Delta Introduces 'Basic Economy' Airfares

Delta Air Lines is now offering new economy class fares for Florida-bound travelers from their hub in Detroit. Dubbed 'Basic Economy,' the new airfares come with heavy restrictions and are only marginally cheaper than the next highest fare category.

Passengers check in for Delta Air Lines
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Passengers check in for Delta Air Lines

Travelers looking to book tickets on the carrier's website from Detroit to Orlando, Ft. Myers, Fort Lauderdale or Tampa will see this new fare category, which includes the following restrictions:

Non-refundable: No surprise here, really, as almost all of the lowest economy class fares carry the same restriction.

No changes: Whereas other nonrefundable fares allow changes - usually for a $150 fee plus any fare difference - this new category completely prohibits any type of changes. Think, "Use it or lose it."

Seats assigned at check-in: Even if you hold elite status with Delta , seats will only be assigned at the time of check-in.

On a positive note, this new fare category, which was launched last week, is eligible to accrue frequent flyer miles and upgrades are permitted.

For a weeklong trip from Detroit to Orlando in May, the Basic Economy roundtrip airfare offered to me on their website was $257.60, only $12 lower than a 'regular' economy fare of $269.60. A similar booking to Tampa yielded a basic fare of $229.60, $19 cheaper than the next highest fare.

This new category might be attractive to extreme price-sensitive travelers, but I will definitely continue to purchase fares that allow for advance seat assignments and the ability to change the ticket. It is unknown at this point whether or not Delta will roll this option out system wide, but given the industry trend of unbundling airline travel products is here to stay, I'd have to guess it's all but certain.