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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Arik, who paid extra to get a flight benefit he didn’t need. Here’s what he had to say:

I recently booked a Delta flight and paid for a Main Cabin ticket. I don’t have Delta status and decided this was a better option than Basic Economy so I could avoid sitting in the middle. However, after booking the flight I looked at the seating chart and realized the plane only has two seats on either side. All the seats are window or aisle and I don’t have a preference between the two, so in this situation Basic Economy would have been fine.

I should have just booked the cheaper fare since I would still earn miles, I just wouldn’t be eligible for an upgrade (if I had status) or be able to choose my seat. In the future I’ll be sure to check the layout to see whether there’s a middle seat. Thanks, and I hope this helps other travelers!

Basic economy fares cost less, but they come laden with restrictions on seat selection, baggage allowance, ticket changes and more. That tradeoff may be worthwhile for price-conscious passengers who pack light and don’t care where they sit; as with any fare, the key is to know precisely what you’re getting (and not getting). Arik didn’t need the trimmings of a Main Cabin fare, and the flight experience in basic economy is the same if you have no shot at getting upgraded, so in his case it would have made sense to buy the cheaper ticket. Basic economy is also more palatable if you have a co-branded airline credit card, since your card benefits may compensate for those not included in your fare.

As a general rule, I recommend checking your aircraft layout and in-flight amenities before you buy a ticket. That will help you avoid mistakes like this one, and may also help you steer clear of seats with undesirable features (like limited recline or proximity to lavatories). You can view equipment and seating options during the checkout process, and visit Seatguru for photos and specifications of individual seats. The information there is sometimes outdated, but overall still helpful. If you want the full scoop, track down a flight review for even more details about what you can expect onboard.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Arik for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Know before you go.

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