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Avoiding Delta Basic Economy via Amex Pay with Points

A Delta Air Lines aircraft is taking off, with its landing gear still extended. The plane is ascending against a backdrop of a cloudy sky and a landscape featuring trees and buildings. The image has the text "AERO SHOTS" in the bottom right corner.

Basic Economy – we all hate it, and we all attempt to avoid it. There is just nothing worse than perusing Google Flights, finding a great Delta fare, only to find out that it is a Basic A$$ Economy fare!

Lit-really nothing worse in the entire world than Basic Economy tricks…

Sure, the Basic Economy fare is a bit cheaper, but VERY restrictive. It’s my opinion (and many others’ as well) that the little break in price is nowhere near enough to justify the loss in standard airline ticket terms.

The image shows a flight booking webpage with details for a round-trip flight from Tampa (TPA) to Keflavik (KEF) and back. The outbound flight is on January 13th, departing at 2:55 PM and arriving at 6:40 AM, and the return flight is on January 17th, departing at 5:00 PM and arriving at 9:00 PM. Both flights are in Basic Economy class. There is a section highlighted in red that offers an upgrade to the Main Cabin for $25, which includes benefits like seat selection, earlier boarding, and free changes. Additionally, there is a photo of a woman sitting in an airplane seat, looking at her phone. The total price for the flights is shown as $509.97.

Even Delta recognizes how lousy Basic Economy fares are. No early seat assignment, no ticket changes, no access to premium products via upgrades… It’s almost like they feel bad selling it! (Ya, right!)

The image is a comparison chart between "Basic Economy" and "Main Cabin" fare options for an airline. The chart lists several features and indicates whether each feature is included in the fare options:

1. Carry-on bag – personal item included: Both Basic Economy and Main Cabin have a checkmark.
2. Select an available seat before check-in: Main Cabin has a checkmark, Basic Economy has an "X".
3. Select available seats together for your family or group: Main Cabin has a checkmark, Basic Economy has an "X".
4. Ticket changes: Main Cabin has a checkmark, Basic Economy has an "X".
5. Same day ticket changes: Main Cabin has a checkmark, Basic Economy has an "X".
6. Access to premium products: Main Cabin has a checkmark, Basic Economy has an "X".

There is a price difference indicated at the bottom right corner, showing an additional cost of $25.00 USD per person each way to move from Basic Economy to Main Cabin. There are two buttons at the bottom: "Accept Restrictions" for Basic Economy and "Move to Main Cabin" for Main Cabin.

But, at least Delta makes it obvious to potential customers on their website that they are purchasing Basic Economy fare with restrictions.

Delta Basic Economy via American Express Travel

Unfortunately for us American Express Membership Rewards enthusiasts, avoiding Delta Basic Economy when booking via Amex Online Travel Portal is quite tricky!

Now, typically the Amex Pay with Points option presents a low value for Membership Rewards at 1 cent per point, but for those of us that picked up the Business Platinum card prior to the benefit changes, we get a 50% rebate when booking economy flights with your preferred airline (Delta in my case) or when booking Business/First Class flights with any airline.

Greg The Frequent Miler posted about booking avoiding Basic Economy fares back in January and noted the limitations in avoiding Basic Economy within the Amex online travel portal. And while those online limitations still remain today, there is a method to avoid Basic Economy and still utilize the Amex Pay with Points feature!

How to Avoid Delta Basic Economy via Amex Pay with Points

The image is a screenshot of a flight booking page. It shows details for a round-trip flight from Tampa, FL (TPA) to Reykjavik, IS (KEF) with a layover in New York, NY (JFK). The departure flight is on Friday, October 13, 2017, departing at 2:55 pm and arriving at 6:45 am the next day. The return flight is on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, departing at 8:30 am and arriving at 10:35 pm. Both flights are in Basic Economy class. The total cost is $606 per person. There are options to view flight details, baggage fees, and seat maps. There is also a note about a minimum of 0.5% cash back on the purchase and the ability to cancel within 24 hours of booking.

Alt text: A screenshot of a flight booking webpage showing three sections: "Traveler Information," "Travel Insurance," and "Select Preferred Seats." Each section has an "Edit" button next to it. Below the "Select Preferred Seats" section, there is a red-bordered message stating, "Unfortunately, seat maps are not available in this itinerary. Be sure to confirm your seat assignment with the airline before departure." There is a "Continue Booking" button at the bottom right corner.

If your initial Amex Travel Portal results in the following Basic Economy result above, just follow these 3 easy steps and get yourself out of that restrictive fare and into the economy fare you know and love!

Step 1: Search for your desired airfare via Delta website

The image is a screenshot of a flight booking page for a trip on Friday, October 13, 2017. The flight departs at 2:55 PM and arrives at 6:45 AM the next day, with a total travel time of 11 hours and 50 minutes. There is a layover in Seattle (SEA) from 5:15 PM to 11:30 PM. The page shows three fare options: Basic Economy for $605.26, Main Cabin for $655.26, and First Class for $2,537.26. The Basic Economy fare does not include seat assignment. The First Class fare has a note indicating that only 1 seat is left at this price.


The Delta website makes it easy to identify and avoid Basic Economy (E-fare class). Select your flight and be sure to select the Main Cabin fare, noting the specific Main Cabin fare class (V-fare class and T-fare class in the example below).

The image shows a flight booking summary for a round trip. The outbound flight is from Tampa (TPA) to Keflavik (KEF) on Friday, October 13, departing at 2:55 PM and arriving at 6:05 AM the next day. The flight number is DL 490, operated by Delta Airlines, and the cabin class is Main Cabin (T). The return flight is from Keflavik (KEF) to Tampa (TPA) on Tuesday, October 17, departing at 10:30 AM and arriving at 6:00 PM. The flight number is DL 246, also operated by Delta Airlines, and the cabin class is Main Cabin (T). Both flights are non-refundable and include options to view seats and complete Delta Air Lines baggage information. Icons indicating amenities such as Wi-Fi, in-flight entertainment, and power outlets are also visible.

You will need the specific fare classes in order to feed them to the American Express telephone agent in Step 2!

Step 2: Call the Business Platinum Travel Service at 1-800-553-9497

Once connected with an agent, explain that you would like to book through Amex Travel using the Pay with Points option, but that the online portal is only displaying Basic Economy E-fare class. The agent should be able to pull up your desired itinerary and manually adjust the fare class – and this is where your research in Step 1 comes into play! Provide the agent the specific fare classes and book!

Note – Don’t allow the agent to transfer you to the online support team, they cannot assist you!

Step 3: Request a Booking Fee Waiver

American Express typically charges a $39 per ticket fee when booking through the call-in service. You should NOT pay this! If the agent attempts to charge this fee, kindly explain to the agent that your desired itinerary could not be booked online, and therefore no fee should apply.

Final Thought

Who has 2 thumbs and is not a fan of Delta Basic Economy? THIS GUY!

The image shows a Delta Air Lines airplane taking off. The aircraft is angled upwards as it ascends into the sky. In the background, there is a landscape with trees and buildings. The sky appears overcast. The words "AERO SHOTS" are visible in the bottom right corner of the image.
Photo cred – http://aero-shots.boardingarea.com/

And while you may not be able to avoid Delta Basic Economy when booking through the Amex online travel portal, you CAN avoid those restrictive fares by dialing up American Express Travel Services and requesting to be booked into a Main Cabin fare! And the best part – you can utilize the Pay with Points option and potentially receive a 50% points rebate (certain Amex Business Platinum cardholders only)!

What has been your experience with American Express membership rewards and Delta Basic Economy? Have you had success in avoiding these restrictive fares!?

Happy Travels!


The image shows a simple white line drawing of a paper airplane on a blue circular background.

One Comment

  1. i’d like to a make suggestion that’s unrelated to this article – your customized javascript appears to significantly speed up the scroll up/down speed when using the mouse wheel, and makes the browsing experience slightly unpleasant because i need to resort to using the keyboard to actually scroll properly.

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