Delta Air Lines is now allowing SkyMiles members to book rewards travel in basic economy. While ideally allowing frequent flyers to be more frugal with their miles, in practice, the basic economy redemptions often cost as many miles (or more) as economy class tickets and come with a slew of restrictions and no chance to upgrade to a better product.
There are few possible advantages to Delta Air Lines’ new policy allowing SkyMiles members to redeem reward miles for basic economy travel. In theory, the new option could help frequent flyers save a few miles in circumstances when seat section and overhead storage space isn’t critical for the trip. The carrier’s move could also allow the airline to open more seats for reward redemption during busy travel periods (and make upgrades more easily available for those willing to spend a few more miles for economy class rather than the basic economy fare).
Flyertalkers on the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles forum, however, are expressing serious doubts that the new option will be of any benefit to frequent flyers at all. One SkyMiles members predicted “another stealth devaluation.” Other frequent flyers simply lamented, “This is terrible,” and “really sucks!” The general consensus seems to be that Delta will now slowly begin to offer only basic economy tickets at current reward rates and charge a hefty premium to upgrade to an economy class ticket.
As it stands now, in many cases, the price of redeeming reward miles from basic economy bookings is significantly higher than booking economy class tickets. In one case, the basic economy fare was even pricier than the Delta Comfort Plus fare. Basic economy seats for reward redemptions are not found on most flights and only appear for limited and specific itineraries.
“Our customers have told us they want the flexibility to use their SkyMiles on more types of Delta products, and we are always looking at new ways to expand those options, while making that process simple and intuitive for them,” Delta officials told The Boarding Area’s Garry Leff in a statement about the unannounced change in the reward booking policy. “As a part of this effort, we are testing the ability for customers to use miles for Basic Economy tickets on select flights.”
Leff points out that the move looks to be part of the airline’s efforts to standardize a 1 SkyMiles to one cent equivalency. Allowing basic economy fares as an option for reward redemptions might go a long way towards making that exchange rate look more generous.