Does the phrase “basic economy”Send a shiver down your spine? Are you confused by Delta’s basic economy offering and the main cabin fares? With our guide to Delta’s Basic Economy vs. Master Cabin Experience, we’re here to help.

In this article, we’ll explain Delta’s base economy fares, make sure you know if you buy one, and show you how to avoid the worst features of these budget options without paying extra.

  • Delta allows free cancellations and changes on most main cabin tickets, but no changes or cancellations on basic economy class.

  • Base Economy fares do not include seat allocations, making them less than ideal for groups and families.

  • Baggage rules are generally the same between the two fares.

The basics

Delta offers six different cabin classes, listed here in descending order of cost and comfort:

  • Delta One (international premium class).

Most travelers worry about the differences between the latter two: main cabin and base economy.

From $ 30 for your first bag

From $ 30 for your first bag

Qualifies for Elite benefits (including upgrades)

Changes and cancellations

One of the most important differences between base economy and main cabin fares is the ease with which they are changeable. Delta allows free changes to main cabin tickets of the same value, but does not allow changes to base economy.

So if you have to change your ticket for some reason, you’ll end up eating the full price of a base economy fare. For this reason alone, main cabin fares are better for those looking for flexibility.

What about the luggage?

Unlike some other airlines (notably United), Delta includes free carry-on baggage overhead as part of its base economy fares. This baggage is also included in the main cabin rates. And the two tariffs are the same checked baggage fees for domestic flights.

This means you don’t have to worry about comparing these fares based on the luggage you plan to bring. It should be noted, however, that base economy passengers board the aircraft last, so the availability of the overhead compartments may be low.

Is Delta’s Core Economy Worth It? How much am I really paying?

Use the calculator below to determine the total cost of your ticket and compare the tradeoffs between base economy and main cabin.

Note: This calculator only applies to domestic flights. The rules for international baggage on Delta are more complex.

More tips for point nerds

Using the benefits of the credit card for basic economy travel

Delta Offers multiple branded credit cards, all of which offer priority boarding with the exception of the Blue American Express Delta SkyMiles® Card. If you book a basic economy fare, it can solve the problem of last on board, as well as the likelihood of having to check your carry-on when the bins fill up.

All of these Delta cards (again, except the Blue American Express Delta SkyMiles® Card) offer at least one free piece of checked baggage, which may also offset these charges. Keep in mind that checked baggage fees apply to both base economy fares and main cabin fares.

However, none of these cards help with seating, which is often the biggest issue with the basic economy, especially for families.

Flying base economy with elite status

Similar to most branded Delta cards, Elite status with Delta includes priority boarding regardless of fare type. Platinum Medallion members all board together, whether they have seats in the main cabin or in basic economy class.

Elite status also offsets checked baggage fees, which are the same for the base economy and the main cabin. And especially for many Delta elites, Base Economy fares don’t offer free or paid upgrades. Depending on your status level and the likelihood of receiving a bump in the front of the plane, it may be worth taking advantage of the full economy main cabin fare.

The bottom line

The phrase “basic economy” has distasteful connotations to many, but Delta’s version of these low budget fares is better than some competitors (namely United). You will not be able to choose your seat, board early, get an upgrade or change / cancel your ticket after purchase, but you will still receive free carry-on baggage.

Delta-branded credit cards and Elite status can help you board early, eliminating the almost inevitable hassle of checking your carry-on baggage. But you will still find yourself without an assigned seat until check-in, which can be a real headache for many travelers.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our choices for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those that are best suited: