By Kelly Yamanouchi, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Troy Warren for CNT #Travel
Atlanta airline tries to steer passengers to higher-priced fares
Delta Air Lines is removing some benefits from discounted tickets known as basic economy fares in a renewed bid to steer customers to pricier bookings.
Travelers who purchase basic economy fares will no longer earn frequent flier miles for fares purchased since Dec. 9 for travel starting Jan. 1, 2022.
The Atlanta-based airline also will start charging holders of basic economy fares to change flights, after allowing changes without a fee earlier in the pandemic.
Delta has long said that while it sells basic economy fares to remain competitive with low-cost carriers and other rivals, it hopes to “upsell” customers to higher fares. “Keep in Mind, Basic Economy is Just the Basics,” the airline says on its webpage, also noting such fares do not allow seat assignments until after check-in.
And while basic economy fares allow Delta to show low fares when travelers are comparing prices between airlines, when it comes time to purchase the fare, customers are advised on the website to “Consider Main Cabin” if they are traveling with others or want to choose seats. They are also warned that by booking a basic economy fare, they will be the last to board.
Last week, Delta President Glen Hauenstein said during a company investor day in response to a question about the change to basic economy fares: “We’d like to sell less of it rather than more of it.”
Hauenstein said Delta aims to sell only 10% to 20% of its tickets as basic economy fares. “When it gets to be too large of a percentage of our total customer base, we look at how we can work to move that down.”
Frequent flier miles allow customers to earn credits toward free flights. While basic economy fares won’t count toward such miles, customers who buy higher-priced main cabin,Comfort+, first class, Premium Select and Delta One business class fares will continue to accrue that benefit.
For tickets purchased Dec. 9 or later for travel starting next year, Delta also will charge basic economy customers $99 to cancel or change flights within the U.S., to Canada, Mexico, Central and the Caribbean, and $199 on longer international flights. Main cabin fares and other higher fares allow changes without a fee, under a new policy announced last year.
The new basic economy change fee policy is less restrictive than an old policy that prohibited changes to basic economy tickets. But it is more restrictive than the current temporary policy in place through Dec. 31, which allows changes to basic economy tickets without a fee.
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