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Delta’s New “E” Basic Economy Fare – No Seat Assignments, Even For Medallions

by on March 22, 2012 · 25 comments

in Delta

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Earlier this week I wrote about potential changes to the Delta SkyMiles program that could potentially devalue how much SkyMiles are worth. In the newest news that go along with Delta’s plans to align benefits with the amount of money you spend, the airline has announced that it is introducing a new Basic Economy fare for domestic flights between Detroit and Orlando, Ft. Myers, Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa, and possibly (read: likely) to expand to other markets in the future.

According to Delta, the new Basic Economy fare is “ideal for travelers who seek the lowest fare option, do not intend to make changes and do not consider seat choice an important part of their travel experience.”

You can check out the complete fare rules on Delta’s website, but I thought I’d run through a few of the more salient ones below.

Not Included
The new fare, coded as “E” class of service, will be non-refundable (most non-refundable coach fares are able to be changed or cancelled with a $150 penalty), are combinable only with other E fares (meaning it’s all or nothing, so all segments must be E class, or no segments can be E class), and there will be no advanced seat assignments until time of check in, even for elite members/ Medallion members will be auto-assigned a seat at check-in, and if a Preferred Seat is available, they will get it. However, once assigned, you can’t make changes even for a fee! Way to crack the whip, Delta.

While Medallions can’t pick seats, these fares are eligible for complimentary upgrades and the fare rules state that Same Day Standby and Same Day Confirmed will both be available. Passengers who purchase E class fares will still receive 100% base miles and MQM’s for miles flown, and elites will still earn their usual Medallion bonuses.

Passengers who book Basic Economy will still be able to purchase extras like a WiFi pass, priority boarding, luggage, and the Mileage Booster.

I priced out a sample itinerary late in April from DTW-MCO just to check out what happened, and sure enough the new E class came up in a third column of pricing titled “Basic Economy.” For this particular itinerary, it was a measly $12 cheaper. Frankly, I’d rather pay the extra few bucks and be assured of a seat assignment I liked. Though I completely understand there are scores of leisure travelers who don’t care (and won’t pick a seat anyway) and would rather have the extra cash in their pocket.

You only save $12 on this fare from Detroit to Orlando.

I like how Delta clearly separates these fares so people don’t accidentally book them. I think this could make them more competitive on ultra-leisure routes where price is everything.

I do however think this is a pre-cursor of more things to come and my hope is that they don’t erode the value of Medallion status or how SkyMiles can be redeemed. More to come, but I’ll be covering these developments as they arise!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Jody Nichols

    Thankfully I just looked and our corporate travel tool is still showing T as the lowest bookable fare.

    If that change we’re going to have problems.

  • Thomas

    TPG, you mentioned the Mileage Booster in the above pos…I’m booked next week for my first Delta domestic flight in a few months (been doing int’l travel of late), and looked online yesterday and saw the Mileage Booster for the first time. Thoughts on this being a good deal (6000 non MQM miles for $98)?

    (apologies if you’ve written about this in the past and I’ve missed it).

  • nsk

    It’s telling that this E class fare is being trialed on flights through the I-75 corridor, since this part of Florida is more populated with penny-pinching snowbirds from the midwest compared to the I-95 corridor.

  • duhmel

    Are restroom privileges included?

  • http://twitter.com/JeffGallino Jeff Gallino

    I hate the new website layout on delta, I think it is just a way to try to push first class, and they removed a lot of useful information from the screen and moved it to details so it is much harder to quickly choose a flight. For example if you search for a flight from boston to Seattle, you can fly through JFK, DTW, MSP or ATL. I can’t see the connection or the TIME of the layover in the returned view, i have to drill down on each. really annoying. anyone else?

  • Calborn

    I’m just a few inches shy of 7 feet tall, and frankly, there is no choice in coach for me other than exit rows (Just ask the person sitting next to me or in front of me for that matter). The seats that Delta designates as “preferred” often aren’t better choices than the non-preferred.

    Any idea or info as to how the preferred seats will be assigned at check-in? Is it random and strictly computer generated, first-come first-assigned where you can select at check-in if medallion, does a check-in agent have the ability to pick it? (I fly a lot in asia and on their domesitc airlines I usually end up with an exit row from a sympathetic gate agent even though I have no status) Anyone know or have any guesses? Wow, we really are going back 10 or 15 years on this.

  • DCA-SEA

    I’m fine with DL trying to compete with Spirit, as long as it’s transparent (unlike Spirit’s pricing).

  • Andrew L

    I don’t understand the benefit for Delta. How do they make more money by not selling better seats or expensive flight changes? How does this let them sell the seats cheaper to compete with Spirit?

  • freqflyercoll

    This sounds like a way for them to determine who gets the middle seats. :-P You know people are going to pick this, especially leisure travelers, and then figure they can guilt trip someone into trading with them later…

  • milevalue

    Also with the new E fare, you will be required to help the flight attendants bus the trays at the end of each service. But for $12, in this economy, it’s good work if you can get it.

  • John

    You’re a little early , April Fool’s day isn’t for another 2 weeks :-)

  • KetchumResident

    It’s a good thing I’m handicapped with a service dog. At least I’ll get a chance at a good seat.

  • Mooper

    I can’t understand why anyone would complain about this. If losing seat choice doesn’t appeal, don’t book the fare. It is an option, not a requirement.

  • arcticbull

    1.63 cents per SkyMile is a bit much really… I’m not sure I’d pay more than 1.2 for them. They cost 1.1 during the last 100% transfer miles promo, for reference. It’s not an atrocious deal, but especially with the questions surrounding the future of the program, I’d hold off. They run better promos than this for buying miles relatively often.

  • Another unhappy Delta customer

    I agree. Their new website is aboslutely terrible. I hated the old website because it was slow and uninformative. This update is still slow and even more uninformative and takes up the entire screen with two flight choices. It makes it impossible to compare flight options. This is just one more strike against them and why I usually use Orbitz and tick ‘Narrow search to preferred airline’ to look for Delta flights.

  • http://www.clarkecomputer.com/ Charles Clarke

    Are these seats cheaper than economy used to be or are they creating a new bottom at the same price so you are really paying $12 or whatever more for the regular economy? They basically are selling the better seats by letting folks choose to pay the extra money for a seat choice.

    Though I think it will be interesting to see if those with enough status to regularly get upgraded choose to NOT pay the extra for a seat assignment. Why should they if they are going to get a different (and better) seat anyway?

    Another group that would benefit by not paying for a seat assignment are those booking late enough that only middle seats are available. If you see that you couldn’t pay to choose a better seat than that you would get assigned anyway, why pay?

    As the revenue folks think of new and creative ways for folks to differentiate themself by what they are willing to pay for, I think we’ll see more feature+ and feature- options.

  • FlyLocLA

    Haha, that reminds of a lady sitting in an economy middle seat in the row behind me while I was in a window seat in an exit row. She said that she prefers window seats and wanted to know if I’d mind trading with her… I started thinking “Is this lady serious? Not only does she want out of a middle seat but she also wants to move to an exit row…” but before I could even say anything, the burly guy in the exit row middle seat next to me said “You ain’t foolin’ no one! Take 10 seconds and pick your seat next time you book your flight.”

  • Drew

    That’s exactly what I was thinking, Jody. If E fares are only available on dl.com, then this is a hybrid of the WN model – which is fine with me. I rarely book there anyway. But if I have to attempt to discern fare class from my corporate TA’s crappy website… then I will be writing a letter… and possibly walking with my money.

  • AceTracer

    It’s becoming increasingly difficult to see you evangelize what is clearly the worst of the frequent flyer programs.

  • thepointsguy

    How is this evangelizing? I call delta out when they do stupid stuff. My personal pjilosophu is that even though they are less valuable miles than most other programs, there still is value there. Railing against them without providing insight into how to maximize doesn’t accomplish much in my opinion

  • Dakotagypsy

    The new website is absolutely horrible. I got frustrated trying to find a decent flight last week and finally gave up. Booked Southwest for the first time in years. Found out it wasn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. I flew a second SW flight last Friday and had another good experience. Hate to give up my Medallian status as I’m on schedule for Diamond this year but I just can’t tolerate the new web site. Tough decision but SW is looking better all the time.

  • Pingback: "Did you know...Delta's new sub-economy ploy means no more seat selection?" - ExpertFlyer BlogExpertFlyer Blog()

  • Fififlies

    Like you’d give up Diamond status just because you don’t like Delta’s website. I don’t think so.

  • ATL_Mark

    If you live in ATL like me you can’t really get away from flying Delta when shopping for cheapest fares but Delta customer service is the WORST. I hate Delta’s new website. I just checked in online for a flight for the first time since the overhaul and it is tedious and cumbersome. I don’t know if I’m checked in or not.

  • Manup

    If you don’t like their website offer a solution or quit bitching.

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