October 3, 2023

Delta Airlines Basic Economy vs. Main Cabin vs. Comfort Plus: All you need to know

Delta also has a page explaining Basic Economy fares besides this popup when booking. You should confirm these things there, but I want to highlight the major differences as they stand at the moment.

Delta Basic Economy Flight changes

Delta’s 24-Hour Risk-Free Cancellation policy applies to all tickets purchased directly from Delta, including Basic Economy fares. Your ticket can be canceled up to 24 hours after booking without incurring any change or cancellation fees and you will receive a full refund. 

Generally, Basic Economy tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable. In the event of a ticket cancellation before departure, you will receive an eCredit minus the cancellation fee and the remaining value will be applied to a future Delta flight.

It is also not possible to change or refund Basic Economy Award Tickets in most cases; you can cancel for a charge in miles that will be deducted from the value of your ticket, and the remaining miles will be refunded back to your SkyMiles account.

Delta Basic Economy Flight Cancellation

As per Delta Cancellation Policy, you must pay a penalty of 200 USD if you want to cancel, and you will receive a credit on the remaining value of your ticket. You should keep in mind that most Basic Economy tickets will cost less than this.

Nevertheless, passengers flying into and out of the United States may cancel their reservation free of charge within 24 hours of purchase, provided that the departure date is at least 7 days away.

Difference between Delta Basic Economy and Main Cabin Fares

Delta’s basic economy and Main Cabin flights differ in a few ways. We’ll take a look at a few key comparisons.

Checked bag policy

First checked bags (under 50 pounds) are $30 for domestic Delta Main Cabin travelers. You will have to pay $40 for your second bag. However, there is a workaround: if you have a Delta credit card, if you have Delta Medallion elite status, or if you are active duty military, you can check one bag for free. Carry-on policy

Both Main Cabin and Basic Economy tickets follow the same policies. One carry-on bag and one personal item are complimentary in Delta’s Basic Economy class. However, if overhead bin space is limited, your carry-on bag might be checked at the gate for free. If you don’t need anything in the bag, this is a great way to get a free “checked” bag in case of loss (e.g., prescriptions or glasses).

Change and cancellation policies

Delta Basic Economy fares cannot be changed or canceled after the 24-hour risk-free cancellation period. Upgrades to premium seats, such as Delta Comfort+ or preferred seating, are not available for these fares.

Boarding

Delta basic economy fares do not allow you to pay for preferred boarding and you will be placed in the last boarding group. If you have a Delta credit card, you’ll still get priority boarding even when flying Basic Economy.

Seat selection

The option of selecting your seat for a fee is available if you are concerned about your seat. Delta Medallion Members do not have to pay that fee. Seat selection is only available within seven days of departure, and you’ll have to pay for every leg of the trip, so connecting flights can quickly add up. EntertainmentThere are complimentary entertainment options in both Main Cabin and Basic Economy seats, including music, games, and HBO and Showtime. There is no difference in the onboard experience.

Food and beverage

Both experiences include free snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. Alcoholic drinks can be purchased onboard for an additional fee.

Overview of Delta’s Classes of Service

Delta offers several types of service on different flights and to different types of travelers. For a better understanding of how Basic Economy and traditional Main Cabin fit together, it’s vital to review these class offerings.

First Class

On routes within the U.S., to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, all narrow-body jets offer first class. On regional jets, these seats are usually laid out in a 1-2 layout, while on mainline planes, they are arranged in a 2-2 layout.

The benefits of first-class include priority boarding, dedicated luggage bins, complimentary beverages, and, depending on the route and time of day, full meals.

Delta One

The Delta One cabin is Delta’s highest level of service on long-haul flights. All Delta One seats are flatbeds that are offered on a variety of aircraft types, such as 757s and 767s.

There are flat-bed seats available on most international flights to Europe, Asia, Oceania, and Africa, and they include upgraded meal service, lounge access, and priority boarding. Premium SelectIn Premium Select, Delta offers a seat similar to the one in its domestic first class.

Widebody aircraft offer these seats, which offer more personal space, seatback televisions, and upgraded meals. Despite being roomier than coach, the service flow is similar to the Main Cabin.

Delta Comfort+

Delta Comfort+ seats offer extra legroom and are located in the main cabin’s prime areas. In these areas, additional room may be available, such as exit rows or bulkheads.

Although these seats are part of the Main Cabin, they offer complimentary alcoholic beverages and light snacks. Generally, elite members can select these seats for free or are upgraded to them shortly after booking.

Premium Select

This is Delta’s version of Premium Economy, featuring seats similar to those in Delta’s domestic first class.

On most wide-body aircraft, these seats offer more personal space, seatback televisions, and upgraded meal service. Despite being more spacious than coach, this cabin offers similar service to the Main Cabin.

Main Cabin

The Main Cabin has traditional economy seats and is located at the rear of the aircraft. Most customers sit in these seats, which usually offer inflight entertainment (except on regional jets).

Whenever you purchase tickets, be sure to know which airline you’re looking at because Delta uses the same term as American Airlines.

Basic Economy

A Basic Economy ticket allows travelers to sit in the Main Cabin, with limited amenities and no advance seat assignments.

In Basic Economy, seats will be assigned within 24 hours of departure or at check-in. Users will not be able to select their seats.

Delta Basic Economy gets Main Cabin Experience OnboardOnce you’ve boarded the plane, stored your luggage, and found your seat, Delta Basic Economy offers the same onboard experience as Economy. As in the Main Cabin, you’ll receive complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as onboard wifi and entertainment.

The main differences between Delta Comfort Plus and vs. the main cabin

Delta Comfort Plus is Delta’s premium economy class, which is an improved version of the main cabin. Among the main differences is the order in which you board the plane, how much overhead space you have for a carry-on bag, how much legroom you have, and what snack you receive.

Delta Comfort Plus seats offer up to three inches more legroom than main cabin seats.

There are dedicated overhead compartments for carry-on bags for Comfort Plus ticket holders.

Starbucks coffee, beer, and wine are offered to Comfort Plus passengers on flights of at least 251 miles, while complimentary liquor is served on flights of at least 500 miles. Additionally, Delta Comfort Plus flyers receive premium snacks on select flights over 900 miles.

What Does a Delta Delta Comfort Plus Ticket Include?

Fare flexibility/ticket changes

With the exception of basic economy tickets, Delta offers flexible ticket changes and cancellations across the board for travel originating in North America. All rules that apply to main cabin tickets apply to Delta Comfort Plus tickets as well. You can cancel or change your Delta flight without paying a fee.

Baggage and boarding

Those with a Comfort Plus ticket board after first-class passengers and before those with Sky Priority boarding privileges, such as Delta Medallion members and other elite flyers of SkyTeam or partner airlines.

The cost for checking bags on domestic Delta Comfort Plus flights is the same as the cost for checking bags on domestic Delta main cabin flights. However, you get dedicated overhead bin space above your seat, so you won’t have to fight for it after your group is called.

Seat selection

On domestic flights, Delta Comfort Plus seats are located behind first class, and on international flights, Delta Premium Select seats are located behind first class. Seat selection for Comfort Plus is free with your ticket purchase.

Earning rates

The same mileage earning rates apply to Delta Comfort Plus tickets as they do to main cabin tickets (listed above). If you are a Delta SkyMiles member, you’ll earn miles based on your Medallion status and the cost of your ticket.

Upgradeability

Comfort Plus tickets can be upgraded to first class on domestic flights and to Delta Premium Select on international flights. When you book eligible flights, you can use money or miles to upgrade your flight or upgrade your flight closer to departure in the “My Trips” section of Delta’s website. If you are unable to upgrade with miles, contact Delta reservations.

If you’re considering an upgrade to Delta Comfort Plus

Is Delta Comfort Plus worth it? It’s entirely up to you what you decide. It’s worth spending the extra money if you value extra legroom, luggage space, and complimentary booze. Consider whether the difference between a main cabin seat and a Comfort Plus seat is enough to justify the additional cost if an upgrade costs hundreds of dollars.

Domestic vs. International Delta Basic Economy

The purpose of this post is to give readers a glimpse into Delta’s Basic Economy experience within the domestic market (within the United States). In some cases, Delta may offer Basic Economy on international flights, but you’ll need to check the laws, regulations, and practices on your own.

Delta Basic Economy Doesn’t Include Seat Selection

Most travelers will find this to be the biggest downside of Delta Basic Economy. It is not possible to select your seat during the check-in process. Seats are assigned after you check in, and Delta explicitly states that “Customers traveling with companions will likely not sit together.”.

When you book a Basic Economy fare on Delta, you’ll be asked many times whether you’d like to upgrade to Main Cabin. This offer appears on every page of the booking process. There is a small link under the more prominent “MOVE TO MAIN” button that needs to be clicked in order to proceed with a Basic Economy fare.

What Does a Delta Basic Economy Ticket Include?

The Basic Economy tickets on Delta are subject to several important restrictions compared to the standard Main Cabin tickets.

Baggage

As a Basic Economy passenger, you can bring the same amount of luggage as a Main Cabin passenger – a bag that fits under the seat in front of you, plus a larger carry-on bag that fits in the overhead bin.

Basic Economy passengers board last, so there may be limited overhead bin space – pack light if you’re on a Basic Economy flight.

Standby and Ticket Changes

With Basic Economy tickets, Delta does not allow any changes under any circumstances. Tickets in the Main Cabin now have no change fees. You can change your ticket’s routing, destination, or more for the cost of any fare difference. However, if you must change your Basic Economy ticket, you will lose the full fare value and have to start over. There is no amount you can pay to change your ticket on a Basic Economy ticket.

You will receive an eVoucher for the remaining difference if you cancel your ticket and pay a penalty of up to $199. It’s important to keep in mind that most Basic Economy tickets are below this amount, so you’ll probably forfeit the entire value of the ticket.

It is also impossible to change or standby a Basic Economy ticket on the same day, even if you are an elite passenger.

You should only purchase a Basic Economy ticket if you are absolutely certain of your travel plans. Purchase a standard Main Cabin ticket with the ability to change your itinerary if you’re not.

Boarding

The last passengers to board the aircraft are those in Basic Economy. Passengers in Basic Economy can avoid this by being an elite member or holding a Delta-branded credit card.

Main Cabin passengers are divided into 3 groups, just prior to Basic Economy. Delta’s boarding zones and order are:

Boarding OrderEligibility
Pre-BoardingCustomers needing assistance or additional time to boardActive-duty U.S. Military personnel with ID
Delta OneDelta One customers
First Class or Delta Premium SelectDelta Premium Select customersFirst class customersDiamond Medallion members (if aircraft does not have a Delta One cabin)
Early boarding for customers traveling with car seats and strollers
Delta Comfort+Delta Comfort+ customers
SkyPriorityPlatinum Medallion membersGold Medallion membersFlying Blue Platinum and Gold membersVirgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold membersVirgin Australia Platinum and Gold membersGOL Smiles Diamond membersSkyTeam Elite Plus members
Main Cabin 1Silver Medallion membersDelta corporate travelersPriority Boarding Trip Extra customersCardholders of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express CardDelta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (or business versions)Flying Blue Silver membersVirgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver membersVirgin Australia Velocity Silver membersGOL Smiles Gold membersSkyTeam EliteSkyMiles Select Members
Main Cabin 2Main Cabin customers
Main Cabin 3Main Cabin customers booked in T, X, and V fares
Basic EconomyBasic Economy customers (E)

Seat Selection

At check-in, Basic Economy passengers are randomly assigned seats without any choice.

Therefore, families who wish to sit together should avoid Basic Economy fares since they are not guaranteed to be able to sit together.

Upgrades

Basic Economy passengers cannot upgrade, either via a paid upgrade or via elite benefits. This could be a major problem on long-haul flights.

This challenge can be encountered in several scenarios, including:

Since all Delta Medallions are entitled to complimentary upgrades, there’s always a reason to request an upgrade. The Basic Economy ticket cannot be upgraded, however, even if the flight has empty seats you could otherwise upgrade into.

When you’re on a long-haul flight and there’s a chance to upgrade with miles or a global upgrade, you won’t be able to.

It is typical for passengers to receive upgrade offers during the ticketing process and after purchase, usually at a very good price. Basic Economy passengers will not be able to upgrade, even if it only costs a few dollars more.

Rebooking

You will be the last on your aircraft to be accommodated on an alternative flight if you book a Basic Economy ticket, as passengers on Main Cabin tickets will be protected first.

Generally, elite status members will receive help with rebooking no matter what ticket type they have, but if you are on Basic Economy without status, it may be difficult.

What Does a Delta Main Cabin Ticket Include?

Baggage

Traditional Delta Main Cabin tickets allow you to bring on 2 carry-on bags: one under the seat in front of you and one in the overhead compartment.

You can also purchase checked bags, or additional checked bags if you get the first one for free.

Stand By and Ticket Changes

No fee is charged for changing your ticket prior to departure.

In accordance with their elite tier rules, elites on Main Cabin tickets can standby for other flights or make same-day changes for free. They pay the applicable fee if it is not free.

Boarding

If you purchase a Main Cabin ticket, you will board with either Main Cabin group 1, 2, or 3, depending on your elite status.

Seat Selection

With a Main Cabin ticket, you can select any non-Comfort+ seat, including aisles, windows, and middles. The Main Cabin differs from Basic Economy in that you can select any seat, although some may be subject to additional charges if they have extra legroom.

With a Main Cabin ticket, you’re assured of a decent seat without worrying about being assigned a middle seat at check-in like with Basic Economy tickets.

Here are the locations of all Delta Main Cabin seats on all aircraft (not including Comfort+), according to SeatGuru:

Economy Seat Locations on Delta by Aircraft
Wide-body Jets
Airbus A330-200 (332)Rows 14-35A, B, C, D, F, G, H, J
Airbus A330-300 (333)Rows 15-43
Airbus A330-900neo (339)Rows 27-58
Airbus A350-900 (359)Rows 30-55
Boeing 767-300ER (76H/76Z) Layout 3Rows 18-42A, B, C, D, E, F, G
Boeing 767-300ER (76L) Layout 2Rows 22-42
Boeing 767-300ER (76T/76W) Layout 1Rows 22-42
Boeing 767-300ER (76Z) Layout 4Rows 18-42
Boeing 767-400ER (764) Layout 2Rows 34-57
Boeing 767-400ER (76D) Layout 1Rows 19-46
Narrow-body Jets
Airbus A220-100 (CS1)Rows 13-29A, B, C, D, E
Airbus A319 (319)Rows 13-29A, B, C, D, E, F
Airbus A320 (32K) Layout 1Rows 13-33
Airbus A320 (32M) Layout 2Rows 13-33
Airbus A321 (321) Layout 1Rows 15-39
Airbus A321 (321) Layout 2Rows 15-39
Boeing 717-200 (717)Rows 14-29A, B, C, D, E
Boeing 737-700 (73W)Rows 13-28A, B, C, D, E, F
Boeing 737-800 (73H)Rows 16-33
Boeing 737-900ER (739)Rows 14-37
Boeing 757-200 (757)Rows 24-45
Boeing 757-200 (75D)Rows 21-45
Boeing 757-200 (75G)Rows 14-35
Boeing 757-200 (75P)Rows 23-44
Boeing 757-200 (75S)Rows 26-44
Boeing 757-300 (75Y)Rows 20-49
Embraer E-170 (E70)Rows 7-18A, B, C, D
Embraer E-175 (E75) Layout 1Rows 8-20
Embraer E-175 (E75) Layout 2 – SkyWestRows 10-19
McDonnell Douglas MD-88 (M88)Rows 15-36A, B, C, D, E
McDonnell Douglas MD-90 (M90)Rows 15-39
Regional Jets
Bombardier CRJ-100/200Rows 1-13A, B, C, D
Bombardier CRJ-700 (CR7)Rows 8-18
Bombardier CRJ-900 (CR9)Rows 10-20
Bombardier CRJ-900 Atmosphere Cabin (CR9)Rows 10-19

Here are the seat dimensions of the Main Cabin on all Delta aircraft, according to SeatGuru:

Delta Economy Seat Measurements
AircraftNumber of Economy SeatsSeat PitchSeat Width
Wide-body Jets
Airbus A330-200 (332)16831″ to 32″18″
Airbus A330-300 (333)21931″ to 32″18″
Airbus A330-900neo (339)16831″ to 32″18″
Airbus A350-900 (359)22631″ to 32″18″
Boeing 767-300ER (76H/76Z) Layout 316531″ to 32″17.9″
Boeing 767-300ER (76L) Layout 214331″ to 32″17.9″
Boeing 767-300ER (76T/76W) Layout 114331″ to 32″17.9″
Boeing 767-300ER (76Z) Layout 417131″ to 32″17.9″
Boeing 767-400ER (76D) Layout 117831″ to 32″17.9″
Boeing 767-400ER (764) Layout 215631″18.1″
Narrow-body Jets
Airbus A220-100 (CS1)8230″ to 32″18.6″
Airbus A319 (319)10230″ to 31″18″
Airbus A320 (32K) Layout 112630″ to 31″18″
Airbus A320 (32M) Layout 212330″ to 31″18″
Airbus A321 (321) Layout 114331″18″
Airbus A321 (321) Layout 214330″ to 31″18″
Boeing 717-200 (717)7831″18.1″
Boeing 737-700 (73W)9430″ to 31″17.2″
Boeing 737-800 (73H)10831″ to 32″17.2″
Boeing 737-900ER (739)13930″ to 31″17.2″
Boeing 757-200 (757)13531″ to 33″17.2″
Boeing 757-200 (75D)15030″ to 32″17.2″
Boeing 757-200 (75G)12830″ to 32″17.2″
Boeing 757-200 (75P)13231″17.3″
Boeing 757-200 (75S)10831″ to 33″17.2″
Boeing 757-300 (75Y)17830″ to 32″17.2″
Embraer E-170 (E70)4831″18.3″
Embraer E-175 (E75) Layout 15231″18.25″
Embraer E-175 (E75) Layout 2 – SkyWest3832″17.2″
McDonnell Douglas MD-88 (M88)10831″ to 33″16.79″ to 17.17″
McDonnell Douglas MD-90 (M90)11730″ to 31″18.1″
Regional Jets
Bombardier CRJ-100/2005031″17.3″
Bombardier CRJ-700 (CR7)4631″17.3″
Bombardier CRJ-900 (CR9)4431″16.85″ to 17.17″
Bombardier CRJ-900 Atmosphere Cabin (CR9)3831″17.2″

Upgrades

  • Upgrades are available on all Main Cabin fares, unlike Basic Economy tickets:
  • You can list for complimentary upgrades if you are an Elite member
  • Comfort+ can be upgraded for a fee
  • A regional upgrade or a global upgrade can be used on longer flights, but this will only upgrade you to Premium Select
  • If you wish to fly economy class instead of first class, you can pay the fare difference

Rebooking

If your flight is delayed or canceled, you will receive priority for seats on other flights ahead of Basic Economy customers.

Earning Miles and Status Credit

It’s different from Basic Economy in that you’ll still earn SkyMiles and Medallion Qualifying Dollars, Segments, and Miles. In this regard, Delta penalizes passengers with Basic Economy fares.

Does Delta Basic Economy Get a Carry On?

Yes, of course. A carry-on bag and a personal item are allowed for passengers flying Delta Basic Economy. Although Delta doesn’t go out of their way to remind you of this, their website makes it very clear that “every Delta passenger can bring one carry-on bag and one personal item…”

Delta Basic Economy Passengers Board Last

As long as you have a seat assigned by the time you board, who cares when you board? People with carryon bags should be careful when they board. As soon as the overhead bins are “full,” airlines usually ask passengers to check their bags. (This starts as a request before it becomes a requirement.)

Finally, it’s worth noting that you cannot purchase Priority Boarding when flying Basic Economy.

Do Delta Medallion members get Priority Boarding on Basic Economy?

I understand that Medallion members will still be eligible for Priority Boarding when flying Basic Economy, based on Delta’s own materials. Since you won’t earn miles, MQMs, etc in Basic Economy, I strongly advise you to rethink Basic Economy if you’re a Medallion member.

Checking Bags with Delta Basic Economy

Delta Basic Economy follows the same baggage policies as Delta Main Cabin. In most cases, checked bags cost a fee, but Medallion members and holders of select credit cards are entitled to a free checked bag.

Delta Basic Economy Still Gets the 24 Hours Risk-Free Cancellation

Basic Economy tickets are still covered by Delta’s “24 Hour Risk-Free” cancellation policy. Here are the specifics, but the basic idea is that you have 24 hours to cancel your ticket and get a refund to your original form of payment.

Delta Basic Economy Cancellations have a Cancellation Charge

If a Delta Main Cabin passenger cancels their ticket, they will receive an eCredit (for travel on Delta) for the full amount they paid. If you pay even more for a “Refundable” fare, you can cancel and receive a refund in your original form of payment. Main Cabin passengers can also change flights by paying the difference in fare.

In contrast, Basic Economy passengers cannot change flights and must pay a cancellation fee, currently starting at $99. The remaining balance is refunded as an eCredit for Delta travel.

Other Delta Basic Economy Differences

Flying basic economy does not affect your Delta Medallion status. Upgrades are not available (paid or complimentary). No miles, MQMs, MQSs, or MQDs are earned.

Getting Around Delta’s Basic Economy Restrictions

Delta’s Basic Economy product is actually pretty generous, including a carry-on and the same onboard amenities. Considering that, it’s not surprising that there is no way around these restrictions.

It is still true that Medallion Members should receive priority boarding, but I would strongly advise any Medallion Member to seriously consider flying Basic Economy. You can still get lounge access with a Basic Economy ticket if you have an American Express credit card.

Other restrictions—related to cancellations, changes, and upgrades—apply unconditionally to all passengers in Basic Economy.

Does Delta Basic Economy allow carry-on?

Yes, of course! You are permitted to check in one carry-on bag to be stored in the overhead bin and one personal item to be stored underneath the seat in front of you. Overbooked flights may leave little room for storage since Basic Economy customers are the last to board the aircraft.

What is the difference between Delta Basic Economy and Main Cabin fare?

Upgrade chances, advanced seat selection, and checked baggage are not included in Delta Basic Economy tickets. If you typically check a bag, like to upgrade, or care about where you sit in the plane, Delta Basic Economy is not for you.

Does Basic Economy provide a seat guarantee?

Not at all. Basic Economy tickets are assigned at random by Delta Airlines staff.

Does the basic economy include a checked bag?

There is no complimentary checked bag included with tickets in the Basic Economy class. To check a bag without elite status, you must pay the necessary fees.

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