A few years ago, Delta got a lot of bad press when it rolled out basic economy fares*, its own version of the “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” pricing that ultra-low cost carriers use, where you buy a seat and just about everything else costs money.**
In early December, it took those fares international, violating what Bloomberg refers to as a “travel shibboleth.***” If you end up buying the cheapest fares available, which will be prominently labeled as Basic Economy, you will pay an extra $60 to check your bag. Seat assignment? Forget it. And no changes will be allowed to your tickets, just like domestically. Not even for a fee.
Delta (and its partners) will sell these fares at a discount to traditional economy tickets, but let’s not kid ourselves: Over time, there will be price creep up the chain, based on what the market will allow them to get away with. And, given the success of the ultra-low cost guys internationally, these types of fares are likely to spread, much like a fungus.
*But did they deserve the bad publicity? I’m not sure. They did a good job of indicating what the basic economy fares do and don’t offer you, and you could always select an alternative. The ultra-low cost carriers are the fastest growing airlines in the country. Clearly, there’s some demand for the product.
**Delta is actually a little better. They’ll still give you the free can of soda and a few of the elite perks. There’s no truth to the rumor that basic economy passengers have to pass out drinks in first class. At least I think that there isn’t.
***West Wing, Season 2, Episode 8
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