choose my seat. That is just unacceptable, DL. I hope you lose all your casual fliers when this becomes widespread.

  13. I think that offering basic/basic fares with nothing but a seat on a flight is genius. All those people who don’t care about the other stuff will get a discount and they’ll take up the middle seats. The rest of us can pay for what we want, a very good idea. However, I can hear the basic/basic purchasers howling now when they want something they can’t have because “they didn’t understand”.

  14. If they are selling a ticket without a seat assignment to make their price appear cheaper than other prices quoted on the internet, they need to be fined or shut down fast. This is not fair. I want to know the actual price of any ticket I buy, and like the majority of people who are not 16 year olds with no health issues, I need to have a seat and to know where it is. I hope this is not true, but if it is true, it makes me happy that I started to avoid Delta. I already avoid other airlines where you have seat uncertainty such as Southwest.

  15. @judyserienagy Cheating the customer is not genius, it is theft. The gotcha society is a cruel and hateful one and not something that we should be supporting if we plan to live into our 40s or, dare I say, even older, because it’s gonna blow back on you.

    @Judy You sum it up perfectly: “It’s getting way too complicated, and time consuming to figure out what it costs for a flight.” Seems like a deliberate attempt to shut out lower/middle class people from flying, since we will be afraid to book trips not knowing what the “real” price will be. Do we want to go back to a world where only the rich can fly? I get it, airlines want to fly fewer people who are willing to pay more money and shed the rest of the customers — but is it good for society to shut down the freedom we once took for granted for all classes to travel freely?

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